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The Citradels interview

January 9, 2019

The Citradels interview

The Citradels began in Geelong, Australia, in late 2010 as a musical outlet for Sunny Down Snuff. His bedroom project gradually expanded into a band and two EPs were self-released in 2011. After relocating to Melbourne, the band began playing regular shows. Material for a full-length album was recorded near the end of 2012 at the band’s home in the Western suburbs of Melbourne. The Citradels’ debut LP Psychotic Syndrone (January 2013), was followed by Our Lord’s Secret Service (August 2013), Droned and Rethroned (February 2014), Nepenthe (September 2014), A Night Of Contemporary Feedback Music (May 2015) and Are They Still Here? (January 2016), Where’s One? (May, 2017), God Bless (January, 2018) and their latest Fuck The Hits: Vol​.​1
There have been numerous lineup changes with 15 members coming and going. The current line up consists of Sunny Down Snuff, Curtis Goodfellow, Sam Heathcote, Rhys Young and Alex Pijpers. They are currently working on a new album.

Who’s in the Citradels and what do you all play? Have you all made any changes to the lineup since you started or is this the original lineup?
Sunny Down Snuff: At the moment we are basically a 4 piece with Sunny Down Snuff (Guitar, Vocals), Curtis Goodfellow (Guitar, Vocals), Sam Heathcote (Bass, Vocals) and Alex Pijpers (Drums, Vocals), we are normally 5 piece when we play live but recently Rhys Young (Keyboard, Vocals) left the band. However these are just the instruments we play live, when we record we mix it up as we can all play a variety of instruments, whoever comes up with the best idea or can play it the best normally plays it on the record. We’ve been through quite a few members, around 15. Over the last few years it has been the same line-up as the one mentioned above. From the first album Curtis, Sam and I (Sunny) have remained the same, the first EP’s were a completely different line-up beside myself.
What do you consider to be your first real exposure to music?
I used to skateboard so a lot of the music I listened to when I was a kid/teenager was music from the skate videos. The first real point that I got really into it was when I was about 16 and I bought The Beatles’ Rubber Soul. I just happened to be the cheapest Beatles record I could find, I didn’t know any of the songs off it (as I only knew the big hits then) and was blown away by it. I remember telling friends at school and no one really caring about it or about The Beatles for that matter. I’d come home every day and listen to it for about a month. Still to this day it is my favourite record. It just has everything on it Folk-Rock, Country, Indian Sounds, French Pop, etc. After that I started to slowly go down the rabbit hole looking for similar sounds.

When and how did you all originally meet?
I used to play drums in a band in Geelong and we played a few gigs with Curt and his band. When they wanted to start recording their 2nd EP they asked me if I wanted to do it, so I got to know him better and found we had a lot of shared influences. By this point I had done the first EP and formed the first line-up of The Citradels (which only played a 4 gigs together). After that line-up fall apart I moved to Melbourne and asked Curt (his other band had finished up by this point) if he wanted to play guitar, from there we started writing what would become the first album. I meet Sam not long after moving to Melbourne, as we were both studying Audio Production. Alex was the most recent member to join, which was about 3-4 years ago. I meet him at a gig that he was playing with his band Walt, he was playing guitar but said he could play drums and we were looking for a new drummer. We had a few practices and it gelled.
What does the name “The Citradels” refer to in the context of the band name? Who came up with and how did you go about choosing it?
I was listening to The Rolling Stones album Their Satinic Majestic Request and the song “Citadel” came on and I thought he was singing “In the Citradel”. I never bothered to look it up and check if that was what he was saying. I just thought it sounded nice and wanted to use it. When I was told it wasn’t a real word it didn’t phase me, I’d already said it 100 times it sounded like a real word to me.
Two EPs were self-released in 2011. 
The first EP was recorded with the first line up of the band. We recorded it at a rehearsal space that me and 2 of the other guys were running at the time. I was a pretty funny space, really dark and run down. Most of those songs are just re-recording of demo’s I had except the amazing track “Lost At Sea” which was written by our keyboard player Blake Freeman. I think I prefer the demo’s of a lot of those songs.
The 2nd EP was done in studio at the university I was going to. It was the university’s first year of opening so the studios were brand new and only a few people in the class really wanted to use them, so I just spent hours in there running between control room and the live space, tracking, mixing and learning. I played most of the instruments on that EP, as most of the members had quit by then. It was a huge learning experience for me, but felt nice when it was finished as I couldn’t really shift the blame if I wasn’t happy, it was all up to me.
Psychotic Syndrone was your debut, released in 2013.
That was the first time recording with Curtis and Sam. I had relocated to Melbourne, and we used another university studio to track some of the drums. That was the last time we really used a studio. We got pretty fed up dealing with all these strict rules regarding the time we could record, for how long and who we could record. We started to use the spare room at my house which is where we recorded everything for the next 5 albums. There is a lot of reverb on that album. I was really into the washy, woozy sound, which is why I covered everything in reverb (however it sounds very muddy now). Quite a simple record in terms of songwriting, a lot of drones, D chords and 65bpm. Favourite Track: “Illuminious”.
What’s the songwriting process like for the band?
It differs from album to album. A lot of the early stuff Curt or I would make a demo and have it mostly figured out then bring it to the band and see what they thought. As we started to progress we started writing a lot more together. But each album has its own process. For example when we record Are They Still Here? at an old butter factory, we did it over a week, so we rehearsed the songs together for about 6 weeks and wrote most of the parts so we could get in there and get it done in the time frame. Then Where’s One? was the complete opposite, we pretty much hadn’t ran through any of the songs as a band and just built them up as we recorded them. Someone would have structure and they would show the band, once we were happy, we would record a guide guitar and vocals and go from there.
Lot’s of albums followed, including Our Lord’s Secret Service (2013), Droned and Rethroned (2014), Nepenthe (2014), A Night Of Contemporary Feedback Music (2015), Are They Still Here? (2016), Where’s One? (2017), and God Bless (2018). You latest album is Fuck The Hits: Vol 1, but before we get to it, I would like to ask you about your previous albums. Would you like to take your time and comment each release with a few words about it and maybe how do they differ from each other. After all, you had a lot of lineup changes and the style of your music also changed…
It’s interesting to me when I listen back to these albums as they signpost what I was into and listening to at the time, which is really what I think an album should be.
Our Lord’s Secret Service: Once again recorded at home. I feel like the songwriting on this album is a step up from Psychotic Syndrone but still very much in the same musical style. Favourite song: “Golden Gun or Poppy Seeds”.
Droned and Rethroned: We were listening to The Jesus and Mary Chain at the time. This album feels like a huge ODE to them, also more The Velvet Underground and Spacemen 3 than our previously releases. Really dark sounding. Our drummer quit at the start of the recording so only half the drums have a full drum kit. Favourite Song: “The Sun”.
Nepenthe: 95% of this was recorded in a week at Curt’s parents home in rural Victoria. It was a big undertaking and required us working around the clock (around 15 hours a day) to get it done. I feel like sonically this was a step forward in the right direction. A lot bigger instrumentation wise. Favorite Song: “Ultraviolet”.
A Night of Contemporary Feedback Music: This was recorded over the space of about 6 months while Sam was overseas. It was just Rhys, Curt and I, spending hours multitracking till we had built up the song. It’s a pretty wack album, but still has some nice moments. Favourite Song: “Dear Ivy”.
Are They Still Here?: Back to being a full band we recorded this in an old butter factory in the space of a week. We worked super hard to get the songs tight before we went in to record. It was a strange place with some very scary features. A lot of the reverb on this album was natural reverb from the space. I feel like this is the last album of our early drone sound and our strongest of that sound. Favourite Songs: “Honey” or “Big City Lights”.
Where’s One?: I’m still really happy with this album. It was a huge step forward for us in many ways and although some of the production could have been better I also love the sound of that album. It was the first album with Alex. We started record the night our ex-drummer died, this had a pretty big effect on the mood of the album. Favourite Song: “Goosestep the Wild Foxtrot in F## Minor”.
God Bless: We wanted to write an album that had a lyric theme that run through all the songs and was possible to play live from start to finish, this is were we ended up. We rehearsed the songs for a few months and recorded the bulk of it in over 6 days and then spent another few months adding vocals and overdubs. The lyrics are just about a small religious town going about their day to day life, with a lot of the characters being people that we actually knew. Favourite Track: “Dawn Chorus”.
Can you share some further details how your latest album Fuck The Hits: Vol 1 was recorded and released?
We started recording it just as we were finishing up God Bless. We spent over 1000 hours recording the album, with a few songs being completely finished before we realised they weren’t strong enough to be included. It was recorded mostly in this old run down house that Rhys and I lived in for 2 years, same place we record the previous 2 album. A lot of time it was just us trying out different ideas until it worked, with none of the album being played as band live before we recorded it, it created a completely different sound. Only 2 of the songs can be done live (as a 5 piece), as most songs have so many small parts that we needed to do digital bounces just so we could keep the sessions going (some songs had over 120 tracks). Some of the last parts of recording were finished at my new house as it took about a year and half to complete. We are self-releasing this album on vinyl and digital just like the last 4 albums we have done (The first 5 were only CD and digital).
What kind of process do you have at mastering material for the release?
I like the fact that the whole process of the band is done internally. I’m sure other people could do a better job but at the end of the day it is 100% the band’s vision and not modified by someone else tweaking it how they hear it. I do all the mastering, all done in the box on my Pro-Tools 10 system. Normally involves doing a mid-side work so it has more space and isn’t so cluttered down the middle (mainly everything from 250hz taken out of the sides and a bit of eqing any other problems below 1khz on the sides). After that it is more of case by case style, so some more surgical eqing, maybe some verb and some use of some wider pultec style eq. Then the last few plug-ins in the chain are Waves C-6 Multi band which is great for tame and wild sections of frequencies followed by Slate FG-X which I use for a little bit more compression (maybe 1-2db) and then use the limiter to bring it up. I love the added punch and detail features, which really help bring out the drums right to the end. After that I have a spectral analyser as I can’t always trust my ears the DTT metering plugin as Slate’s RMS meter is off and the DTT meter also measures the dynamics of the mix, which I think is a super important thing when mastering. A lot of over mastered stuff sounds real flat on record and doesn’t need to.
There are quite a lot of bands coming from Australia lately. Even back in the 1960s you had a very nice scene. What is the scene in your city and what are some less known bands you would like to recommend?
Yeah it’s pretty crazy there is always a lot of gigs going on in Melbourne, most nights there are several options to go out and see bands. A few local bands worth checking out (if you haven’t already heard them) are Bananagun, Environments, Trappist Afterland (interview here and here), Walt (Alex our drummers solo stuff), Traffic Island, Kaipora, Parading.
What are some future plans?
By the time this interview goes up we will have hopefully laid down 10 drum tracks for our next LP. After that a few of us are heading overseas till mid January, then we will resume recording the album and hopefully have it finished by mid year. Sam is moving overseas for a year in Feb so we will aim to have quite a bit done before then (well at least his parts) then Curt, Alex and I will finish the record. At the moment we don’t have any plans to play live, as we need to find a new keyboard player and a fill in bass until Sam get’s back. It’s a bit sad not being able to play live but I much prefer to just spend my time recording. The new record is more country/folk with influences like Townes Van Zandt, Pete Dello and Gene Clark, with a bit more of a stripped back approach when it comes to arrangement and production. It’s sounding really good as a 4 piece when we have been playing them but the sweetness will come from the pedal-steel and harmonies.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers? Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?
Listing my favourite albums is always so hard as with most people it’s constantly changing, so I’ll just talk about the most recent finds from this year that I’ve been digging. Some new releases I really dug are the Cut Worms LP (might be my favourite of the year), loved Olden Yolk’s release (a perfect blend of Bert Jansch and kraut rock), Insecure Men (insanely good pop songs) The Left Outsides (great Psych-folk duo) and fellow Australians Tropical Strength released their great debut earlier this year, who we also played with this year. Older stuff that I’ve been getting into includes Bo Hansson, The Fantastic Planet Soundtrack (and a lot of other French and Italian 70’s soundtracks) and anything Eno was involved with, along with a lot of late 60’s/early 70’s outsider country albums which have been a big influence on the writing for No.10. Artist like Dave Bixby (interview here and here), Gene Clark, Jim Ford, Jimmy Carter, Pete Dello, Michael Hurley, Barbara Keith, Bonnie Dobson, Judee Sill, Robert Lester Folsom, F. J. McMahon (interview here) and The International Submarine Band.
Thank you. Last word is yours.
Thank you for the question and I hope you enjoy the answers and the record. Most of all keep up the great work, as I often find new music from the stuff your share, mostly recently discovering Strictly From Hunger (interview here), what an album.
– Klemen Breznikar
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