We sat down with Nick Hamm and Jake Duhaime of Citizen to discuss their uncertainties about the lack of sing-alongs on their new record Everybody is Going to Heaven, the against-the-grain presentation of the record, and why they think Will Yip is the only producer in the entire music scene. Also check out the videos below for two WTSR Underground acoustic tracks, featuring Mat Kerekes.
The Garden Statement: You guys performed on the tour two years ago, and now you’re back for a second run. So how’s the tour different from now to back then?
Nick Hamm: Not too much has changed. I think the spirit of Warped Tour is a little different. I guess we have less friends coming into this one, so it’s a little different, in that sense, because it’s a lot of new people. Not only new kids that we’re playing too, because there are less of our peers, I’d say, but also less band people that we know. They are becoming familiar with our band, which is honestly pretty cool because there are so many bands who didn’t know who we were before that now are – just because of the nature of how different we are compared to most of the bands, they’re taking notice of that. I think that’s pretty cool. They’ll rock a Citizen t-shirt, and maybe people will hear about us that way.
TGS: Yeah, I think it’s cool to see you guys are on the Journey’s Stage, and to see all these pop acts next to Citizen.
Nick: Yeah, it’s packed out. It seems like some of these bands will be playing, and it will be their agent next to them and that’s it, but it seems, as of late, as we play, we’ve got a full squad of people I’ve never seen before in the back checking it out. It’s been really cool. All of these bands are so different, and everybody’s very flattering, complimentary. We’re kind of chummy with some metalcore people that we never thought we’d never meet in our entire existence. So it makes it interesting in that way. That’s why Warped Tour is unique.
TGS: So take a few bands that you liked coming into this tour, and a few bands that you’ve really gotten along with well or you’ve been impressed by on this tour. What are some names you’d put out there as artists people need to check out?
Nick: Coming into it, there was a few bands that I knew of but had never listened to. One of which, and I don’t know why I didn’t listen to them before the tour, was Pup. And I don’t know why. I knew who Pup was; we have mutual friends.
Jake: Everybody has nothing but good things to say about them.
Nick: I watched them today. It was a set that I was sitting out in the crowd watching them and I was just like, “Jesus Christ, this band fucking rips.” Another band is PVRIS, that I had never listened to before, but I had heard things about. I guess I just assumed they sounded a certain way that they actually don’t. It’s really awesome dark, synthy, pop music, and I think they’re a really cool band. They’re just doing their thing and getting recognition for it. So those were the two that I’d say I came into it not knowing a ton about, but really enjoying.
Jake: Yeah, going into it, as far as bands that I liked prior, I’m not sure if there was one in particular that I was rocking. But both of the bands Nick had mentioned are doing an incredible job, as well as Moose Blood from the UK. They’ve been killing it. Kids love the songs; I really enjoy the songs. Hearing them every day has been a complete pleasure. Lee Corey Oswald, who we actually share a bus with – they’re a No Sleep band – they have this cool emo/Weezer vibe, and catching their set is always awesome. They’re really great songwriters. So I’d have to give it up to those two as well.
TGS: You had a new album come out, right at the beginning of the tour actually. Everybody Is Going to Heaven is the new record. So since the beginning of the tour, have you seen the reaction to the new record grow over time?
Nick: As the shows go on, there’s more people singing the songs, and that just gets me so excited. When you have an album that was filled with “sing-alongs,” let’s say, it kind of stressed me out because we knew this album wasn’t exactly like that. But I was worried, “what if people don’t know the words and we tour in the fall, and people don’t know it.” But as the tour goes on, there’s more and more people being familiar with the songs, more and more people vibing the songs, and more people coming up to us and saying, “I love the record,” and that’s really cool because at a place like this, we didn’t know if there would be a lot of interest, per se, in the new album. We thought a lot of people might be scared of it.
TGS: I think that’s something that’s genuinely a valid fear now. Especially, Warped Tour has transitioned a bit in the past few years. But to see the crowds going nuts for a little bit darker record, is really cool to see. So, the music is definitely consciously a little darker, is that something you were aware of going into the studio- that you wanted to take things a little bit darker, a little bit heavier?
Nick: It’s funny because the tone was the most natural thing. The departure was pretty meticulous, but the tone was- we all knew we wanted to do something different for us. We felt a little discounted during the Youth cycle, that peers and others thought we were within a box that we couldn’t get out of. So we thought, “Let’s do a record that really flexes all of our different skills and interests.” It ended up being this record that we said, “Man, this is pretty fucking dark.” We didn’t plan that or anything, it was just something that naturally happened. When we were in the studio, we were just super proud. But, also, I think we surprised ourselves a little bit.
Jake: Yeah, you spend so much time down in Will’s basement recording. And it’s just you guys, and there’s no phone service, and all you’re doing is just creating this thing. We’re just sitting there, having such a close view of it. Once we were finished, to take a step back and listen to it in its entirety, what we created, it was, “This is wild. This is pretty out there stuff,”- comparatively to Youth– it’s not the craziest shit on Earth. It’s going to be a lot to chew on for a lot of people, especially the ones that have an allegiance to Youth, and some still do, you know? But we wrote something that’s really challenging. We were a little freaked out, especially bringing it into [Warped Tour]. I love [this album] and I will stand by it till the very end, but can I guarantee, every kid running past me when the doors open are going to like it? No, not exactly. But kids have been so supportive and really vibing it, and I’m really thankful for that.
TGS: A lot of bands in this scene are taking influence from grunge now, but some people have been saying Everybody Is Going to Heaven is a little different than that. What records influenced you to go into this different style?
Nick: I think we were very aware when writing the album that where we are right now is an alt-rock band, and that’s what we are doing. I felt like there were a lot of bands dismissed by other alt-rock bands, so I thought, ‘Man, there’s all these bands that no one is touching on, and nobody is really influencing from.” I kind of felt like a lot of bands – and this isn’t a bashing on anyone – but a lot of bands look up to the same bands, including us. But there were several bands that I thought, like the Touch and Go [Records] bands, like the Jesus Lizard, or places that you wouldn’t expect like Nine Inch Nails, I didn’t think those were bands that had ever been influenced from within our realm of music- or within our scene, let’s say.
TGS: Yeah, I think the record is a little more industrial than anything that has come out.
Nick: Yeah, and that’s an avenue that I don’t think was explored very much. Even on this record, we just kind of touch on it a bit. I think people were into that, though. People gave us credit for doing that a little bit. It might still be an alt-rock record. People might still call it a grunge record or something, but I think we did it our own way. We did it in a way that other bands aren’t really doing right now, so I don’t anybody can take that away from us.
Jake: Like it or love it, those are your only options. (laughs) No, like it or not so much like it, you can’t argue that there has been a record that’s come out this year that sounds like ours, and I’m not sure there will be one. We’ve got a ton of our contemporaries that we love that are putting out incredible records, but it’s all gone in one direction. We made a conscious decision to steer our ship in the other. We’re working on finding our own voice, and having, “Citizen has a sound.” A ton of our contemporaries are too, and I feel like a ton of the bands in this world are starting to spider-crack and break out. It’s not just, “Oh, it’s the Run for Cover kids goofing around.” It’s everybody: Turnover is establishing their own thing; Title Fight has been doing incredible things for the community that we all came from. Then, we’re trying to put in the same amount of work as the rest of them, except on a different front, so we can’t be put in a box, like Nick said earlier in the interview.
TGS: Another way you guys distinguished yourself is the album was presented in a different way than basically everything I’ve seen in this genre especially. The album cover is striking, absolutely, for it’s sparse, it’s simplistic…
Jake: It’s ugly!
TGS: I mean obviously it still has artistic merit and it’s abstract, but is that something you guys were consciously thinking – “this is how I want to present our record to the world?”
Nick: Yeah, I think that we were just in a mood that was, “No Bullshit.” We’re not laying it on thick. It was just giving you, barebones, what you need. There’s a quote, and I forgot to who said it, but “Art is created when you can’t take any aspect away from it.” And that’s what we did. If you took any aspect of the album art out, it would be ruined.
TGS: I think the track listing too – it flows in and out of each song.
Nick: Yeah, that’s like the music too. I felt like it’s minimal in the sense that, if anything was taken away, then the album would be totally different. Whereas, I think there are a lot of albums that aren’t that way. I think there are albums that are completely layered. I’m not saying that our album isn’t layered, but I am saying that every aspect of the album, we wanted importance within it. I wanted a lot of negative space. I didn’t want to do a big picture, taking up the whole cover. I had a vision, and we carried it out. Even down to the artwork, [the album] was polarizing. There’s people, like Into It. Over It. keeps telling us he loves the artwork. . . We did promos, and the promo was polarizing. There was 8,000 likes on it, the most likes we’ve ever gotten on a photo or anything, and then there were 100 comments that are like, “Fuck this promo.”
Jake: “Who do they think they are.” [laughs]
Nick: And you might think, “who cares about a promo?” But it’s pretty cool that we could be the band from this scene where their promo photo makes a little bit of a splash or a little bit of controversy, you know? I think that’s cool and that’s what we wanted with the album. It’s cool that you would recognize that it’s a little against the grain.
Jake: Yeah, I think it’s hard to place for a lot of kids, and that causes a little mental flexing. I think kids will be, like “what the fuck?” and then eventually kids will be down, once they really chew on it and wrap their heads around it.
TGS: So, Will Yip recorded your last LP Youth, a few years back, and he also did the new record Everybody is Going to Heaven, but he’s obviously produced a ton of records in the past couple of years.
Jake: He’s done so much incredible stuff.
TGS: So, has his production style changed at all in the time you guys were away, and did that effect the recording of the record at all? Has Will’s experiences over the last two years changed the record as well?
Nick: I would definitely say so. I think a lot of people throw flack at Will and the bands that record with Will because Will is an actual producer. I’m going to make the bold statement that there is no other producer at all in this scene, at all. There’s no other producer. There’s engineers, for sure, but Will is the only one that is actually producing records. People don’t know what a producer does. So there’s a reason so many bands go to him. Every record he produces, it’s not about him. It’s not about any specific sound or whatever. It’s about getting the best that he can out of the bands. The more that Will grows, the more that his bands grow. Look at the scene a few years ago. It was almost embarrassing. There was a huge gap between bands like Title Fight, who were breaking down the doors, and bands that wanted to be like Title Fight. That’s throwing shade at ourselves even. Will is getting better day by day. He’s getting smarter, and when you sit down and talk with him, it’s like you’re talking to the sixth member of your band. That’s kind of the role he plays. He’s not recycling anything. He truly loves music, and he knows more about music than anybody that I know. He’s out for classics. He’s not wasting his time with anything puny. There’s nothing that he doesn’t care about. I feel like other “producers,” I feel that there are bands that they don’t care about, and just do the bare minimum with, and I feel like he truly works his ass off, and really kicks the ass of every band that comes in, to make sure that the record that comes out is truly impressive.
TGS: Did you guys do pre-production with him as well?
Jake: Yeah, we spent a week doing pre-production.
TGS: Fast time-line then, huh? Is that something that was similar to Youth?
Nick: We had less time doing Youth. Not much, but we had three weeks doing Youth and four weeks doing the new record. But with Youth, we had six songs written going in, and we nailed the rest while we were in the studio. On this one, we had ten songs going into the studio and wrote an eleventh in the studio, which ended up on the album. And actually the first song we wrote for the album didn’t end up on the album.
TGS: Which ones were those, out of curiosity?
Nick: The only one we wrote in the studio was “Weave Me (Into Yr Skin)” and we actually recorded it really differently than the rest of the songs. We kind of built it like a hip-hop beat, kinda. It just started with guitar, and then we kept adding layers to it. And that’s why that song is so minimal, and so haunting in my opinion, because we went about it in a different way.
TGS: Have any touring plans in the fall?
Jake: There are plenty of plans, not to which we can disclose at the moment. We’re going to be doing a handful of shows with Taking Back Sunday – just some Midwest dates, in the middle of September. We’re scheduled to do shit though, and it’s going to be awesome, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Nick: We’re actually announcing some plans for Winter. In January, we’re doing a Europe and UK tour, and it’s going to be us headlining and Turnover coming with us. So, you know the boys are back together [laughs]
TGS: The triumphant return of both the Will Yip bands.
Nick: We went our separate ways for a few year.
Jake: But we found our way back.
Nick: I think we both out albums that are making their own statements. So I thought, “Yo, we already did the US a few years ago. Let’s fuck up some new countries now.” Nine dates, I believe. If you want to come out, you’re going to have to drive a little bit [laughs]
TGS: So the one last question here, I know its long bus rides a lot of the time on Warped Tour, so what have you guys and Lee Corey Oswald been jamming on the bus this summer?
Jake: We’ve just been sleeping. I know that sounds crazy and lame. We get in at 8 PM everyday, and by the time we get in, we’ll sink down and maybe someone will play a little bit of video games, and then we’ll just go to bed at like 10:30-11 o’clock every day, it’s crazy.
Nick: Lee Corey Oswald, they don’t play anything over the speakers or anything, but Lee will grab a guitar, hit some Green Day covers. I’m a big Green Day fan and he knows all of these “in the cut” songs that I didn’t expect him to know, so we’ll have a little jam along. I feel like I, more than anyone in the band besides Mat – Mat’s always got headphones but I don’t know what the fuck that guy’s listening to – but I keep my headphones in my bunk, so before I go to bed, I’ll fall asleep to whatever. But I’ve been listening to Angels of Light, Michael Gira from Swans’ project. It puts me to sleep. And 808s and Heartbreak from Kanye. As fall approaches, [808s] makes me want fall and winter. So when it’s super hot, and I go into the AC, I kind of pretend that it’s winter.
TGS: Thanks for speaking with us! Is there anything else you want to add?
Nick: Yeah. Everybody Is Going To Heaven, Run For Cover. You can find it anywhere.
Jake: Grab it from Run for Cover if you can, or go to a local record store. But otherwise, there’s a couple of big boys that have it which we’re definitely excited about.
Nick: That was definitely something different this time around, with some of the bigger retailers picking it up. So yeah, pick up the new record if you can. Pick up the new Turnover record, you know we gotta put on for the squad.
Big thanks to Nick Hamm, Jake Duhaime, and Mat Kerekes of Citizen for hanging out with The Garden Statement and WTSR Underground on an unbelievably hot day on Vans Warped Tour. Be sure to catch the band before summer is over. If you haven’t already bought your copy of Everybody is Going to Heaven, grab it HERE, then tell all your friends about it.