"I wanted to make something that was really grand and epic, that was really composed, and maybe kind of mythic, in the way that a lot of those protometal bands were trying to do," Ezra Feinberg of Citay says, his postpsychedelic, postmetal outfit. Feinberg is inspired by hard rock–metal bands of the late 1960s and 1970s, such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple, whose used power chords as the basis for their grand, jazz-inspired, narrative song structures. Favoring melodies interwoven with narratives over power chords, Feinberg has turned Citay into a kinder, gentler incarnation of the archetypal headbanging unit. "I wasn’t writing the songs with a drummer, you know, where it’s about power chords and physical energy," he explains. "Instead, it was more melody-driven composition and harmony."
Anyone who has listened to Citay’s carefully crafted, self-titled debut will tell you that composition is clearly Feinberg’s modus operandi. Each song is knit tightly around melodies that aren’t so much meandering as on a journey with a distinct destination. Though Feinberg is admittedly obsessed with Led Zeppelin, and Citay’s emphasis on instrumentation wears its classic rock–metal influences on its sleeve, it is the disciplined melodies and more nuanced harmonies, à la the Beach Boys and the Byrds, combined with a scampering mandolin and lackadaisical tambourine, that make Citay’s music accessible and original. Citay’s forthcoming Mission Creek performance and upcoming summer tour with Vetiver might make a comparison to the psych-folk movement an apt one, even though Feinberg is quick to distance Citay from any such categories.
The 29-year-old Boston native wrote and composed the album using a cache of instruments and a multitrack computer program in his Excelsior apartment, the results of which he brought to Louder Studios to collaborate with Tim Green (the Fucking Champs, Nation of Ulysses), with whom Feinberg had worked previously in Brooklyn when Green produced the album by Feinberg’s "sludge metal" band, Feast.
Feinberg credits Green with much of the Citay sound and with adding another dimension to his music. "If the record is any good, a lot of it is because of Tim," he says. "I had the songs, which were written — the parts and the melodies were already there — but he added so much." Tim Soete, of the Fucking Champs, also contributed backing vocals and guitar.
Not only is Green’s Louder Studios the home of Citay the band, but it was also the home of Feinberg for about a month after he moved from Brooklyn to San Francisco in 2004. Having spent four years in Brooklyn working with Feast and a few other musical endeavors, Feinberg felt as though he was "done" with the Brooklyn music scene and considered moving to be an opportunity to focus on writing music for himself, outside of a collaborative band environment. "I felt that I needed to musically be alone for a little while, which sounds really juvey and dramatic, but I had just been doing the band thing for so long. I knew that I wanted to keep writing music, but I knew that I wanted to do it in another way."
Now that the Citay album has been released, on Important Records, to largely glowing reviews, the challenge for Feinberg has been transutf8g that sound in performance, a process that has always evolved the other way around for the songwriter. He’s still solidifying Citay’s live lineup, which currently includes eight friends drawn from Crime in Choir, the Dry Spells, Ascended Master, By Land and Sea, Skygreen Leopards, and Tussle. "It’s the first time that I’ve ever gone from the studio to the stage," he says. SFBG
With Silver Sunshine, Persephone’s Bees, the Winter Flowers, and Willow Willow
155 Fell, SF
$10 advance, $12 door