City Tribe are a fantastic band when the listener’s end goal is to be sent into a blissful wave of melodic trust. The band paints a picture through the music with soothing delivery, whilst not being so mundane that the noise is lost amongst mediocre competitors. Today, Under The Gun brings you “Green Eyes,” a number off of the band’s debut full-length record, Undertow, which is due out July 29. The song is a passive, clairvoyant track, that gives the listener just a mere taste of what is to be expected from this band’s full-length effort.
Click the “Read More” button to see an exclusive interview with vocalist and guitarist Duncan Nielsen about “Green Eyes,” the new record, and what the band will be up to this summer.
What’s up guys? Thanks for the time today. Let’s open up by telling me about your debut LP, Undertow. When writing the record, where was inspiration being pulled from? What do you see most from yourselves as a group on this release?
Duncan Nielsen: These songs were written over the course of a few years, so it’s hard to pin down one place they came from. Jacob Jones and I are the band’s principle songwriters, and after living in California and spending a lot of time at the beach surfing and dreaming, it was easy to become romantic about the West Coast and its rich musical history. I think that’s reflected quite a bit in our laid-back but decidedly classic melody inclinations. The group as a whole has listened to a lot of Shins, Vampire Weekend, CSN&Y, and the Beach Boys. Everything from their arrangements to the melody have played a significant role in our musical journey.
All of the songs on Undertow feel like a statement about interesting rhythms that serve potent melodies. Melody almost always comes first, and then the tapestry is filled out to make it jump a certain way. Our drummer Cody Rhodes probably tries 20 different beats before we come to a decision about what best serves the song and what we’re trying to say with that song. Between the four of us, we’ve learned a lot about our musical abilities and limitations, and how both have served us in writing. Eric, Jacob and I have played music together for over five years, so there’s quite a bit of understanding and breathing room to figure out what we’re doing. In general, we all write our own parts and help each other decide what works best. When recording the album, we didn’t fuss around too much in the studio—maybe a few takes per song, so every song feels like it has quite a bit of the passion and energy you’d find at our live shows.
We’re premiering “Green Eyes” today. Tell us a bit more about the track.
DN: “Green Eyes” is very much a nod to folk and hymnal style music. It’s one of the first songs I wrote for the group. The recording has a three-part harmony, but it’s also the kind of tune you could sing a capella with 20 people. The original version, as it was conceived three years ago, was acoustic with harmonies, but it has since evolved into a big rock tune. It has a slow, lilting heaviness that gives weight to the lyrics. Thematically, it’s about the importance of old heritage, but also the importance of wandering from that heritage for self-knowledge. The lyrics, “On a saturday / Father that was not mine / Said my son be brave,” are about the importance of the village you come from. There is a lot to be learned from those both inside and outside of your community. Wander, but return.
How was working with Andy Freeman on the record?
DN: Working with Andy was a dream. He did our first five-song EP, and it was a great experience, so we went back to do a full-length. An incredible amount of trust was built during that first project, and we couldn’t really imagine anyone else handling the songs for Undertow. Andy likes to say that one’s engineer should be a dude, or person, that you would want to hang out with, and he is definitely that guy. Being from South Carolina, he has Southern charm for days. He’s got a big physique and a big heart to match, an even bigger beard and magic ears. Such an awesome, hardworking guy. When Andy is fired up, it’s go time; he knew when the group was in stride and how to keep the mood alive. We feel very grateful to have met him, and we feel he captured us at our truest with these songs.
Are there any tracks in particular you are excited to introduce to the fans?
DN: “Undertow” definitely feels like a standout track to us, which is why we chose to name the album after it. It’s the only song on the album co-written equally by every member of the group. The arrangement has an experimental energy that is a departure from everything else we’ve done so far. It captures the spookiness of being held underwater and at the whims of a force larger than one’s self, but it also expresses the virtues of letting that force take over.
What’s the rest of the year look like? Where can we keep in touch with you at?
DN: We’ll be doing a summer residency at San Francisco club Amnesia every Tuesday in July, and in between those dates, we’ll be touring all along the West Coast—as far north as Seattle, and all the way down to San Diego and Phoenix. Definitely looking forward to getting out of town and meeting some fellow Coastal fans and musicians.
Keep an eye out for more information on Undertow by staying connected to City Tribe via Facebook.