“We felt a little more free to go off the rails, which just felt good this deep into the band”, says Citizen’s Nick Hamm as he delves into the creation of the Ohio-based alternative rockers’ fourth album Life In Your Glass World.
The three-piece are renowned for upping the ante sonically and dynamically with each release since forming in Toledo in 2009 and subsequent debut LP Youth in 2013.
Life In Your Glass World is the culmination of experience and taking more risks out of their comfort zones.
After years of being pulled around by the music industry, Life In Your Glass World is the first album where the band, consisting of vocalist Mat Kerekes, guitarist Nick Hamm and bassist Eric Hamm, have enjoyed full control in the album-making process as they brought the project to life in a homemade studio built in Mat's garage.
Never ones to be pigeonholed, Citizen guide you through a thrilling blend of anthemic alternative rock, indie pop and post-hardcore to stunning effect, with tracks like huge single I Want To Kill You and album opener Death Dance Approximately proving to be some of the punchiest, stand up and take notice songs of the year so far.
Blue Sunday and the hazy Thin Air show their more indie-orientated side while Fight Beat is as funked-up as its title suggests.
Lyrically it sees Citizen go deep as Nick admits “there’s a lot of anger in these songs”, as Mat lets out pent-up negative frustrations for a cathartic experience.
Nick told Daily Star: “I think a lot of emotions were exercised on this one. But I think Mat does that, every time around. I just think this time, he had a lot of frustrations to get out and so the record follows a theme of looking outward, for the most part.”
While its subjects may be bleak, Life In Your Glass World is a record of hope that guides you through different directions en route to its affirming and soaring conclusion – the epic closer Edge of the World.
Daily Star’s Rory McKeown caught up with Nick Hamm to talk about Life In Your Glass World’s writing and recording process, their newfound creative freedom, its influences, and their hopes.
You’ve returned with your fourth album Life In Your Glass World. Tell me about its writing and recording process. How did it differ to your previous releases?
“Well, the writing happened fairly quickly, but it was after a year or so of tinkering and throwing out other ideas.
"The recording process was slower, on the other hand. We had, in theory, unlimited time so that has all its own benefits and disadvantages.”
It saw you take the process home to Toledo where you made everything in-house. How liberating was the experience having control over your output? Do you think this is an approach you will take in the future? How has Toledo shaped you as a band?
“It was certainly liberating in some ways. We felt a little more free to go off the rails, which just felt good this deep into the band. I could certainly see us doing it again, but who is to say.
“We have a lot of admiration for certain producers so it’s always possible we take that route. But for now, it’s really nice to have one under our belt and be able to say “ok we can do this.”
You’re quoted as saying “there’s a lot of anger in these songs and we wanted the music to communicate that”. Would you say songwriting is a cathartic experience for Citizen? What are the main themes you approach on the record?
“Yeah I think a lot of emotions were exercised on this one. But I think Mat does that, every time around.
"I just think this time, he had a lot of frustrations to get out and so the record follows a theme of looking outward, for the most part.”
What were your main influences when writing the album?
“Kinda always influencing from the same things, and just repackaging them in different ways.
"There’s always new music coming into the mix to spark some excitement in us, but we also all listen to very different stuff and only have a few bands/records that we overlap on.
"It’s pretty fun finding those spots and approaching everything as a challenge and a project, where we figure out how to work within certain parameters.”
Is there a standout track on Life In Your Glass World you’re particularly proud of?
“Edge of the Word or Thin Air are probably my favourites. I think they’re both completely new energies for us.”
How can you sum up the past 12 months? How have you navigated the pandemic as a band?
"It’s been really challenging. I’m honestly proud of us for still going at it. It’s been really tough on us as a band and especially personally.
"I know we’re not alone in that, but it’s just been one personal or global tragedy after another, it seems.”
Since forming in 2009, how do you think Citizen have evolved as a band? What are the main changesyou’ve seen in the industry?
“I try not to over-concern myself with what is happening in the industry, because you notice the hottest bands on earth don’t mean s*** two years later.
“Everything is disposable, so we just keep doing what we want, and if people dig it, then that’s all the better. We’ve evolved in pretty much every way possible. Emotionally, creatively, and I think we just know how to navigate things better than we did as kids.”
How much are you looking forward to getting back out on the road once live music opens back upagain?
“I’m mostly nervous. This era will be entirely new in spirit and that’s not easy but it’ll be challenging in a fun way, I hope.”
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What are your next steps? What are you hopeful for looking ahead?
“I think everyone could use some good news. Hopeful for that.”
Citizen’s Life In Your Glass World is out now via Run For Cover Records
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