Ezra Feinberg of Citay Chats

Posted by Miss Ess, December 16, 2008 06:57pm | Post a Comment
Citay is one band of many sounds. It is also the brain child of one Ezra Feinberg. Here, Ezra shares the inspirations behind the fusion of sounds that make up Citay, how one U2 cover utterly changed his life and why the NYC scene is easier to appreciate for him now that he's a San Francisco resident. To hear songs by Citay, check out their Myspace page here. Citay's album Little Kingdom happens to be both fantastic and available at Amoeba Music.

Miss Ess: How did you develop the sound of Citay? It sounds like many elements coming together seamlessly -- did you consciously bring together different sounds and influences, or is Citay more of an amalgamation of sounds you hear in your head, or something else entirely?

Ezra: Well I started by layering acoustic guitar chords in open tunings with harmonized electric guitar leads. I wanted it to have elements of spacier acoustic music with elements of heavier rock in the way that a lot of acid rock and early heavy metal bands did in the early 70s. But I'm really into vocal harmonies and pop songs, so I added those and it gave it an airier feel. I just started putting these elements together and the songs took on structure as I worked them through. I started working on Citay in the summer of 2004 and it's the same writing process now. I definitely think Citay is an amalgamation of sounds I hear in my head. It's basically my favorite aspects of my favorite music rolled into a new song.

Miss Ess: Each song seems to take the listener on a little trip. beyond any lyrical content that may be involved, when you are creating these songs are you imagining something specific -- an image, a place --  that goes along with each one?

Ezra: No, but for some reason I wrote [them] in a very linear way. I like for one part to build and then give way to another part, and I like the feeling of having a song begin at one point and end at an entirely other point. I definitely want each song to be some kind of trip or journey. It should be something that drops you off far from where you were picked up.

ME: How did working wit
h Tim Green [of the Fucking Champs] help shape your album Little Kingdom?

Ezra: Tim is a huge part of Citay. Although I came up with the recipes for each dish, Tim added the needed spice, and knew what temperature to set the oven on and how long to leave it in there and when to take it out. When the book is written it will be told: Tim Green is a musical genius.

I concur! So what made you pick up a guitar?

In sixth grade we had a talent show and these three friends of mine and I did a lip-synch to the U2 version of "Helter Skelter." I was the drummer, and my friend was supposed to the the guitarist and he had an electric guitar for the performance. So after we did our lip-synch we sat back down with the other kids and he handed me the guitar. Instead of clapping at the end of everyone else's performance I just strummed on this guitar furiously, and I really liked how it felt. From there I took a few lessons, got a few books, started playing with anyone who I could play with, and that was it. 

I love that! Definitely one of the better stories I've heard as far as someone's initial start into music. The interwoven quality of the parts in your music suggests a closeness between members. What kind of bond do you all share?

We're all good friends, and we all play in other music projects together. And at this point we've all toured together, and we know each other in that way that touring makes you know someone, which is a good thing cuz we're still playing together.

Your tours must be like a traveling family since you have so many members. What are the particular challenges and pleasures of touring with so many musicians?

Well it can be logistically and financially challenging for me, that's for sure. But after doing it for the last few years I'm used to it. We've never had less than six members, and it was up to eight for about a year. It's fun, most of the time, and, most importantly, it's what the music needs.

What part of the creative process do you enjoy most -- writing the songs, being in the studio, or playing out on the road?

I'd have to say all three. They all comprise a balance of what is expected and what is spontaneous. When I sit down to write I have some ideas about what I'm gonna come up with, but the good ideas almost always come spontaneously, after I've tried working through the pre-conceived ideas. It's a maddening process where you basically have to lie to yourself -- "I'm gonna write a song that sounds like this and has this particular vibe and feel" -- to get to the part where you bail on that plan and come up with something better. But you can't come up with something better unless you start out with that plan that you have to be pretty convinced of. It's pretty bananas...Same goes for the studio. As for the road, you never know who will come see you on a given night. You go into the show with certain expectations but something about the show -- maybe the feel of one of the songs feels different, or the crowd has a certain vibe that you weren't expecting -- and you emerge with a wider view of what could happen on a given night.

What is your favorite local band?

The Botticellis have a song that is easily one of my favorite songs of the last year. I've put it on countless mixes for friends, and it never stops being good. It's called "The Reviewer" and it's on their album Old Home Movies. The song is a perfect power pop gem, an ideal blend of The Who with Big Star and early Cheap Trick. It might be a perfect song. 

How do you feel about the SF scene these days? Is it as vibrant as ever despite the monetary worries that are hitting pretty much everyone? How does the SF scene compare to the NY scene you remember when you were living there?

The SF scene is always happening as far as I can tell. Bands from SF may fade in and out of the spotlight, but that doesn't mean all that much. A few years ago it seemed like there were a ton of SF bands being written about and talked about, but they are still, really, and I think there are so many amazing musicians here making so much amazing music. Really -- I don't mean to sound all cheery about it -- but I'm constantly amazed. Musicians here are always communicating with each other, always going to see what's up, and learning from each other in a really positive way. Now I sound like I'm really from SF with that smiley attitude, and I'm from the east coast, but I think SF is the best music city in the US. It's small enough so that everyone feels they could have a voice, and small enough so there is a real sense of community, but big enough so that there is a seriously wide range of music happening all the time. NYC has tons of amazing musicians and bands too, but it's so huge that it's overwhelming and easy to just get lost there. I love playing shows in NYC now more than I did when I lived there because the energy is so strong, but I think it's hard to cultivate a real community there.

If you could play on the bill with any other bands, from any other time, who would you choose and why?

Here are two bills that I think would really work for us: The Roches-Citay-Queen...(The Roches would have Robert Fripp in the band...And Queen would play mostly songs from the first two records)...Second ideal bill: The Hollies-Citay-Iron Maiden (The Hollies would play only early material, and we'd add a third electric guitar so we could keep up with Maiden...). 

Both super hot bills! What music do you like to wake up to?

Lately Todd Rundgren's Healing. It's one of his lost records, form the early 80s, kind of a new-age pop vibe, and really special. The songs on the second side are just "Healing 1," "Healing 2," and "Healing 3" and they run together in a seamless, lightheaded, beautiful way. I haven't stopped listening to this record for weeks now. I highly recommend it.

What's coming up next for you? An album? A tour?

Working on the third Citay album now. Don't look for it until 2010. 

Thanks so much for your time, Ezra!

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Citay (6), Ezra Feinberg (1), Interview (341), The Botticellis (1)