Since the release of their debut album ‘Youth’ back in 2013, Citizen have often found themselves branded as ‘thinking man’s emo.’ Having since progressed from mere teenagers to full adults, their musical growth is bound to follow suit. We recently had a chat with Citizen guitarist Nick Hamm about the band’s inspiration moving into album number three, as well as how their latest effort, the sombre ‘Everybody Is Going To Heaven’, has helped them process their offstage demons.
Hey there, Nick, what are you up to?
I’m just at my apartment, just chilling, I just got back from the park. We were just in California the other day doing a show, and we just got back home.
Cool, so how do you spend your time off?
I like to do a lot of nothing. I like to just chill out. It’s getting into my favourite season so I like to ride my bike a lot because it’s really nice this time of year where I live.
I read in a previous interview that for the ‘Everybody Is Going To Heaven’ album cycle, the band was going to take more care with how they balanced touring and resting. So…has that been the case?
Definitely. I think that allowing yourself to approach each tour with a certain level of care and allowing yourself to be meticulous about every move you make as a band is really rewarding, because it allowed us to do tours that each played a specific role in this time of our career. I don’t think we have wasted any time with anything and I think that is really important because when you release an album you don’t really have a lot of time, considering how many other albums are coming out and how many different bands are touring. You really just have to make the most of it while you have the chance to, so I think it’s really important that we approach it that way.
You guys have really grown up on this touring circuit. How has that affected your transition into adulthood?
I guess I don’t really know because I never had a chance to have the traditional experience of an 18-year-old. As soon as we graduated from high school we started touring and it’s been pretty non-stop since then. I definitely think it has affected us greatest in the field of friendship. So many of my friends are people that I have met through the band and touring. So many people that I talk to day-to-day I met the same way, so I can’t imagine it not happening.
How are you guys going to avoid the “Write, record, tour, repeat” process that it can be so easy to fall into?
There’s always new things coming into play, and new things influencing our ideas. We just want to try and do something the way we haven’t done it before, or do it better than the way we did it before. That keeps us on our toes and excited and really ready to surpass any expectations that might be laid out. It’s hard, though, because once you get into the swing of something it can be hard to break that, but I think it’s important that we do and try to not repeat anything that we have done before. That’s part of the fun and the challenge of continuing to try and always stay interesting.
What are some things that you might try and do better this time, now that you’ve learnt from this album/tour cycle?
I think the next time around we will come out of the gate a little stronger. Last time we released the album, we did a tour that we weren’t necessarily that excited about. But this time around I think we will come out of the gate with our own tour, and really take control of everything and do everything that we really want to do. We are in a different headspace now than when we released the last record, so coming out on making the new album, I think that things are going to be more on our terms and more amplified. We are going to try and make everything as big as it possibly can be.
Sweet! Now, ‘Everybody Is Going To Heaven’ touched on some very heavy themes. How has playing these songs night after night helped you move through those offstage issues a year down the track?
I think a big thing that led to the album was us feeling really trapped in a box or really suffocating from the context we felt we were placed in. That really affected us as people, so we wanted to write this record that would speak for itself and speak as loudly as we could make it. I think we did that. We released a record that will make the next time around surprising, and I think that’s cool. In our personal lives, it also relieved a lot of stress and is going to continue to relive stress coming up on writing new things. I feel like we won’t feel so trapped, we can really just express ourselves freely.
Good to hear. Will this new record still be centred around that same darkness as before?
I don’t wanna speak for anybody too much, but I feel like things are shifting not necessarily in a brighter direction in terms of minor or major or lyricism, but I feel like we are experimenting in the business of writing ‘fun’ songs which haven’t really ever been a thing with us. There are energies that are so different to anything that we have ever done before, and I think that’s cool. People are gonna be excited about it and hopefully, connect to it.
So with the musical influences, you’ve said that there is so much new stuff. What have you been digging lately?
Some records that I have been really into over the past year or so, from Australia in fact, there is Royal Headache with their record High. Every once in a while an album will come about that will be like just really hitting me and my group of friends at the right time, and that was that record. Alex G’s Beach Music is like a classic in my life at the moment, and that’s cool. This year has just been like a constant album after album time that I will listen to when I’m 40. The new Frank Ocean record had so much hype behind it, and he really delivered and executed; the roll-out was really genius. This year has been really crazy, and it’s not over. I feel like we are feeling really inspired right now, and that’s good. Last year I wasn’t that excited about too many things. I feel that this year is the perfect time for us to be working on a new record, as we’re gathering different vibes and energies and putting this record together in a good set of circumstances.
Citizen will be touring Australia in November. You can find all the details here and the dates below.
THUR 10 NOVEMBER – FACTORY THEATRE, SYDNEY (LIC/AA)
w/ Endless Heights, Death Bells
FRI 11 NOVEMBER – THE ZOO, BRISBANE
w/ Deafcult, Tall Pines
SAT 12 NOVEMBER – CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE
w/ Deafcult, Slowly Slowly
SUN 13 NOVEMBER – ARROW ON SWANSTON, MELBOURNE (AA)
w/ Deafcult, Better Half