Hot Show Alert (11/21): Midwest emo legends Citizen take on Big Night Live (Interview in Post!)
(photo credit: Tracy Nguyen)
As we tuck into some turkey with our families or before you run to the Black Friday sales later this week, there are a few dynamite shows hitting Boston. This Wild Life and Broadside are playing a post-Thanksgiving fiesta at BMH. The Word Alive and From Ashes to New are doing one the day before the holiday. Also, Pierce the Veil and supergroup L.S. Dunes (featuring some guys named Anthony Green and Frank Iero you may know, amongst many other heavy hitters) take on MGM Music Hall tomorrow, but this writer’s personal recommendation for your week would be to head to the other side of town tomorrow night. To Big Night Live, where the long-time Midwest forever road dogs, Citizen, will be taking the stage. Fresh off the release of their latest album, “Calling All Dogs,” the Boston date of the tour has been a longtime coming on this run. The band was here in July for ten years of “Youth,” and tomorrow should be a parade of the hits but also a dive into the latest album, which is an absolute chef’s kiss.
I spoke with founding member and lead guitarist Nick Hamm recently about everything from their current tour to their full-blown return to touring since the pandemic hit. Their performance at Big Night Live tomorrow will be their fourth date in Massachusetts since their return to touring only last year. And it was a long-anticipated return, according to Hamm. We chatted about the new record, how it came together, and ten years since their debut record, “Youth” .Find our chat below, and hope to see you at the gig! Limited tickets are still available, but we suggest jumping on them real quick. The goods can be secured here. And be sure to make it there early enough to catch Narrow Head and Modern Color!
New England Sounds: How has this run been going for you, especially considering the new record?
Nick Hamm: This tour has been amazing. Every time we do a tour immediately following a new record, it’s kind of scary because you don’t know what to expect. People have lived with the old songs for so long that it can be a little jarring. When it comes to things that maybe they’ve never heard, or they’ve only heard it a few times, or for a few months or whatever. But we’re finding that all of the new songs are going over really well. I think that there’s a surface-level immediate reaction. Or kind of an immediate vibe to the new songs. So it’s blending really well, and that just makes it so much more fun for all of us.
NES: Perfect, and then I know this is the first, in six years, non-self-produced record for the band. But you worked with a really well-known producer on this one, someone who’s worked with people like Elliott Smith and Kurt Vile (Rob Schnapf). Maybe how was that experience? When did you kind of first start working on this record? I know it wasn’t your first one since the pandemic, but when did you start working on this one (Calling All Dogs, 10/6/23)?
NH: Yeah, we’ve had these songs for probably a year and a half or so. Not all finished, but we basically started working on the record about a year and a half ago. And when we were talking about what we wanted to do with the record, we kind of said, you know, we self-produced the last one, let’s try something new. And maybe work with a new producer. So we had some names in the hat. And Rob Schnapf’s name was one of the early contenders. And we got on a phone call with him, and just, we really vibed with him. It just made perfect sense, I think. For the record that we wanted to do, and it turned out really well. So we’re glad we did that.
NES: Then this upcoming show at Big Night Live. I think it’s the biggest room you guys have headlined in Boston. And I think it’s your fourth show again since the shutdowns. You were always a big touring act, but maybe how has it been to jump right back into touring as an artist? And maybe the post-pandemic differences you’ve seen in the touring environment.
NH: Yeah, I mean, we were waiting very impatiently. So the second that we were able to play shows again, it was like the clouds breaking and the sun coming through. And Boston has always been a pretty personal place for us. It’s one of the first places we ever played outside our area. And our record label, being in Boston, it’s just always kind of been a second home. So Boston has always been important. And whenever we can graduate to a bigger room or play for more people, it’s always especially an accomplishment. Even more so than other cities. So being able to play rooms like Big Night Live or House of Blues, which we played in June. It’s just cool. It feels like we’re getting a hometown treatment almost. And that’s just special, you know.
NES: And then I know that tour in June was ten years of Youth Maybe looking back on that, maybe things you would have told yourself then? That you know now, being ten years into Youth, like things you look back on from that time?
NH: I mean, honestly, it’s something that I reflected on at the shows. It’s kind of easy to forget that that record has taken ten years to kind of become what it is. When it came out, we weren’t playing House of Blues. We weren’t playing big shows. We were still playing shows, just to twenty people. And so it’s really crazy seeing how the longevity of that record has really built it into what it is now. And you know, I don’t think I even realized how much people connected to that record until this year—the tour when we were celebrating ten years. Back then, we knew nothing. We were babies, and we were fresh out of high school. So, of course, it was a million, just like personal life lessons. I’d be like, listen, kid, you don’t know half of the things you think you know. But you know, reflecting back on that time was such a cool, exciting period of life. To be a kid and be experiencing traveling and playing music on a different level than just in a garage or whatever. It was cool.
NES: Perfect, then I wanted to ask, returning to the record, Calling All Dogs, that just recently came out. There are definitely some songs that are quite the departure. Maybe something for you on this record that particularly stands out or a song you’re really proud of on your own.
NH: Yeah! I think that this record is probably the most that we’ve leaned into, I guess, the punk side of Citizen. And I think that’s reflected really well on the closing song, “Takes One to Know One.” Which was an early demo that we had, that was one of the first songs that we had. And so it really kind of helped shape the record. When you’re kind of working on songs, you’re just writing anything. And you don’t know what your record really is going to be and what its’ personality will be. And that was kind of a demo where I felt like a light turned on. It was like, oh, we can kind of do something with this. There’s like a path here. So that song is special to me.
NES: Then, I started covering bands like 15 years ago, and I know there are a lot of bands now celebrating fifteen, twenty years, that makes me feel really old.
NH: I bet.
Like The Menzingers and The Maine, you know Citizen has been a band for so long. Citizen has had a run of it. There were some darker moments from talking to the band in the past. I’m sure when the pandemic hit, I’m sure that reinvigorated the band a little bit. But maybe newer bands that you’re listening to that you think that people would like, that kids would like.
NH: Yeah, this is a bittersweet one. It’s one of my favorite bands of the last few years. They’ve been a band for a while, but I feel like they really started a really cool pathway, Strange Ranger, and they just broke up. Just the other day. It’s like heartbreaking, but we just played some shows with them, and I was really excited that they played some shows with us. When you used the word, reinvigorate, that’s a really good word. Because I feel like post-pandemic, a lot of music, like the shift in music, I think energy is being a little more embraced. Because people were kind of going crazy, locked up, and bored, I’ve really seen a resurgence in kind of the belief in rock music and like guitar music, and that has been cool to me. Because I feel like people are doing interesting things with guitar music. And obviously, that really benefits us (laughs). So it’s pretty cool to see that happen. Because I felt like that was not the trajectory prior to the pandemic.
NES: Yeah, I agree. Then, like I said before, you’ve been on this tour. I believe you’re in Texas today from looking at the dates. Then we’ll see you in Boston in about like a week and a half (11/21 at Big Night Live) or a little bit over. But you’re still in the thick of this tour. You guys have been touring really consistently. At least when it comes to Boston, you’ve been here several times. “Calling All Dogs” is your second album since the pandemic, which is crazy to think that we are already in late 2023. But maybe hopes or goals for Citizen while you’re on this run, after this run, kind of these next few months?
NH: Yeah, every time that we realize a new record, you kind of find out ways to cover that record. And make fateful decisions that lend themselves to the overall vision for that era or the record cycle or whatever. And so, it’s kind of open-ended, kind of a mystery. But I just hope we keep pushing further and always exploring new territory. And that could be in the tours that we do. Or the places we visit. Or it could be creative decisions. We always want to be as sharp as we can. We’ve been a band for a long time. So I think kind of trying to stay mentally young is always the goal.
NES: I mean, you guys started so young as a band. The bands I mentioned before all started so young. I think the oldest ones I’ve seen from the Warped times are now 40, and they’ve been a band for about fifteen, twenty years. I never thought we would be seeing that when I was younger in this scene.
NH: Yeah, absolutely. Citizen is in kind of a rare position, too, where it’s like, we’ve been a band for so long. But we started so young that we’re still in our twenties.
NES: Is that insane to you?
NH: Yeah, because it’s like, when you see bands do ten-year anniversaries or stuff, it’s always bands that are kind of like having families, kids, and stuff. And it’s like, we’re still…kids, I feel like. I have to think that we’re like one of the youngest bands to do a ten-year (laughs) tour.
NES: I think you are (laughs). I would say so, too.
NH: That’s awesome, and I think that aids in the longevity of the band. I think it’s awesome.
The gig’s tomorrow! Doors are at 6:30, and the first band is on at 7:30! Again, tickets can be scooped here!