At first glance, lo-fi musician Bedbug seems like one of those tiny voices hidden in the general mix of a crowd, like an overlooked classmate who has a story to tell but is too shy to tell it. The closer you look, though, the Boston-based musician begins to transform.
Dylan Citron, the person behind the Bedbug moniker, turns the sound of music into something that exceeds the normal obligations of music. It comforts and reminds, even if those two actions seem to be at odds on the regular. Perhaps that’s because it was a secret outlet. Growing up, Citron would wait for his parents to leave the house before he began playing piano, frantically cramming in as much rehearsal time as he could, and, upon their return, flung himself in front of the TV as a disguise. He began releasing music under moniker Fairweather Currents at age 14. Once 2015 rolled around, he began using Bedbug as an outlet for lighter, sentimental songs. What began as a hidden voice becomes one that’s all-encompassing, and as every vagueness becomes a familiar tale, Citron happens to welcome more friends, artists, and listeners into the intimate allure of his work as Bedbug.
For a handful of listeners, Bedbug is a modest but present force in Boston’s local music scene. For others, it’s a new name that they welcome warmly because his new album, I’ll Count to Heaven in Years Without Seasons, makes it easy to do so. It’s a record of youthful moments, memories, and feelings—“Just tryin’ to write the album I needed when I was 16,” reads the Bedbug bio on Bandcamp—that exemplifies why his meek but affecting songwriting skills resonate so powerfully with listeners. It also sees changes from Bedbug’s last album: switching from a cassette recorder to pencil microphones, from “lo-fi” mics to “nicer” mics, from thinking about how to record after writing songs to thinking about how to record while writing them. Songs like “Lilies” or “Rainy, Time of the Year” capture the perfectly imperfect bedroom pop that Citron builds. They sound simple, all warbled keys and softly thudding bass drum, but that type of warped, soft, warm instrumentation feels too articulate to recapture, especially because of how the segues line up. These are songs that capture what it feels like to become overwhelmed with feeling. In that, Bedbug writes songs that help listeners feel less alone. Maybe that’s because Bedbug got a little help in the process, too.
Over the course of I’ll Count to Heaven, Citron is joined by a handful of friends, some rooted in music and some not. “I spend most of the recording process holed up in my room for hours just experimenting with all of my toys until I find the right sounds I like,” says Citron. “The entire thing would be a complete blur if it wasn’t for the breaks in the process to get other people in to record snippets of vocals.” Each snippet lines up perfectly. Brooklyn-based poet Melissa Lozada-Oliva, who met Citron when he asked to collaborate after seeing her read, delivers two hard-hitting poems on tracks specifically dedicated to her. Boston-based hip-hop artist Pink Navel, who met Citron as mutual fans of each other’s work, raps over the halfway point “(Interlude)” with a mesmerizing flow. Philly-based singer-songwriter Samantha Stoakes, who performs as Susie Derkins, who met Citron at house shows years ago while living in Boston, sings at the end of that same track. Those artists are the tip of the iceberg—not just on the album, but in Bedbug’s artistic circle—and their collaboration deepens the memories Citron captures as Bedbug. Most remember when they first heard these songs because of exactly that.
“I did a really corny thing and listened to the music while looking at the Charles River on my lunch breaks at the Harvard Book Store,” says Lozada-Oliva. “Listening to the beginnings of this album helped put a lot in perspective for me about ephemerality. It helped me articulate this desire we all have to put everyone we love into one glass we can sip from forever. This is a long-winded way to say that I loved the place Bedbug put me in, even if I couldn’t be in it forever.”
When Stoakes visited Boston last October, Citron slipped headphones over her ears to play her “Outside the Air Is Getting Thinner, But…” for the first time. It immediately submerged her in similar feelings of friendship, roots, and platonic love. “I was so excited and proud and emotional to finally hear the new finished material, but it really hit when Sami [Martasian]’s voice kicks in,” she says. “I burst into tears—one of those intense, ugly, embarrassing cries. Something about hearing my close friends’ voices, and hearing this beautifully actualized creation of Dylan’s, just made my heart snap. That was the moment I knew this record would be something special in every sense.”
All of these special moments are what allowed Bedbug to sign to DIY-favorite label Joy Void. Citron chalks it up to luck—“I love being a part of a music community, and making an impact on music in Boston, but it also makes it hard to really be explicit about striving for things while avoiding just using people as props for your own growth.”—but that balancing act is part of what separates Citron from other Boston music higher ups.
On top of this, Citron hosts events at his house to bring musicians together. Instead of sticking to genre-organized shows the way most hosts do, he keeps the bills varied. Rappers open for folk acts. A rock band plays a stripped-down set before a poet. As such, it allows various music bubbles to overlap, putting new ears in front of old sounds and vice versa.
“Dylan’s living room venue has done a whole lot for the scene when it comes to shows featuring acts that aren’t just rock bands,” says Pink Navel. “My first time playing there was also my first time seeing a proper noise set. Later, I booked a show there with a rap mentor of mine, Safari Al, and our friend Wing Vilma. The show went off—so many different styles and not a guitar in sight! It really does a lot for the sonic diversity of our scene.”
Above all else, Bedbug just brings people together—and often it’s done so simply and innocently that no one realizes it in the moment. It’s effortless and homey. That’s the way a community should be. In song and in person, Bedbug just makes that happen.
“Someone recently told me that the magical thing about art scenes in Boston is that they don’t have ego,” says Lozada-Oliva. “I’m not sure if that’s always true, but I do feel that with Bedbug. Bedbug reminds me of why I want to create, and that’s basically just to feel a connection, however brief, with something or somebody. Whether through a song that’s call and response with the audience or through lyrics that are all at once hilarious and sad, Bedbug just brings people together.”
Bedbug’s new album, I’ll Count to Heaven in Years Without Seasons, is out now on. It’s available to purchase via Joy Void and Bandcamp.