Back to the studio for Citified’s third release

by Ryan Snyder

Chris Jackson probably won’t be the first to tell you that putting out music as a small but up-and-coming band is a lot different today than how it used to be. We’re so far into the digital age now that the last time most music fans actually set foot in a brick-and-mortar music store is but a distant memory. Albums that contained two or three quality tracks out of 15, yet still sold for $20, helped usher in a painful era of bootlegging for the recording industry that it’s only now being dragged out of, albeit kicking and screaming.

So why do some musicians still continue to follow the same dynamic? For one, it is what the listener has come to expect. Since revolutionaries in any industry don’t just grow on trees, most will continue to follow the same formula that has worked for others before. But Jackson sees a much different path for his band. As lead vocalist, guitarist and founder of Greensboro altrock band Citified, he’s influential in the direction the band takes and he tends to shy away from the full-length album model thus far. “The attention span of the listening public at this point is not geared toward LPs,” Jackson said. “I would rather avoid making an album with a lot of fill-in material in favor of keeping the band’s name out there with consistent releases.” Citified’s sound is well geared for shorter releases since there isn’t much improvisation or extended instrumentation to be heard. Drawing from the somewhat obscure shoe-gaze genre, to which bands like the Verve and Catherine Wheel called home, Jackson utilizes lush but somewhat rigid arrangements in the band’s uniquely expressive brand of melodic pop. After their self-titled debut EP clocked in at just under 20 minutes over nine tracks, their sophomore release, The Meeting After the Meeting, was also just seven songs. Though it was a little longer in runtime, the EP/mini-LP format was starting to define the band’s albumrelease style. “Like most people, I buy one or two songs off of iTunes as opposed to buying the entire album,” Jackson added. The band was back in studio on Oct. 19 to work on follow-up EP, and not much else has changed with their approach. Jackson expects to spend a couple months on a part-time basis to record and finetune another five-song EP, the first of two more anticipated over the coming year.

The band is working with noted producer Jerry Kee (Portastatic, Superchunk) out of his studio in Mebane and plans on playing intermittent dates during production. They have already debuted “Haze” and “Dutiful Scout” from their upcoming project during live shows over the previous months, though some of the tracks are still untitled. Kee is no stranger to working with Jackson, as he produced Citified’s previous two releases. He also worked with Jackson’s former band, Lookwell, to which he contributed instrumental work. Citified actually got its start in Kee’s studio after Jackson brought his drum machine over with a handful of unrecorded songs. “I thought, ‘All right, I’ll start this Citified project on the side just to release the songs,’” Jackson said. “It just started to grow out of the side project, I put the band together and here we are.” That band includes Franklin Kane (bass), Eric Ussery (drums) and Diego Diaz (keyboard/guitar). Upon seeing them live, you’ll come to realize that Citified is a more intense version of what is heard on the CD. Though shoegaze music is named for the absence of emotion during live performances (hence, gazing at your shoes), the band possesses a unique energy that belies their influences. Thanks to the Dot Matrix Project (, several of the bands live performances are online for viewing. Though there’s no money to be made in making music freely available that way, Jackson understands the necessity and is completely okay with it. “Breaking even is basically the goal of touring as a fairly new band,” Jackson stated. “As long as we get a few new fans each time, it’s all worth it.”