Breathing In New Life: An Interview with Drew Citron

Following her start as a touring member with Frankie Rose and The Pains of Being Pure of Heart, Drew Citron found herself forming the admirable Brooklyn band Beverly in 2013.  The band, which blended 80s indie pop along with 90s alternative, found critical acclaim and an audience that was dedicated to the releases of 2014’s Careers and 2016’s The Blue Swell

While Citron’s relationship with ex-bandmate Scott Rosenthal and their involvement with Beverly has concluded, it hasn’t stopped her from continuing to move forward artistically.  This past October via Park The Van Citron dropped her debut album Free Now. Citron cited that the songs were written up in the Northern parts of California; the time invoked memories of going on walks tapping into music which would then help influence the writing today. Free Now is Citron’s tour de force of gritty guitar riffs and deeply introspective, moving lyrics.  The song arrangements were worked out on stage with Citron’s backing band, comprised of Nico Hedley and Laura Catalano. When the time came to put the songs down, Sam Owens (aka Sam Evian), Tim Wheeler (Ash), John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile) and Danny Taylor, along with Rosenthal himself helped curate the instrumentals.

Citron has recently stated that it took some time to find the courage to go out and be the front-person and write all of the material herself. Even more so, she looked within herself to discover the courage to get behind the mixing board and do the production for Free Now. In the end, Citron has only scratched the surface of her plans for the future.

What were some of your earliest memories getting into music?

Growing up in San Francisco in the early 2000s was a master class in cowpunk and math rock. I went to a lot of house shows, 924 Gilman, some amazing long-gone art spaces like Balazo and snuck into Bottom of the Hill. I was at shows constantly, I lived for it.

What intrigued you in regards to music while growing up in San Francisco?

It was a very male-dominated scene, so I was truly a fan before a performer. For some reason, it never occurred to me to just start my own band until I moved to New York.

You recall listening to The Smiths growing as a catalyst for the lyrics on your album?

Say what you will about Morrissey, but his lyrics destroy me. I once watched a documentary on ‘The Queen Is Dead’ where he described his writing style. Johnny Marr would just give him a cassette of some music he was working on, and Morrissey would wander all over Manchester listening and writing the melody and lyrics. I strive to capture a lot of emotion in my songwriting, and I think this approach really inspires me – being alone, wandering in a melancholy state, capturing a time and place.

What was the album you mostly leaned on growing up?

TLC “Crazy, Sexy, Cool.”
Just how difficult was it for you to see Beverly disband?

It was okay, it’s been a while now, and I’m happy to see the same music get released, just under a different name (my own).

How has living in Brooklyn shaped you as a musician?

It’s pretty much the whole thing. The music I make, the players I collaborate with, the venues that supported me, it’s everything.

Do you ever find yourself wanting to go back to the West Coast?

It seems to be a prime source of influence and brings you joy.
I do, I’ve always seen Brooklyn as an arts community unlike any on the west coast, but I’m not sure if that’s the case anymore. I’d probably go back to hole up in the woods somewhere to write.

Did you find yourself tapping into what you experienced with your previous bands when you were going into the recording of Free Now?

It’s always been a process of deep collaboration, with many hard drives passing through many hands. Free Now is a labor of love from so many people I’ve met over the years, and some new friends as well. I engineered most of it myself and worked with a number of different producers over the course of years honestly… It’s the culmination of all my previous recording experiences!

Was there at any point that you worried about having your recent breakup being the main focus for the album?

Yes, it’s been vulnerable and terrifying, especially because these are things I went through a long time ago at this point. It’s good to have it out now, people can hopefully relate to what I went through.

When you got up to your destination to write the album, did you find yourself having the words come easily or did it take some time?

These are songs that came very quickly and easily over the course of many months. I’ll sit down to mess around on guitar, and usually, I’ve finished the bulk of a song in about 20 minutes. I’m not a good editor or re-visitor of my songs.

Having read the background of Free Now, I can’t help but wonder if this is some way a rebirth for you, both mentally and musically. Would you agree?

Figuratively, yes. I had a socially distanced rooftop release show this week, and it felt like my Bat Mitzvah basically.

You had a wide array of musicians that helped you with instrumentals on Free Now, including your ex. Did you find the experience doing so awkward?

Not at all, we were collaborators and bandmates before we ever got together. It’s what we do best.

After being in bands that feature you being in the back, performing as Drew Citron has you in front. I’m assuming that you are pretty excited to explore this new venture?

Totally. I’m loving the new direction, it’s more song focused, and vocally focused. It’s very liberating. Gotta get free.

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