Interview with Tom Burke from Citizens!, 14th June 2012

Tom Burke of the hotly tipped new indie band Citizens! seems genuinely pleased to be in Glasgow after playing an energetic set in King Tut’s.

“There’s a lot of Glasgow heritage in the band in a way. Lawrence’s dad is from the east end of Glasgow and Mike grew up not very far away from here as well. Lawrence is a massive Celtic fan and stuff so it kind of captured our imagination.”

While the band were on fine form and there was a homecoming feel to the gig with lots of friends and family present it has to be said that King Tut’s was far from packed. This is something that Tom is determined to rectify.

“We’re going to keep touring England. We can play to decent crowds in London and in other cities across Europe – the capital cities and places with really decent crowds. So we’re going to keep plugging away until we can do that in towns across the UK as well.

“We’re not really interested in just being a London band we’re up for getting out there so we’re going to keep coming back until people get the message.”

Another Glasgow connection comes in the shape of Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos who produced their debut album, Here We Are.

“He gets that pop music doesn’t have to be daft, because that’s what Franz were. They were a party pop band that was also really interesting and credible and that was the line that we were going to try to tread.

“We talked to a lot of different producers about our album and all they could hear was the pop and the commercial potential. Basically they wanted to make us sound like The Killers and we hate The Killers so we didn’t want to sound like that.

“Then we went to Alex and he was like (slight hint of a Scottish impersonation before retreating to London) ‘No, no let’s just get in a room, play the songs, play it naturally and get as much human feeling as possible and put that out and see what happens with that’ and that’s what we did.”

Another upshot of having recorded their debut album with Alex Kapranos was that they were introduced to the work of Glasgow’s own Limmy. They linked to his ‘She’s turned the weans against us’ Youtube video from their web site prior to the gig and exchanged Twitter messages with him on their journey North.

“We tweeted that we were coming up and he was like, ‘Yaaass! Welcome to town, sorry I can’t make the show.’ We were chuffed.”

Aside from Kapranos Tom cites legendary NewYork electronic outfit Suicide as an influence over the sound of the album.

“They make surprisingly well-composed melodic music. It’s actually like Bach if you take it to pieces. Martin Rev did a solo album called Martin Rev and the melodies from that are like Kraftwerk. Just really simple interlocking melodies.

“We’re big fans of their stuff. They make really simple cheap instruments sound good by using them in ways that you’re not supposed to and recording them in ways that you’re not supposed to.”

This is the approach that Tom says was taken for Here We Are.

“It’s a very analogue lo-fi record. It’s very lo-fi. I don’t know if you’ve heard it but if you compare it to the Tribes album or the Spector album ours is unusually, foolhardily possibly, lo-fi. That was the album we wanted to make and we’re proud of it.”

Whilst the album is unmistakably low tech in its instrumentation it still sounds quite deliberate and constructed. Kitsuné, the label that Citizens! are signed to, is a fashion label as well as a music label. This prompts the question as to whether the band are pursuing a particular aesthetic.

“The thing that we kind of share is that kind of dark glamour which not many people are doing at the moment and it suits our music. It’s not really a thing that’s set up. It just naturally flows from what we wear.”

The band would be well advised to worry less about being darkly glamorous and concentrate on rocking out – something that on tonight’s evidence they’re more than capable of doing.

About problemofleisure

Freelance journalist and retired councillor.
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