Stream Beverly Careers (Stereogum Premiere)
Ever since songs from Beverly’s exceptional shoegaze-pop debut album Careers began emerging online, the band has been billed as the latest project of former Vivian Girls/Crystal Stilts/Dum Dum Girls member Frankie Rose. And while it’s true that Rose is all over the album, she’s playing sidekick to Drew Citron, a former member of Rose’s backing band and NYC synthpop group Avan Lava. Thoughout Careers’ half-hour run time, Citron demonstrates a canny understanding of how to construct classically fuzzed-out indie pop songs — and pop songs in general, for that matter. The album ranges from impossibly sweet (“Honey Do“) to briskness that verges on chilling (“Planet Birthday“) to groovy post-Bangles surf-rock (“You Can’t Get It Right“), each track sounding like some long-lost treasure. It’s an excellent opening shot from a songwriter who’s finally getting a deserved spotlight.
Below, read an interview with Citron and stream Careers in full.
STEREOGUM: Before we talk about Beverly in particular, can you give a little personal backstory about who you are and where you come from?
DREW CITRON: Sure. I’m just a San Francisco kid. Moved to New York ten years ago. I’ve been playing in bands here for about five years, and that’s pretty much it. Played piano growing up, my dad taught me how to play guitar.
STEREOGUM: I understand that before you and Frankie started this project you had played with her before in her band. How did you two met in the first place?
CITRON: We met because she was doing Interstellar at my friends’ studio in Brooklyn — actually, the guys that play in Avan Lava, which is the electro-pop band that I used to be in. So we met through Michael Cheever, who produced her last two records. She was in need of a backing vocalist and keyboard player at the time, and I wasn’t doing anything and it was sort of a right place right time moment, and I started touring with her.
STEREOGUM: And then how did this project come to pass?
CITRON: We were talking about our musical tastes on tour, ’cause there’s a lot of time in the band to just hang out and listen to music. I started writing songs probably for this project a year or two ago, and we were just kind of messing around in a practice space and Frankie wanted to play drums, and that’s how it happened.
STEREOGUM: The sound of Careers is so strikingly different from Avan Lava. Did you contribute to the songwriting for them as well?
CITRON: No. No. Beverly is how I want my music to sound, and it’s how I write. Avan Lava was just a fun project for me and a great way to play fun shows and hang out with my friends. But Beverly is definitely my artistic vision much more.
STEREOGUM: It should be really hard for music in this vein to sound fresh and alive, just because you’re kind of tapping into a classic sound. With a genre exercise like that, you run the risk of it sounding stale. And this doesn’t sound stale, it sounds very fresh and alive. How do you approach a genre exercise like that in a way that makes it still fresh?
CITRON: You know, that’s really sweet of you to say. Thank you. As you’re saying, the genre-tapping things with regard to how we record it and how we wanted the drums to sound or how we wanted the guitars to sound, that’s going to sort of date it or put it in the genre that it is. But I think when you try to do something interesting with songwriting and with the actual content, lyrically or with the melody, that’s something that can keep it from sounding stale. It’s not about how it sounds, it’s more about what you’re saying. That’s what keeps it fresh.
STEREOGUM: Yeah. Do you feel like, then, you had something kind of fresh to say with these songs? What was on your mind while you were writing this music?
CITRON: Oh. What’s on everyone’s mind when they write music? I don’t know. I think it’s just me trying to write some love songs. Some of them are love songs, some of them are heartbreak songs, and — yes. That’s all I’ll say about that.
STEREOGUM: That’s fair. So I’ve noticed you’ve used that phrase “That’s so Beverly” or “That’s so Bev” a lot of places online. Is there a story behind that?
CITRON: [laughs] No. We also have a hashtag, it’s #hotbev, if you wanna throw a hashtag into this interview.
STEREOGUM: We might as well! Anyway, you’re about to release this album and you’re going to promoting it for a bit, but is this going to be a full-time band? Is this going to be the thing that takes up all your time, or are you doing other projects too?
CITRON: Yeah, actually, this is my full-time band. And Frankie is focusing on her own solo things again, and I’m sort of taking the reins with Beverly and putting together a larger live band and going to tour it and keep recording and just do the damn thing.
STEREOGUM: Do you know who’s going to be in the band and how big it’s going to be?
CITRON: It’s definitely a three-piece right now with a rotating possible fourth person. But right now it’s me and Scott Rosenthal on bass, who was from Class Actress and from the Beets, he toured with the Beets. And also Jamie Ingalls on drums, who toured with Chairlift and others. Yeah, those are sort of like staple members right now it looks like, and then it’s sort of a matter of, we can do it as a three-piece, but sometimes we’re going to have a fourth to do extra synth and the guitar stuff and sing.
STEREOGUM: I imagine it’s interesting kind of reworking the harmonies, going from the double female vocal to having male-female.
CITRON: Oh no, those dudes aren’t singing.
STEREOGUM: Oh, so you’re just gonna be kind of letting it fly solo?
CITRON: Yeah. I actually have no interest in being true to the record in a live show, at all. So I think as long as it sounds good and there’s great energy, that’s what a live show should be. It’s nice to have an extra female vocal, but if I can’t, ’cause someone’s out of town or touring with another band, that’s fine too.
STEREOGUM: Could you talk a little bit about where the concept for the “Honey Do” video came from and just kind of how the video was made?
CITRON: Yeah. My friend Hanly Banks directed it, and she is an amazing filmmaker. I met her when she was doing film editing and video stuff for the Fader years ago. Her biggest project recently was this tour documentary she made about Bill Callahan, and I saw it and it was so beautiful and sort of in the same vein as the “Honey Do” video but at feature length. It was a lot of long landscapes and portraits and really amazing shots of Americana and crowds of people, and it was just beautifully done and really slow paced. It’s so rare to see video that is slow these days. I talked about wanting to do a video sort of like that with her, and she was in Austin, Texas and just started filming these kids that I believe she was teaching an after-school arts elective to. They were all hanging out and she was just — she had all this B-roll of them, and she just put the video together.
STEREOGUM: So those aren’t actors, they’re actual kids?
CITRON: Yeah. And you know, it’s really sweet. I get really emotional when I watch the video too. I think it’s really sweet.
STEREOGUM:: That’s great. So going out on tour on a debut album, I know a lot of times bands just don’t have that many songs yet, so are you guys planning anything special as far as covers or surprises in the set?
CITRON: Oh, for touring? Yeah. I’m like, I see where you’re going with this, and yes, we will tour, and there will be five people in the audience. And I’m totally okay with that. But yeah, I don’t know if we have any special tricks up our sleeve. I think I want to bring a strobe light. I dunno. [laughs] Yeah, I don’t think we have any special tricks. The idea is to just sort of travel as much possible and do the grind and then every time you come back there’s like four more people there to see you.
STEREOGUM: I think a lot of bands get discouraged when it’s the first couple of times around the country and they don’t feel like it’s picking up anything.
CITRON: Mm-hmm. No, I don’t mind. I don’t mind. Some of the best shows, the attendance is low but everyone’s having the best time. Those are the best shows for me.