The Citradels – An interview with Curtis
Welcome to the Citadel…
God Bless The Citradels!!!
One of Australia’s Best Kept Secrets
An interview with Curtis (guitar/vocals)
TimeLord Michalis: (Taken from your Bandcamp page): “The Citradels are a collective of strange individuals who make music in various dimly lit spaces somewhere near Melbourne, Australia”… Please do introduce us to these “strange individuals” and tell us when, where, and how it all started with The Citradels.
Curt: The band was started by Sunny Down Snuff in his hometown of Portarlington near Geelong as an experiment in learning how to record music and write songs. The band wrote 2 EP’s in the early days and then moved up to Melbourne. The band has been through a revolving door of members since but currently stands with me (Curtis) and Sam Heathcote (who have been in the band since the initial move to Melbourne) with slightly newer members Rhys Young and Alex Pipjes joining in the ride, this current lineup has been the stable line up since 2016. The Citradels currently work out of their home studio in Castlemaine which is about 2 hours out of Melbourne in rural Victoria.
TLM: How you took your name?
Curt: We got our name from The Rolling Stones song Citadel from the maligned by the brilliant album “Their Satanic Majesties Request”. Back in the day when you had to type your own track titles and information onto a digital file Sunny Down Snuff heard the song as Mick Jagger saying ‘Citradel’ and dug how it sound. On learning that it wasn’t actually a word, there was never any thought of changing it as we just liked the sound. Shakespeare made up a ton of words, surely we can make up one.
TLM: Tell me your influences, musically and lyrically.
Curt: The bands’ musical influences stretch far and wide and are eclectic. We are all avid music listeners and are constantly finding and sharing with each other new sounds we discover. For our latest album “Tracs” some of the musical influences that were really important were artists such as Dillard and Clark, F. J. MacMahon, Jeff Cowell, The Byrds, Bob Dylan & Cut Worms. In terms of lyrical influence, this album is slightly more introspective than the previously released. The approach has been something similar to techniques used by Bob Dylan and Neil Young where you imprint your own perspective or voice existing ideas or stories.
TLM: … a fully independent band… Can you comment on this, please?
Curt: We write, record, produce, mix, master, produce, manage, market everything ourselves. This way what we are presenting is the purest vision of what we create, nothing is watered down by others’ ideas.
TLM: Can you describe your music?
Curt: The Citradels music is the songs written and created by the collective of musicians surrounding Sunny Down Snuff, it is forever changing, forever moving.
TLM: The 4th of June, 2020, saw the release of your 10th independently recorded album “Tracs”. Tell us a few things about it…
Curt: For “Tracs” we wanted to strip back a lot of instrumentation and focus on songwriting, creating an album that is cohesive in sound and songcraft. In our heads, we wanted to capture a bit of what Neil Young was talking about when he said Harvest “needed more barn”. It was important the songs were not overproduced and that there was a warmth present, where you could identify them as coming from the same place both physically and mentally. We started working on this album in mid-2018, a lot of the songs during their infancy were written by one single member, we then worked collaboratively to add in parts, rewrite melodies, and work on song structure. Most songs on the album were rehearsed as a band prior to recording, these recordings took place initially in our houses in Melbourne and then Castlemaine when Sunny made a move to the country.
TLM: After listening to your albums the only word that came to mind was “Chameleon”! Like this creature, you are changing colors, musical colors in every record you make… And I find this extremely interesting and fascinating! Would you mind making a comment about all of your 9 previous Album releases?
- Psychotic Syndrone, (Digital, 2013, Self-Released):
This was the first album written after our move up to Melbourne both Sunny and I was super young and excited by the music of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Spacemen 3. The band spent most of their time listening to music, writing and recording songs at Sunny’s house in Ascot Vale. It has a very washy with reverb and contains some naivety in the songwriting but still contains quite a unique sound. We hope you like the key of D and slow tempos.
- Our Lord’s Secret Service, (CD, 2013, Psyche Ward):
Still recorded at Sunny’s house in Ascot Vale, at the time we were playing a lot of gigs literally taking everything that got offered to us, from 3 am slots at deserted bars in the city to friend’s house parties. I think this album’s band heavy sound is a product of such circumstances and is a step forward in production. There is a Psyche Ward label emblem on the back of the CDs, however, this was a Melbourne psych label that was promising to put out our stuff however the label never got up and running and the entire production cost was footed by the band.
- Droned and Rethroned, (CD, 2014, Self-Released):
Jesus and Mary Chain, The Velvet Underground, stink eyes and dark drones.
- Nepenthe, (LP, 2014, Self-Released):
This album was recorded over a five day period at my parents’ farm in regional Victoria. We wanted this album to sound a bit like a shoegaze/droney, Brian Jones Era, Rolling Stones album. This was the first album that we released on vinyl record, funding it ourselves when we were all still struggling to hold down jobs. It was also just before recording this that we started to play gigs interstate with our soul brothers and sisters The Grease Arrestor meeting these like-minded musicians also had an influence on the sound.
- A Night Of Contemporary Feedback Music, (Digital, 2015, Self-Released):
This is an album of odds and ends we had lying around we made while a few members were overseas. Slightly conceptual in that we wanted it to sound like a meditation session gone wrong. It was on this album we put the sitar to bed.
- Are They Still Here? (LP, 2016, Psychic Ric Records/You Are The Record Company):
We recorded this over a week’s period in an abandoned butter factory in country Victoria. We really wanted the beef heart vibe of total commitment there was no reception, showers, running water, even the toilet we had to walk into town for. We would start recording at 9 am in the morning and finish up at 2, rinse and repeat. A lot of the reverb on the album is naturally created from the factory, Psychic Ric records split the pressing cost 50/50 with us, the label went bust shortly after this, and then we were back on our own again.
- Where’s One? (LP, 2017, You Are The Cosmos Record Company):
This album was a refreshing step in a new direction, we felt like could continue on making the same neo-psych album over and over again and instead decided to push forward into exploring instrumentation, composition, and vocal harmony. The night we started recording this album our former drummer Connor Tolson sadly passed away. This had a huge effect on us as a group and on the sound of the album. The closing two tracks “Riding with Him” and “Dumb Angel” and dedication to the great friend we lost. This album was completed in 2016, however, had another record label promise to put it out but keep on pushing it back, in the end, we told them to forget it and pressed the record ourselves.
- God Bless (LP, 2018, You Are The Cosmos Record Company):
For this album, we set out to write a concept album where we explore how the influence of religious morals shapes the lives of different members of a fictional town. Strongly influenced by The Kinks’ albums “Village Green” and “Arthur”, we really wanted to achieve anthropological style songwriting where it tells stories without casting judgment. A lot of the characters are based on people we have met, the album has a cultish ‘West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’ vibe to it. When we toured this album, we played it in its entirety with all instrumental parts present from start to finished dressed in robes.
- Fuck The Hits: Vol 1 (LP, 2018, You Are The Cosmos Record Company):
For this album, the aim was to create an album of short meticulously crafted 60s pop songs strung together in a hazy orchestral web of sound. We wanted to recreate some of the lush instrumentation heard on the likes of Walker Bros. records and then combine that with synthesizers, sampling, and field recording. Most of the songs on the album have upwards of 100 different instrumental tracks on them with the studio time clocking in at well over 1000 hours. The song title is a dig at some reviewers who wrote early on that we were unable to write a melody.
TLM: You have also released 2 digital EPs, “The Citradels” (2011) and “Agent 15 On The Radio” (2013)…
Curt: These two EPs were recorded in Geelong when the band was just starting off. The first one was completed with a band, whereas by the time Sunny started recording the second one the whole original lineup had disbanded. Sunny was studying audio engineering in Geelong at the time and most of the album was completed by him giving himself long pre-rolls and walking between the control room and studio at the university to record. We will sometimes pull a song of these early EPs and some of the early albums and rework it when we are playing live. The Song “Love Bee” has always been a standout from this early period, the song was often performed in coalition with The Grease Arrestor during our gigs together.
TLM: Are there any other bands that you’re fond of from the wider area of Melbourne, or maybe from the rest of Australia?
Curt: We have recently been digging Bananagun’s first album which is rife with groove and frivolity. Over the last few years, Traffik Island has released some interesting records that have explored quite a few different sounds. Luke Spook who created the animated video for our song “Been Here A While” put out a charming, breezy album late last year. Readers should also check out a band ‘Noodle House’ who are putting out some well-written 70s pop reminiscent of ‘Big Star’.
TLM: A comment about these strange pandemic times that we are living…
Curt: Nothing is ever as good or as bad as you think it is… Stay safe.
TLM: Future Plans?
Curt: We have been writing a heap of demos for our 11th album which is going to be a very electronic and synthesizer-heavy album, sort of Eno/Stereolab vibes if you’re digging? A few members live in Melbourne and are in lockdown at the moment so the situation stalled the work for the moment but once that is lifted we will get to work.
For more info and communicate with the band visit The Citradels Facebook
Listen & Buy their Albums through The Citradels Bandcamp
The Citradels Discography
♠ Psychotic Syndrone, (Digital, 2013, Self-Released)
♠ Our Lord’s Secret Service, (CD, 2013, Psyche Ward)
♠ Droned and Rethroned, (CD, 2014, Self-Released)
♠ Nepenthe, (LP, 2014, Self-Released)
♠ A Night Of Contemporary Feedback Music, (Digital, 2015, Self-Released)
♠ Are They Still Here? (LP, 2016, Psychic Ric Records/You Are The Record Company)
♠ Where’s One? (LP, 2017, You Are The Cosmos Record Company)
♠ God Bless (LP, 2018, You Are The Cosmos Record Company)
♠ Fuck The Hits: Vol 1 (LP, 2018, You Are The Cosmos Record Company)
♠ Tracs (Digital, 2020, Self-Released)
♠ The Citradels (Digital, 2011, Self-Released)
♠ Agent 15 On The Radio (Digital, 2013, Self-Released)
26 July 2020, © TimeMachine Productions / TimeMaZine®, 2020
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