The new album by San Francisco band Citay, Dream Get Together, is as sprawling as the band’s lineup. There are seven members of the touring band—a lot of guitars, a lot of keyboards, bass, drums, multiple vocalists, strings—and even more members in a loose Bay Area collective that contributes to Citay’s recordings. The album masses all that together in 42 minutes of dizzying, rapturous, dense psych-pop that pulls in influences from Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Badfinger, and ’90s indie rock like Apples in Stereo.
“It’s not that deliberate, but I probably can’t help it,” says singer/guitarist/songwriter Ezra Feinberg of his 1970s classic rock influences. “So much rock ’n’ roll of the late ’60s and early ’70s seeped into me, growing up listening to the radio, getting influences from my dad, what I learned as a guitar player when I first started playing.”
Feinberg started Citay when he moved to San Francisco from Brooklyn in 2004. The first connection he made there, which has been key to the band’s development, was with Tim Green, formerly of Nation of Ulysses and the F--king Champs. Feinberg spent his first month in California sleeping in Green’s studio.
“When I moved to San Francisco I didn’t really know that many people,” Feinberg says. “Tim was about the only person I knew. But I wanted to collaborate and record with him.”
Feinberg spent the next year and a half working on the songs for Citay’s 2006 self-titled debut album, which he recorded with Green. It was only then that he recruited people to play live and record his songs. (Green was an original full-time member, but has since stopped touring with the band. He’s produced and played guitar on all three records.)
Citay’s next two albums, 2007’s Little Kingdom and Dream Get Together, were also painstakingly constructed in the studio. Feinberg spent six months writing Dream Get Together before presenting the songs to the full band.
“Tim and I use the studio as an instrument, in the way people talk about that,” he says. “It’s studio-intensive. But it’s not just that. There’s a core of the song and then there are the details that make it come alive. The basic structure, that’s part of the writing process. But when we’re in the studio, that tends to be more spontaneous, and there are important parts of songs that we come up with then and there.”
The result is striking—it’s a hermetic album, clearly one person’s vision augmented by significant other voices. Green’s distinctive, full-toned guitar is one, but Joel Robinow’s synth solo on the spaced-out epic “Hunter” and Josh Pollock’s playful guitar solo on the jammy “Careful With That Hat” are equally important. As producer, Green’s also given the disc a clean, clear, polished finish.
But with 11 people contributing multiple parts in the studio and only seven people on stage, some of those parts—particularly Green’s solos—are impossible to reproduce live. But Feinberg says the sound of the band in the studio is getting closer to what it sounds like live—at least in spirit.
“People who come to see us who want to hear certain songs will recognize them,” Feinberg says. “But when you have six guitar players in the studio, you can’t replicate that live. It’s more about capturing the energy of the song and translating that to the stage. On stage it’s a little hairier, louder, and sharper, more bombastic. I think this album is closer to the live show than the first two, and that’s been influenced by the band.”