After spending last week in Austin for SXSW, British rock group Citizens! is making its way west for a tour stop at SoMA nightclub Monarch on March 23. We chatted with keyboardist Lawrence Diamond during in a phone interview about life in America, working with Franz Ferdinand and the band’s breakout track “True Romance.”
Guided by French independent record label Kitsuné, Citizens! perform emotive yet friendly and high energy tunes. Their version of electro-tinged Parisian pop encourages plenty of dancing using heavily synthesized bass-lines.
What do you look forward to most when you visit the U.S.?
The welcome we get in America is incredible. People are so up to hearing what we are doing and into the music we are playing. We’re a long way from home, but for there still to be that enthusiasm for what we’re doing, it’s an incredible feeling to turn up in towns that you’ve never been to and have all these people who want to hear your music.
Any guilty pleasures that you can’t get in the UK?
We’re a big fan of diner food. We don’t really do pancakes with bacon and maple syrup in England. It’s not something that’s made it across to us.
Anything you miss from home?
We’ve been away from home so long I forgot what we do in England.
At your last stop in SF, I noticed band members were all wearing nice leather dress shoes. Do you pay close attention to your foot wear?
The San Francisco show was one of our top shows last year. We had loads of fun. When you spend as much time on tour as we do, high quality footwear is very important. It’s not just a style, it’s a survival statement.
Part of your relationship with Kitsune Maison includes performing and modeling at fashion shows. Did the modeling work come naturally to you?
I wouldn’t say it comes naturally, but it is very exciting because our label is doing lots of things in very different fields. Not only do they have this very exciting fashion label, but obviously this exciting music label that is growing and pushing these things. The music videos, the people they hook you up with and work with, are very creative. The fashion thing is just another creative outlet for what the band and label does. The fashion world has taken very kindly to what we’re doing. We’re at shows than walking down catwalks. We feel much more comfortable on stage.
What’s more demanding: fashion modeling or touring?
I wouldn’t want to say either way. I know that models work very hard, and I noticed that all the models that we’ve met at shows, hairdressers and stylists, they all know each other and they’re very close. I guess that’s what we’re like with other touring bands. We’ll get to Austin, see all of our friends, compare short stories. It’s a nice little community to be part of.
If you weren’t a musician, is that a career you would consider?
No, I wouldn’t, none of us have ever really considered a career outside of music, and I don’t really think any of us have ever considered it a career. Music is just what we’ve always done. We were always in the band in school. When the other kids were maybe going out to play football or going to clubs, we’d be rehearsing and playing in our band. My fashion range would probably not be one that you would want to buy. I’m going to stick with the music.
How did you end up working with Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand and how did that influence your record?
Alex heard some of our demos early on in the process. We were just writing for ourselves and had a good idea of what we wanted our band to be. When we started to get some attention from labels and producers, we found that a lot of people wanted to take this pop thing that we were doing and make it ugly and horrible and try and sell it to the mass market. That was the last thing we wanted to do, that was the whole anti-reason of our band. The reason we created our band was to make pure good pop that we believed in with our heart and our soul.
Alex was the first to gave us advice about how to not get caught in the honey trap of all this bullocks that can be the music industry. Then eventually one day we said, “Alex, you know this record better than anyone else. Why don’t we do this?” and luckily he had been thinking the same thing or it would have been like asking a girl out on a date who you think really fancies you and finding out she doesn’t fancy you at all and has a boyfriend.
I think his influence was making sure that we questioned everything we did and never settled for anything less. It was a constant artistic adventure: every decision had to be justified and everything we were looking to do had to have a reason. He didn’t let us rest on laurels or make easy choices.
He’s a very inspiring man, and he’s also a really great chef. The best curry I’ve ever had in my life was cooked by Alex Kapranos and I’m very proud to be able to say that.
The “True Romance” video recently surpassed 1 million views. How did you come up with the idea to shoot a bunch of people making out for a music video?
Well it’s funny because a lot of people come to our shows to make out. I’d say after dancing, it’s the most common activity. We were familiar with the Vancouver riots and that whole passion amongst the madness. True romance is a song that symbolizes that. The minute we got the treatment, we looked at it for about a minute and a half and we were like, “Yes, this is amazing.”
The video was filmed in Barcelona, so we were all thinking, “Great, couples days in Barcelona for holiday,” then we found out they didn’t want us in the video. We sat in freezing cold London while they filmed this beautiful video. It still turned out amazing, the response has been great and it really seems to resonate with people.
What’s coming up next for you after this tour?
We’re going to go back to London to start writing out the next record. We’ve kind of already begun that process, but in earnest this summer we’ll start really thinking what we want it to be and sound like, build on the things that we started to say with the first record and hopefully make it a bigger sound.
We won’t start to think about recording it until we know we have the best record. Once we record it, we’ll start touring again because that’s basically all we ever do and that’s what makes us happy.
Tags: Citizens!, Live Music in San Francisco, monarch