In association with Lacoste footwear
Sole Stars - Citizens!

In the second of our Lacoste artist spotlight series we hone in on the world of Citizens! as their debut album beckons.

In the charmingly cluttered side room of a Hackney studio apartment, a five-strong Citizens! flick through a nearby pile of vinyl, waiting to be called in by the photographer. Chance would have it, they come across the Kitsuné compilation that launched their first song, and begin fawning over the illustration of their faces that don the cover. ‘True Romance’ had barely been released when Clash first profiled them four months ago, all fresh-faced and arms flailing, yet it came to be the song that would cast their trajectory skywards. Fast-forward to now, a completed album tiptoes on the horizon, and we’re faced with a seasoned bunch. “We’ve aged” jokes their lead singer Tom, “we’re broken men... but battle hardened.”

Their debut album ‘Here We Are’ smacks of punchy youth. Their brand of pop is Byronic: arrogant, mischievous and charismatic, but at the same time cynical, troubled and emotionally conflicted. You’d have to be utterly anhedonic to resist the pleasures on offer. “We love pop songs,” begins Tom, “we think the pop song format is one of the most wonderful inventions. But whoever comes to it, needs to bring individuality,” and it’s within those constraints they flourish. The obsessive hooks of recent single ‘Reptile’ pay testament to this formula, as it nods to the dancefloor on one hand and personal self-loathing on the other, with simultaneous ease.

To record their debut, the band chose desolation, and thus headed North to rural Scotland; “It was amazing being that isolated. We could just forget about any expectations and decisions, and focus on what we wanted to do,” says Tom. Guitarist Tom Rhodes offers a different perspective: “It turns you a bit stir crazy being that isolated,” he admits, “but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing if that comes out in the album. There’s an intensity to some of the songs that reflect that.”

The decision to head North may have been influenced by the origins of their producer, Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos. His name has played footnote to every mention of Citizens!, but it’s not a question they have tired of. “We have plenty to say about Alex,” starts Tom, laughing off the idea of a rift. “He’s a really enthusiastic guy. He shared our vision for the album. If you’re making poppy songs, people just seem to see dollar signs. There’s this big machine they want to feed you through. Whereas Alex had this very non-cynical way of looking at it."

Kapranos’ influence is subtle, and no more evident than it was on The Cribs’ third album. It’s smoke and mirrors, with pleasing results. He leaves the conception to the band, and concentrates on making the instruments fit, applying his experienced hand where needed, like a grandad in the work shed (which, at forty years of age, is a comment he’ll wince at). The format works, and ‘Here We Are’ sustains way beyond first listen. The widespread digital consumption of their early releases was telling. This is wonky British pop for the earnest listener.


Follow Clash: