MCB's Al Bruting had a chance to talk to the guys from Citizen Smile before releasing a new record tonight at the Loving Touch Ferndale
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Album Release Show
The Loving Touch Ferndale
The Ill Itches
Interview by Al Bruting (Rockhounding)
MCB - Tell us about the musical journey you have taken since you decided to pick up instruments. You were friends.... Who was the first to pick up an instrument, and was it the guitar or something else? Who did you want to be like and how did that change over time?
James and Kory started playing around thirteen years old. James originally played keyboard because he felt awkward just singing but was too lazy to learn to play guitar. While in Smile, James started a side project when he was twenty one called Firs and Spruces. He asked me to be his bass player even though I was just his server at mongolian barbecue and I didn't know how to play bass. I went to high school with Will and knew him as the drum guy. So I told James we should meet him at Wendy's and see if he wanted to vein the band. He did. After the bass player left Smile, I was asked to join. A few months later, Will did the same as the drummer left. We have all grown together over the last three years and our deep rooted friendship has helped shape us as artists and made this album what it is.
MCB - Talking about your friendship, does it make it easier to write and play music together or harder? Do you feel it contributes instrumentally or lyrically?
MCB - All music has some influences that comes through in varying levels. When your crafting your music is any part of the creative process influenced by a desired outcome of wanting to sound like something specific. For example, there was a time period when John Lennon wanted to be Elvis and this could be both heard and seen. Was there an artists or a sound you had in the foreground writing of any of the songs on the new release and if so tell us about that.
When James and Kory started playing together ten years ago or so, it was all about Weezer and The Get Up Kids. MXPX was the first band the two ever bonded over. Obviously we are in a totally different spot now. Main influences for this record were Tokyo Police Club and Yuck. On Leslie, James wrote the song with Feist in mind and we wrote our parts with Limbeck in the back of our heads. At the end of Right Here, all we could hear ourselves doing was throwing in a Wilco style instrumental jam. So influences for us definitely vary from song to song.
MCB - These influences will often be heard in earlier work and your sound develops and evolves over time into something purely your own. Have you noticed this in happening in your musical catalogue?
MCB - Give us your process on songwriting. Is it shared, does one guy bring in a thought that the others help him finish, or is the song written and then the parts played like studio jocks with prearranged book to follow adding some flavor only. Does a song happen quickly? Talk about crafting the tracks on the new release.
It varies from song to song. A Plan came together in no time. James brought it to the table, we wrote parts to it and it came out pretty much how you hear it today. But People I've Done Wrong is a whole other story. James brought it to us as a low key folk tune and we just couldn't get it to work. So we jammed on the progression until we found a new groove for the song. Then abandoned James's old part entirely and rearranged the format of the song. The original version is barely even a ghost of the current song. Some songs weren't even finished being written until we got in the studio. Right Here was super open ended. We even turned off the click track at one point and just saw where the song would take us. So the writing for this album was definitely approached many different ways.
MCB - As for the future, where do you see yourself going? Is there a plan to hit the road, are you currently traveling around or outside Michigan and do those plans include any festivals or double bills with other groups?
MCB - One of the challenges a lot of bands hit is the decision to pick the band over the day job or the demands of relationships and family. How has this impacted you so far what’s helped bring balance and make it manageable if its occurred?
Will and I really would like to do music full time and hit the road. James and Kory, understandably, don't share the same interest to do music full time due to work and family life. So we are going to do as much with Smile as we can from Detroit. We made an album we all really believe in and we just really want people to hear it.
MCB – You are throwing a CD release party November 22nd at the Loving Touch. Can you give us a preview on what we might see?
We have two AMAZING bands opening up for us and both are good friends. Haunted House is made up of four gentlemen that have been making music and inspiring us for years. The Ill Itches are great friends of ours who have tons of energy and a super fun live performance.
Our album will be available for $2 tonight ONLY.
This will also be the only night we will play the album from front to back in it's entirety.
So it will be a special night.