Chic multi-brand store nexttoNORMAL are bringing over the equally stylish London electro-pop outfit Citizens! to perform at the Zen Event Gallery on Dec 4 along with a special fashion show. We chatted with keyboardist Lawrence Diamond about what it was like recording with Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos and the often strained relationship between music and fashion.
How did Citizens! form?
We formed when Tom [Burke, vocals] and I were fighting over a stereo at a house party. We were both trying to play the songs we thought would get the party started. We had slightly different ideas about what would get people up and dancing—the fact that it was the Flaming Lips or Suicide means we were probably both wrong. Mike was at the party, too, and when he saw us in heated discussion, he sat us down, poured us a whiskey and suggested we join forces to form a super-pop band that could combine all those influences and more.
Congratulations on the release of your debut album. Does it surprise you how quickly Citizens! have picked up popularity and praise?
It's weird because we did everything back to front. We wrote the songs first, then we recorded them and then we played live. Normally the gigs come first. So the fact that people are finding us and enjoying what we do is, of course, a massive pleasure and a surprise. It's only a year since our first live gig so to have been to four continents in as many months is crazy.
How did you come to sign with Kitsuné? What are they like to work with?
Gildas [Loaëc, label co-founder] was one of the first people to hear our band and he had the confidence to put one of our earliest demos on a Kitsuné compilation before we even had a name. That's pretty cool and you just feel inspired to work with people like that. He also had great shoes—we can't stress how important Gildas's shoes were to us working with him.
What was it like recording your album with Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand? Is he a tough taskmaster?
Alex made us have cold showers every morning, during which we had to sing our favorite Celine Dion song in B-flat, note for note, pitch perfect, or we weren't allowed in the studio that day. Stuff like that makes you bring your chops up to speed double-quick.
How was your recent Australian tour? Parklife is a big deal!
Parklife blew our mind. We regularly wake up and can't really believe it happened. Just hanging out drinking Bundaburg rum with Tame Impala, Chairlift, Passion Pit, St Lucia every day, then partying every night till the wee, wee hours. It made everything slightly surreal and twisted. We also got to know that the string vest, commonly known as a onesie, is the accepted clothing for getting very drunk in a field in Australia.
What’s been your most memorable tour experience?
Tom danced on stage in Switzerland with Mark Ronson, Johnny Marr and Quincy Jones. He just pretended he was a member of Earth, Wind & Fire and they let him on. I’ve never been so jealous.
I’ve read that you guys want to be a real pop band that makes the genre credible again; what makes good pop music?
I think great pop is integrity, adventurism, the desire to break new ground, not to follow anyone else, and a desire to reach out and connect to people and not be afraid of that. Jay Z and Kanye West are total heroes, and we love the 15 key changes that Beyonce fits into an average song. Back in London bands like Theme Park, Alt-J, Django Django and Kindness are really inspiring to be around.
You’re signed to Kitsuné, which is also a fashion label, and here in Bangkok you’ll play a show as part of a clothing showcase for the nexttoNORMAL store; do you see fashion and music as inextricably linked?
Of course. We would get arrested if we played our gigs without any clothes on, and that would be a disaster for our career. Though I reckon Mike would end up bossing his wing. He'd be like a godfather figure within a month.
Is image or how you look something that the band takes seriously?
We just dress how we always dressed back in London. We didn't want to be a band that just recreated a style from another era so that everyone would be like "Oh they're a mod band, they're a psych rock band, they're a synth pop band" we just wanted to be us but with instruments.
Finally, what can Bangkok expect from a Citizens! live show?
It's a giant blancmange of passion, kissing, dancing, singing, hula hoops and handstands. It's like the album in four dimensions. Hold on, maybe it's five dimensions. It's pretty special. You should come.