Frontman Mat Kerekes assures us that Calling The Dogs isn’t another “classic, sad Citizen record.” The 11-track album is introspective, yet hopeful, faster-paced and “really fun live.”
The five-member alternative rock band includes Kerekes on vocals, guitarists Nick Hamm and Mason Mercer, bassist Eric Hamm and drummer Ben Russin. Since Citizen first released Young States in 2011, Kerekes says the band is “constantly evolving.”
With over a decade playing music together, Kerekes noted that there were a few years where he thought Citizen had reached its expiration date. But, after touring with the 2021 album, Life in the Glass World, they hit their stride and started having fun performing again.
Now, Citizen is “all juiced up” to play Calling The Dogs at shows across the country, including their favorite stop, Chicago. Featuring Narrow Head and Modern Color, Citizen is coming to Concord Music Hall on November 26th, and Kerekes says he’s ready to go “all out” for his return to Concord.
Kerekes tells us all about the new album, his favorite songs to play live, the USA tour this year, and what to expect for Citizen’s Chicago show.
Calling The Dogs
- Can’t Take it Slow
- If You’re Lonely
- Lay Low
- Bad Company
- When I Let You Down
- Takes One to Know One
Citizen @ Concord Music Hall
Narrow Head & Modern Color
Nov. 26 // Doors at 6 PM
With Calling The Dogs, can you talk about your vision behind it?
We never go into a new record with, “This should be our emo album, this should be our dark…,” or whatever version of a band you can create. It’s just like, “What are we listening to?” That’s obviously going to bleed into what we write and what we are excited about and what excites us. When it came time to start writing songs for Calling The Dogs, or, at the time, it didn’t have a title, we were just writing songs that we liked. Over the years, that’s just gonna change. You’re not influenced by all the same things as you were 10 years ago, and not that you don’t like those things anymore, but your musical palette is ever growing, hopefully. That’s why a citizen is constantly evolving.
Were there any specific songs that stood out to you, with your writing process or just in general?
It was a return to form in a way. Most of the songs were written with just guitar and vocals first. Citizen’s last record was written with drums and bass first, and kind of built upon that. A lot of the way it sounds came from the collaboration of the band after the fact. A lot of citizen songs in the past I have written and kind of fully realized 90% there, and then it gets everybody’s fingerprints on it, and it becomes something else, but for the most part the song is there. This time around, it was just really bare, as bare as it could be, and presented to everybody and everybody wrote the song.
Did you find inspiration in your personal life with songwriting?
Lyrically, it always comes from a place of honesty and life experience. A lot of the lyrical content is not necessarily new things that have happened in my life, but, as you grow older, you have a new perspective, and, hopefully, a more mature outlook on things. It’s introspective in a way, in how you’ve grown as a person and how you look at things differently.
With Calling The Dogs compared to your previous releases, do you feel like it’s your best album yet, or how do you feel it compares to the rest of your music?
Anything I write, or we write, is always going to feel like the best thing in the world to me at the time. There was a time that I thought Citizen’s As You Please was the best thing in the world that I’ve ever done, and now I have a lot of complaints about that record. Right now, it’s [Calling The Dogs] the kind of music I’m really excited about, we’re really excited about, and it’s going to be really fun, live. Citizen has always been a pretty mid-tempo, kind of droney band, and I feel like our live sets have really suffered from that, even though I do like the songs, but it’s just not the most fun thing.
With our previous record, it was a lot faster paced, and it really revived something within us that had been lost, and we’re excited about music again. When we were doing Calling The Dogs, that was a big thing, like, “Oh, man, these sounds are gonna be a lot of fun live.” We’re really excited to get back on the road. I think we leave in 10 days or something like that. I think it’s gonna go over really well, and so far the album reception is great, and the shows are selling well, which Citizen has never been a presale band. It’s just a lot of new cool things that are happening, and we’re all really excited and we feel really good.
Are there specific songs that you are most excited to play live?
Yeah, there’s a song called “Lay Low” and a song called “Dogs” on the new record. “Dogs” especially is gonna be fun. It’s kind of a goofy “tough dog,” where it makes fun of itself in a way, and I think it’s gonna be a really good, fun energy live.
What about “Lay Low?” What was the vision behind it?
“Lay Low” is definitely a bit of a more serious song. It’s got the classic Citizen kind of aggression to it. I know people like that, and it’s just a bit faster and hokey or whatever you want to say. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about that song in particular, and that was one I was excited about from the get, so we put it in the set, and I’m excited to see how it goes over.
Your tour is starting this month. How are you feeling about that?
We’re juiced up. There were so many times, Citizen 2017, 2018, 2019, long period of time, where we felt just dead inside. We weren’t getting along, and the shows were not good, and I thought that Citizen had reached our expiration date. Touring on Glass World really excited us, and we were like, “Oh, wow, we’re hitting a stride and we have a lot more to offer.” We’re just excited about playing music, and it’s fun again.
Does band chemistry make a big difference at live shows?
Absolutely. A big part of the reason Citizen’s still a band is because we’re all good friends and nobody’s a hired guy that is really good at their instrument and we don’t get along. In fact, we’re all not very good at our instruments, so we just get along really well, which is funny. It just makes the whole experience better, and writing was fine. I feel like the new record… it’s not a classic, sad Citizen record. It feels motivational and hopeful to me. I think the current band chemistry really shines through in every aspect of the band.
You’re also finishing off your tour in Chicago playing at Concord. What’s going to be in the show? What can we expect from that show?
Like any Citizen show, I think it’s gonna be really crazy and loud and we’re gonna be up there having a good time. Last time we played Concord, I was really sick, not like deathly ill, but I just had this bug where my voice was gone. I was feeling really upset after the show. I’m excited to get back out there and make up for that and really go all out. The energy in the band at this current moment is infectious, and that always translates to the crowd really well.
How does it feel to have people already buying tickets and reacting to the album?
Seeing the tour flier, just every day, change to say low tickets or sold out on dates is something really awesome. It makes you feel secure and its something I’ve never experienced before. Citizen’s history has been like, “Hey, we’re playing in Chicago. There’s 100 tickets sold in this 800 cap room. Oh crap, I hope this doesn’t suck.” Then, we have a massive day-of ticket sale or walk up or whatever, and the show ends up being awesome, but there’s always just been this feeling of uncertainty with Citizen.
Seeing people rush to grab tickets, it definitely makes you feel really good and makes you less nervous. It’s always nerve racking if you’re playing a big venue. What if nobody comes? Then, you just feel dumb. I always said, “My greatest fear is to think you’re killing it but not actually be killing it.” What does that mean? It’s booking a 1000 cap room, and nobody coming to it. Like, “Oh, man, we’re killing it. We’re gonna play this room,” and then nobody comes, and you’re like, “Oh, this sucks.” It’s just embarrassing, right? It’s cool to be in a position where you don’t have to worry about that as much.
What do you think caused that breakthrough?
I don’t have an actual answer. What I want to think, and I don’t know if it’s true, it’s all speculation, is our live shows, post-pandemic have just been good. They’ve been a lot of fun. I’ve been talking to the crowd more, and we’ve all been moving. Our guitarist Mason is funny. He is like a little kid on a sugar rush, and he just doesn’t care what anybody thinks. He looks so dumb in the coolest way when he’s literally losing his mind. It kind of loosens us all up. The answer that I want to say is that we’re just performing. We’re putting on a more entertaining show. Music, in general right now, especially in the hardcore– not that Citizen’s hardcore– but the live rock, crazy, energetic show realm, people are just showing up, and that’s really awesome.
Is there anything else you want to add for readers?
We have a new record out, and go jam it, and I hope you come to a show. I love Chicago. Chicago has always been one of our best and favorite stops on every single tour. We can’t wait to be back. We love Riot Fest too, of course. Who doesn’t love Riot Fest?
Citizen @ Concord Music Hall
Narrow Head & Modern Color
Nov. 26 // Doors at 6 PM