What started with an argument of who should play DJ at a house party, ended in a sweet record deal and a world tour. Forming an unlikely collaboration, Londoner’s Martyn, Thom, Tom, Lawrence and Mike found musical harmony in each other – they soon realised there was no turning back and so Citizens! was born…
Citizens! are as likely to be inspired by Kanye West as they are by Arcade Fire – which is exactly the idea behind their song ‘True Romance’, which dropped at the end of the month. An unlikely turn out for a new boy band, the group are unashamedly pop happy. “Pop is not a dirty word. It’s a holy one!” they declare. After playing the odd gig and sharing their demo, the hype came quickly and before they knew it they were signed to French Indie label, Kitsuné and had Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos knocking at their door to produce the album. They recently played at the fashion-savvy Sanderson sessions to a joyous crowd and have since hit the road to tour Australia and New York.
We spoke to Lawrence Diamond (keys/guitar) on his musical inspirations, Brick Lane bagels and the undervalued importance of good socks.
How did the band come together?
We all met drunkenly at a house party two summers ago. We were fighting over what to play on the stereo and it all got a little bit out of hand. I was swinging for Tom while Mike was throwing Smith 7″s at Thom Rhoades. Martyn intervened and suggested that instead of fighting over what was better, Kanye West or Flaming Lips, we try and combine all our loves in one super group. After our broken limbs had healed we started the band.
Where do you practice and live now?
We live mainly in a rented van driving around Europe and Britain, but when we’re not we rehearse in Stoke Newington. Sometimes other bands steal our rehearsal spaces, this is not a good idea. (See above!)
What is the most overwhelming inspiration for your music?
To be amazing, and not to be generic.
What been your favourite gig of the summer?
I loved Montreux Jazz Festival. We had the most amazing show and it’s a great festival with such rich history. Afterwards Tom sneaked into the main room and danced on stage with Quincy Jones and Johnny Marr, I’ve never been more jealous.
How do you all prepare for a gig?
We have a secret chant that we shout at each other before every show. It’s top secret but it seems to get us in the mood.
What’s the key for a good show?
Good socks. You can’t discount how important fresh socks are for comfort. If you’re comfortable in the feet area the rest flows.
How have you enjoyed touring?
Yes, we’ll never stop – not until we’ve conquered every known territory! When Madonna asks if she can support us, then we’ll stop, but not till then.
Do you have any favourite places to hang out in the city?
We all have different places we like to go and hang out. The bagels on brick lane are London’s worst kept secret. But you know, if you haven’t already, go get some.
What artists / bands do you look up to?
Prince, Flaming Lips, MJ, Kanye West, John and Paul, (George and Ringo), Jean Claude Van Damme, Spielberg and Gaudi.
And what artists / bands inspire your music?
The above, plus so many more. Inspiration is everywhere, except in motorway service stations – there it’s just overpriced coffee and yesterday’s newspapers.
Who do you write your songs for? And what sort of things or moments can inspire them?
To capture a little bit of something that is out there and needs pinning down. We write to connect with people. Either to make them happy or sad or thoughtful or even puzzled like a good crossword. Great songs leap out of speakers and shake you to your core. CITIZENS! songs leap out of speakers, push you over and leave you feeling exhilarated and a little bit used.
What are you looking forward to in the next year?