One of 2012's most exciting new guitar bands are Citizens! a London five-piece who mix great music with perfect cheekbones and a questionable use of punctuation.
Set to release debut album 'Here We Are' on 28 May, 2012 and one of the must-see bands at this year's Camden Crawl festival, we spoke to lead singer Tom and bassist Martyn in an East London meat-market (we kid you not) about working with Alex from Franz Ferdinand on their debut album, plans for performing in outer space and that all-important exclamation mark on the end of their name...
Hello Citizens! What can people expect to hear on your debut album?
Tom: Well, there are tambourines and shakers made out of bulls testicles. They're called bulls detoroes.
Would normal shakers not have done the trick? It had to be a pair of old testicles?
Tom: Can you imagine that thick leathery consistency of a bull’s scrotum? It's filled with rice or something similar. It's such a unique sound.
How did you get involved with Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand?
Tom: We had a few mutual friends, he heard our demos and liked them. We met him in the London Fields pub for some drinks initially to try and pick up some advice but we got talking about recording and he had some really strong ideas about how we could do the album and eventually we thought we should just do it with him. It was great, we really enjoyed every bit of it. He was great to work with.
What did Alex add to the Citizens! sound?
Martyn: Working with Alex is like working with an art tutor, he questions you all the time. You have to justify every decision you make.
Tom: We were just listening to the Doolittle demos on vinyl, which I have never listened to before. I was really interested in listening to the progression from early band recordings to the final album, which was amazing. Ours is even a bigger jump.
Martyn: Yeah, we were saying we should leak the demos at some point.
Would you consider yourself a guitar band, in the traditional sense?
Tom: I hadn’t really thought about it, I guess we do have guitars - and we are a band. It sounds slightly limiting I suppose, if someone says you are a guitar band, you kind of instantly have an idea of what what that sounds like, and it might turn you off. So, probably wouldn’t describe us as a guitar band.
Martyn: We like guitars because live, you can see people playing them and hear the sound that comes out and it makes for an exciting live thing but really I guess we try and use as many instruments as we can on our music.
Do bands need to offer more than being just a group of men stood around playing instruments these days?
Martyn: Depends what you do with it, I suppose for us certainly it’s not particular interesting to go with that set up, we are looking to do more with the music and look at other sounds and the influences in there.
Tom: Yeah, I think when people start playing guitars, it’s easy for them to sound, to my ears, too much like a lot of other guitar bands that have been playing over the years. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room to be inventive. I bet when the Pixies started even they sounded like every other guitar band.
Watch Citizens! 'Reptile' video
Why the exclamation mark on the end of your name?
Martyn: It's just a lot cooler with the exclamation mark, than without!
Tom: Yeh, I think it looks good on a poster; it’s kind of like a shout out like a headline on a newspaper. We had three criteria to fill: one - it had to be a powerful word, it is one of the most powerful words if you think about it. Secondly it had to look good on a poster or when you see it on Glastonbury headliners. Thirdly it certainly had to be as difficult as possible to find on google.
When starting a new band, is there any point in aiming for anything less than a Glastonbury headline slot?
Martyn: The Superbowl! We want to be the first band to play on the moon.
Tom: Actually, when we say all that and we do, we mean it. We do want to be the first band to play on the moon. But at the moment, touring around and building up followings in different countries and different towns, the early levels are really, really exciting, we’re really enjoying that.
Martyn: Yeh, you want to play to big crowds, otherwise its five guys in a room with guitars, isn’t it? A little bit tragic. We’ve had plenty of that in our time.
And what's the plan for the rest of 2012?
Tom: Well we’re putting our album out at the end of May and we’re going to be touring that - a lot. We’re playing festivals all over Europe this summer and then trying to get this gig on the moon sorted. If that’s booked by the end of the year, that will be cool. I’m not sure we can play it this year as we are busy but booking it for next year will be good.
Martyn: Actually I’m just thinking about this, this gig on the moon idea of mine and I guess I’ve over looked the fact that no one lives on the moon.
Tom: And sound can’t travel in space...
And on that note, we'll leave it there. Thank you very much Tom and Martyn of Citizens!
Citizens! perform at Club NME on 4 May, 2012 as part of this year's Camden Crawl. Debut album 'Here We Are' is released on 28 May, 2012.