Interview with Ezra Feinberg, Citay frontman, for the Onion AV Club (San Francisco Print Edition only)
Citay began as a solo project, with onetime Piano Magic drummer Ezra Feinberg laying down tracks in his San Francisco apartment. But with the help of Tim Green (The Nation Of Ulysses, The Fucking Champs), Citay became a two-man studio project, and now, two albums later--the most recent is last year's Little Kingdom—the band has grown into a six-member juggernaut. Feinberg plays "friendly dictator" to his bandmates—which include new entries Josh Pollock and Sean Smith—composing mellow, airy tracks that approach psychedelia with repetitive melodies, breathy vocals, and sometimes surprising electric guitars. The A.V. Club talked with the band's founder and frontman about transitions, the future, and where he got that silly name.
The A.V. Club: How has Citay changed now that it's a full band?
Ezra Feinberg: Citay wasn't done with a band in mind, it was done thinking it might just be a recording project. For the second record, Little Kingdom, I knew once the songs were finished I would show them to the band and they'd reinterpret them live. The only thing that's changed is that I've gone from not really thinking about it in terms of a live show to having faith that the live show would work with the songs.
AVC: You're going through a lineup change right now. Has it been a smooth transition?
EF: It's proving to be a very smooth transition—smoother than I could have ever imagined. The electric guitars are the centerpieces of Citay, and Adria [Otte] and Jesse [Reiner] both have gotten really into their other projects and had to leave. I found two people who are close friends of the band, Josh Pollock and Sean Smith, who are both really excited and amazing guitar players. I couldn't be happier. It's been a transition that was necessary and a step forward in the development of our sound live.
AVC: With your bandmates involved in various projects, are you open to the idea of a revolving-door band?
EF: I have to be. Ideally it's a stable lineup, but I think it's going to continue to be good. When you have a singular vision, that's what you have to deal with: a revolving door.
AVC: Your highest-profile gig before Citay was playing drums with Piano Magic—what inspired you to become a frontman?
EF: Before Citay, I felt like I was always the principal songwriter and I was always a leader in the bands, but felt as though there needed to be someone else who had more character or personality or stage presence—more flash or bite or something—than me. But Citay has actually represented me: I can do that, and I want to do that and work it out in my own way.
AVC: At your last San Francisco show, a drunk guy at the bar yelled "Citay!" like he was channeling Steve Perry. Does that happen a lot?
EF: I don't remember the drunk guy, but it certainly happens. The idea [behind the band name] is a word that only exists in songs, taken out and used as a band name. "Citay" is not a word, but it's sung all the time.
AVC: You've described Citay's sound as "bridging the gap between 'Diamonds And Rust' by Joan Baez and 'Diamonds And Rust' by Judas Priest," which is a hell of a gap. What made you think you could do that?
EF: I really love a lot of really heavy guitar music and I really love a lot of very sweet-sounding music, but I've never wanted to be in something that was just sweet and I've never wanted to be in something that was just heavy. There wasn't much premeditation for this project--what came out was some heavy stuff and some sweet stuff together, often in the same song.
AVC: What's next?
EF: We're playing a bunch of local shows in the summer just to get the new guitar players all together. I think that the lineup change pushed back work on a new album a little bit, but it'll happen. —Jess Hemerly
Citay performs as part of the Rough And Tumble theater company benefit with Tall Firs, Sleepy Sun, Corvette Summer, and DJ Andy Cabic on July 15 at Café Du Nord at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10-$20 and the show is 21+. Citay also performs with Tall Firs, Brian Glaze, and Meridians on July 16 at 21 Grand at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 and the show is all-ages.