INTERVIEW: Mat Kerekes – Citizen

Having just dropped their third album As You Please, we managed to catch up with CITIZEN prior to the release of their latest album As You Please. This time around, the Michigan/Ohio five-piece have offered a married sound on their new record that bridges sonic and lyrical paths explored in their previous works, and proved to be their best yet. We wanted to know from vocalist Mat Kerekes what inspired the band on As You Please, what happened in the two years since their last record Everybody Is Going To Heaven, and what it was like being back in the studio with producer Will Yip.

Can you explain the title As You Please?

Mat: The title came about last minute and it was pulled from one of the songs on the record. I could think of maybe a million different things it could mean, it would be unfair to all of the others to choose one. I’ll let it mean whatever it wants to whoever.

In Discrete Routine there’s references to a “transient soul” and at times feels angry/bitter towards something or someone. Is this record a reflection/confrontation towards goings on in Toledo?

Mat: No, nothing on the record has to do with Toledo. Personal experience isn’t confined to a location. I don’t really like fleshing out direct details about songs, I feel like it ruins it for the listener. I want to give anyone who enjoys this record the chance to relate and/or create their own meanings behind the song. That’s what music is about, what it means to you, not anybody else.

Everyone Is Going To Heaven felt a lot more riff heavy than Youth. How have you progressed sonically on the new record in comparison?

Mat: The writing for As You Please was a casual process. We started writing about a year in advance as opposed to cramming songs two weeks before entering the studio. I think the end result was a more well thought out record lyrically and musically.

Has CITIZEN’s approach to song-writing on As You Please differed from previous albums?

Mat: I’d say so. As opposed to sitting down and writing a song and recording it after, I’ve been recording as I write. I like it better this way. Just doing whatever you want and saying “oh this may be cool here” and laying it down as you go instead of being confined to a structure that you wrote before mixes things up a bit. Everyone’s process is different. I’m not too sure how the other guys operate.

In In The Middle Of It All the chorus features almost operatic vocal layering. How did you come up with that?

Mat: I’m not sure. It just flowed. The whole song was completed and while listening to the demo I started humming it and thought it would be a cool/unique addition.

Apart from touring, what happened in the two-year space for CITIZEN between the last album and this one?

Mat: For me, not much. Though I can’t speak for everyone else on that, I was focused on writing, whether that be for CITIZEN or my solo stuff. I spent a lot of time with family when I was home from tour, exercised and that’s about it.

There are a lot of substance abuse references in As You Please. Is this something you have had to deal with personally?

Mat: Not personally, but with people close to me. It’s something that has taken a large toll on my family and me. It feels good to let it out, but it’s also in a way painful/sad to sing about.

In World, there’s the flooring lyric “There’s a crowd in front of me, I just don’t care/ I hear a thousand people, I feel nothing.” Was there a time when you fell out of love with playing live? If not, where has such a deep cutting line come from?

Mat: I fall in and out of it. There was a large period of time where the magic felt like it was gone. I don’t really know how to explain it. I felt like like nobody cared about me, I felt like I was wasting time and being used. People seem to only be excited about what you’re doing when you have something depressing to hand to them. Maybe it’s wrong to think of it that way, because maybe they are just feeling down as well, but it’s definitely a sad thought to me. To see people constantly making comments about how they can’t wait till all of these bad things happens to me so I can write something they want to hear again, really got on my nerves. When nobody likes you when you’re happy, it’s hard to be happy when your job is to cater to those people.

Do you feel like the world around you has changed since your time in the band, and how has that affected what you write about?

Mat: The only thing that affects what I write about is personal experience. If the world changing, which it has, has affected my personal experiences in it, then I’d say so.

As You Please is out now via Run For Cover Records. 

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