With their 100th release out, founders and members look back at the history, mission, and goals
It seems that much of Boston label Citizens’ Loft’s catalogue, lately, has been discovered in reverse. With the recent near-mainstream break of local queer indie rock act Raavi & the Houseplants, much light has, it seems, been shed on the inner workings of the Boston underground music scene, in the guise of: Who is it?
The answer, a lot of the time, seems to be Citizens’ Loft. The label, which just surpassed its 100th release earlier this year, boasts an impressive roster of artists across genres, many of whom hail from Boston but many of whom reside elsewhere: notably, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and even the UK, Puerto Rico, and Brazil. At the core of its philosophy is a commitment to DIY ethic and the cultivation of diverse sounds and artists from around the Boston area and beyond.
“We generally sign artists on a release-to-release basis,” co-founder Ben DeUrso says at one point. Profit is the last thing on CL’s mind; its M.O. of mutual respect is key, and its spirit of collaboration has spread it far and wide. “If we can find a way to work within your parameters while you’re simultaneously working within ours, why wouldn’t we help someone distribute or record their audio/audio-visual work?” asks another co-founder, Jack Fallon-Underwood.
What follows is an oral history of the local underground label that has helped continue to make a local underground culture possible.
Part I: BEGINNINGS
Ben DeUrso (he/him): The year was 2017, and I had returned to Boston in 2016 to restart school after experiencing a traumatic back injury in which I fractured my L5 vertebrae. I am from Somers, NY, a small town in Westchester County, just an hour from NYC. This happened in August 2015 in Iceland, where I had protective surgery to prevent any nerve damage, and then returned to the US, to my home state of New York, but I couldn’t stop myself from returning to Boston in early 2016 and beginning my recovery there.
After starting and restarting numerous musical groups that shared at least two members across the board, I began to realize that what we were already doing could exist as a more unified, collective platform. Spending so much time on each project to follow essentially the same roadmap, handle the same challenges, and complete the same achievements, but in each group’s own way, was beginning to feel inefficient. In talking about this with my co-founders, Lucas and Jack, with whom I was playing in many of these projects, we began to realize that what we were bemoaning was the lack of a collective creative group.
Jack Fallon-Underwood (ze/zim): I pitched the idea in Ben’s car. A collective organization involved in everything we were concurrently working on: Participating in and utilizing performance spaces, practice spaces, recording projects, video projects, management, digital distribution of media, and touring solutions.
BD: When Jack pitched the idea of a unified collective, it was easy to get caught up in some of the methodologies that we had already been working with—I had just begun my own booking/events company, and each group had a slightly different management scheme. However, through numerous conversations, research, and plain old experiential learning, we were able to find a consensus and begin working as Citizens’ Loft.
Lucas Rich (he/him): I’ve been Loftside since it was Taranis Loft (ask Ben about that one). I’ve known Ben and Jack for a while now, and we became friends and started playing music together before Citizens’ Loft was officially formed, so I’ve been involved since the beginning. I’m not the one who really calls the shots or does the work… but they usually bring me along.
Ian Brenckle (he/him): I met Ben back in 2014 at an audition for the Jazz Fusion ensemble at Northeastern, and have been playing music with him ever since. I’ve been involved with Citizens’ Loft in some capacity since its start, wearing different hats and helping out where I can.
Kamen (they/them): My band Rogozo performed quite a bit from 2017 to 2020 (until the pandemic halted live performances across the board), particularly in greater Boston; during that time I met lots of folks. Two among the most interesting characters I came to know, Jack FU and Ben DeUrso, I grew increasingly friendlier with. Ben joined me for an impromptu collaboration during a solo set at a house show, and shortly after he invited Rogozo to play at the Citizens’ Loft venue. When our original drummer moved to South Korea, we asked Ben to join us, and from then on we’ve assumed our title as a Citizens’ Loft band. The ranks have no hierarchy and the musical universe of the loft is vast and expanding, just like the actual universe.
Part II: BOSTON BEFORE CITIZENS’ LOFT
BD: I began playing drums at the age of 12, having started my path with the recorder in 3rd grade, trying French horn in symphonic band from 4–6th grade, before moving to percussion in 7th grade upon receiving my very own Groove Percussion drum set for my birthday. I was blessed to have grown up in the presence of some formidable musicians, who were close friends that I knew from school, sports, and other local activities. Most of these were guitar players, with a few bassists, keyboardists, singers, and other instrumentalists for good measure. My first band was an attempted progressive death metal band that mostly actually played metalcore, at first. We were called Aim For The Shadow and my bandmates Chris Cordaro (guitar/vocals), Johnny Courtien (keyboard), Ryan Datino (guitar/vocals), Adam Howie (bass/vocals), and Mark Lasar (guitar) inspired me to push myself into learning as much as I could about the drums and music.
Almost every person listed above has now released or been featured on at least one record within the Citizens’ Loft catalogue. Our roots run deep. Chris Cordaro is the primary producer and songwriter of the Citizens’ Loft artist Cadence, who released their catalogue with us (CLR#13, CLR#23, CLR#44). Ryan Datino was featured on CLR#25, “Odd Skin,” by Family Resemblance, and is making waves in the tri-state area’s jam scene with his band Ronald Reggae. Adam Howie is the creator and producer for the new Citizens’ Loft artist Stern, who released his first single, “City Of Emeralds,” as CLR#76. Mark Lasar is featured on the upcoming CLR#111 “Full On Koog” by Koogler.
Aim For The Shadow continued as a band through the end of 12th grade, and by 10th grade, we could hold our own with many of the local bands. We played 25 shows in that time in NY and CT, and recorded one, unreleased record. My next band, concurrent from 10th grade on, was a funk/soul outfit called The Merry Brothers Of Funk, with Jonathan Karsch (tenor saxophone), Adam Howie (bass), Chris Olsen (guitar), Ted Plotkin (guitar/keys/bass/vocals), Mike Polvere (percussion), and Xe Weig (vocals).
I came to Northeastern University for college, because I couldn’t stay away from the twinkling gleam of musicians by the block and recording studios galore. Northeastern proved to be fertile ground for building a music scene. I started out by getting involved with Northeastern’s student-run record label, Green Line Records. I have been able to participate in some truly amazing records through their exposure, while admiring the work they do in the city of Boston, but I always felt severely limited in the participation that could be found through their services.
There were just so many people vying for involvement, and they don’t have the resources to function at a higher capacity. At the same time, I began to utilize the recording studios at Northeastern, learning production at such a higher level than I had ever had access to before. Shows began falling into my lap, and I was so excited to be involved in such a way. One of the first venues to accept me was The Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain, where I played and continue to play countless shows. At the same time, I began playing in many bands with the inimitable Jonathan Hill (bass/guitar/vocals). Our indie band Best Dressed, with Charles Perrone (guitar/vocals) & Will Clune (guitar), allowed me to play at TT The Bear’s in Cambridge, and we opened for the band Real Estate. We also played in the indie prog outfit Everything Under The Sun with Trenton Couture (guitar/vocals), alternative rock band Purple Fire Bison Collective with Phil Norwood (guitar/vocals), and Colin Davis (keyboards), and jam band The Original Toaster with Cole Petrillo (guitar/vocals). At the same time, house shows were booming, and we played most every weekend. I also began playing with a ska band, Turtle Power, and the jam band Gnome Chomps Key, with Ian Brenckle (bass/vocals) and Mark Brenckle (guitar/vocals).
Northeastern has a program called Co-Op that most attendees participate in: This is where you work a job instead of going to class for up to 3 separate semesters. I took full advantage of this and returned to New York in 2015 to work a graduate level position as a Music Therapy Assistant doing a field study at the Music Therapy Institute hosted at The Music Conservatory of Westchester. This was an incredible experience where I saw the power of music change the lives of many people, and I am honored that I was able to participate in it. Then I got injured, and had to restart my practice routine. I returned to Boston in 2016 and with this came new musical experiences. Most of my old bandmates had left Boston, and I was in a position to start new groups. Green Line Records did provide me an opportunity to play on Maggie Whitlock’s amazing album, The Seams.
I had always taken a managerial role, handling booking, promotion, and internal communications for the groups I was involved in. This led to my involvement in pop-rock outfit The Chestnuts with Jack Beresford (guitar/vocals), Sam Boyles (guitar/vocals), Lucas Rich (bass), and Dylan Collins (trumpet). This group became very busy very fast, and Lucas then introduced me to Jack Fallon-Underwood, with which we began the group Koogler. At the same time, Jonathan Hill departed on his own Co-Op, so I began the jam band Dreaming Planet with Ian Brenckle and Cole Petrillo, mentioned earlier.
As you can see, there was a constant swapping and melding of band members, with many other amazing musicians hanging around, sitting in, and recording with us. At this point, I wanted to find a venue space that we could call our own. We had met some amazing groups throughout Boston, but it was hard to find a space to fit in. In early 2017, I played in progressive rock group Jera’s Will with Jon, Ian, Colin, and Jack Einbinder (guitar) who performed at my first event under my attempted booking company. After this went poorly, Citizens’ Loft came in to save the day. I am proud to say that many of the aforementioned people and groups have subsequently released with Citizens’ Loft. Purple Fire Bison Collective finally released our music, recorded in late 2013 with the wonderful producer Josh Bernstein, as CLR#94, “Blood In The Sink.” Josh is another name that has appeared many times in the catalogue. He also produced CLR#38 Viewfinder by Still. Also, Jera’s Will’s record was released as CLR#32, Wave At The Edge Of The Waterfall.
JFU: I didn’t decide to explore music as heavily as I do now until I moved to Boston. At first, I was obsessed with building what I thought was the single smallest building block in music: a band. I met Citizens’ Loft founder Lucas Rich and first had a trio with Alex Wang (drums) which led to a quartet with Matt Shick (guitar/drums/vocals) and Justin Littman (guitar/vocals). One semester moved into the next and the group fizzled when Matt couldn’t practice in the morning and Justin couldn’t practice at night, unable to find a time that worked for all parties. A few months went by and I ran into Lucas Rich in a musical production that I was singing in and he was playing pit in. Lucas suggested we try jamming again and I had been thinking of a new obsession, the guest-filled album, called “Friends of Friends,” where Lucas and I are the sole members of an otherwise guest driven covers album, and I’m pitching this to Lucas in the moments that the vision of this record is formulating. The first song we did, a cover of Helter Skelter with Ryan Fleisher (guitar/vocals) and Charlie Fox (drums), remains unreleased because the recording engineer said something akin to “FML” while her intercom mic was accidentally left on. The second song [from that session] was “Love Potion #9,” to which Lucas invited his collaborator in the Chestnuts, Ben DeUrso, to drum on.
The session went well enough that by the end of the year, the three of us called ourselves Koogler. It is now that I mention that Lucas was also in Ben’s car during the pitch of Citizens’ Loft, but more importantly and impactfully, he was in the car ride after the pitch and he was at the Sunrise Chinese Takeout meal in which we settled on the name Citizens’ Loft: a combination of the name of Ben and Lucas’ Duo Project “Urban Citizen” and the name of Ben’s Somers-based operating events agency “Taranis Loft.“ Once we began, I was able to release my debut record, I was just happy to release a record with the name Albany (Albany Girls, CLR#7) in it. Even though my primary obsession was athletics in high school, there are many Albanytes that inspired me to work on Citizens’ Loft and whose values have been incorporated into the mission. The entire Fallon Family, Jack Kelly (drums/vocals), Late Night Gerald (bass, harmonic), and Cliff the Big Red Dog (guitar/vocals), who re-ignited my passion for the 1959 recorded and 1964 re-recorded, “Love Potion #9,” are some of those integral to my musical beginnings. This will be released as the only cover to an otherwise full-length original debut on the upcoming “Full On Koog” (CLR#111) and is a tribute to Cliff.
LR: Before Citizens’ Loft I was still playing lots of music, and a good amount with some of the same people I am now, but it was definitely less and very different. I started playing music through school, and did a lot of ensembles both in high school and then at Northeastern. This was a great way to play in different types of groups and styles, and meet lots of great musicians, but I didn’t have much experience with anything else. It took me a little while to get into playing in independent, original projects, but once I did it was those projects that I became most passionate about and had the most fun with. My introduction to this side of music (and the only reason I could say I’ve seen or been at all involved in any sort of DIY or Boston music scene) was thanks to all the amazing musicians I met and friends I made, and in particular Ben and Jack here. Seeing my friends and other musicians I knew doing their own thing taught me a lot and inspired me to join in and do the same. For me and my own experience, I see all that as leading up to Citizens’ Loft; the music community we are a part of was already forming and coming together.
IB: We were all a bunch of musicians from Northeastern at the time. I had been playing with a group called Kenya Diggum around Boston since 2010. We played a couple of shows, and wanted many more. When Kenya Diggum’s drummer left, I started playing with Ben in the offshoot Gnome Chomps Key. We were terrible at naming bands. I met Jack and Lucas through Ben. I also had been playing some with the Central/Western MA jazz and jazz fusion scene. I played with a group in Athol, and a few in Leominster and Fitchburg.
Part III: THE VIBE
LR: I’m not the best with remembering specific dates but I first met Ben and Jack through different mutual friends in Boston in 2014 because we all went to Northeastern. Ian did as well, who I met a bit later through Ben. When we first became friends and started playing together, something like Citizens’ Loft was sort of the dream. Jack and Ben wanted to create some type of collaborative, community focused music production company or artist group or whatever you want to call it, and it was clear they had already put lots of thought into this sort of idea and what it could be.
JFU: Our first record, a single released in July 2017, was recorded mostly at JamSpot Somerville.
BD: As Jack says, we struggle to pin down an official date. Our first official release was on July 1, 2017. The first production event that we consider to be a Citizens’ Loft event was in June 2017. Prior to this, the trio of Jack, Lucas, and I had begun playing together in Koogler in 2016, and in January 2017, Jack executed the idea of running an underground open mic venue out of his kitchen.
JFU: In JamSpot’s parking lot, I pitched Ben the idea of Citizens’ Loft in May or June, without the name. However, the core group of collaborators and the general philosophy of our operation came into the fold at The Vibe, the underground open mic venue I ran out of my kitchen between January 2017 to April 2017.
BD: I arrived at the very first event at this venue, called “The Vibe,” and noticed it was in disarray. I had come early and helped set up for the open mic. Jack didn’t think he needed my help at all, and that continued until midway through the second open mic. I helped set up for that one too, but it was not until I reminded Jack of the time of the night after the 5th act, upon inserting Jera’s Will into the bill, that he realized I had been helping keep the ship afloat. He said, “Jera’s can go on at 10pm!” I said “It is 10pm!”
After that, we came to the realization that we could get everyone to play music together, in this room, at the end of each open mic. Each musician donned their respective instrument, I handed out my bag of percussion goodies to audience members who had just come to watch, and a classic Citizens’ Loft event was born. This argument aside, in the summer of 2017, I began to formulate the idea of reeling in my various groups under a booking name of “Taranis Loft Productions.” After a disastrous first event in which no one came to see us play at The Middle East Upstairs in May 2017, Jack pitched the idea of a larger collective to me and Lucas. At first I was a bit nervous to loosen my grip on something I had just started that was my own. But throughout my entire musical experience, I had never once been able to go at it alone. It’s way more fun to work on music with friends. And so it was, on a street that was once Roxbury, but is now gentrified Northeastern dormitories, next to Sunrise Chinese Takeout, in June 2017, after a full night of rehearsal, and many months of deliberation, that we decided to drop the “Taranis,” stick with “Loft,” and realized in the same moment that it wasn’t just ours. It was everyone’s collective—or could be. “Citizen” had already been a term that was floating around, due to Lucas’ and my duo project Urban Citizen and having a song of the same name, as of yet to be released, by the aforementioned Dreaming Planet. And that’s how we came up with the name Citizens’ Loft.
JFU: It was here we decided to end each night with a final jam, where every musician and audience member in the space, whether they were on the bill or not, would hop on stage and close out the night with us.
LR: Over time, as we met more and more musicians, artists, producers, engineers, and made new connections and developed relationships, our own personal music communities grew as our experience did, and this “dream” started to become more of a plan. Eventually, Jack and Ben became quite certain that this music community idea was one they absolutely wanted to pursue, with as many friends and collaborators as possible, and they began to organize it and mobilize it. This is where someone else can give you better specifics on when exactly the Loft got its start, but I think so much of it was from collaboration; many individuals and friends bringing different ideas and working together to support each other and the music communities they were a part of.
IB: It was in that 2015/2016 time I believe. I first heard of Citizens’ Loft when I started meeting with a group about it in 2017. I think, though, it started with the Koogs boys earlier than that as a way to both support their releases and shows, as well as help others around them get recorded, released, and booked.
BD: Our mission statement hits at the most integral parts of our vision, but I stress that we cannot do this alone. The mission statement covers our values and goals, and we simply want to provide a space, a moment, and a set of resources for musicians to pool and utilize so as to release their works and get themselves out there. We generally sign artists on a release-to-release basis, as we don’t want anyone to be locked down to anything in a restrictive manner. We are open to working with most any musical artist, as long as they are open to working with us. When COVID wasn’t a concern, we were very focused on live events, and our main strategy of having open mics to bring in new artists and provide a forum and safe space for them to perform, as well as larger shows and festival type events to showcase our dedicated artists is something we hope to return to. We bring our love of music, our dedication to quality, and our determination to get things out there to everything we do.
JFU: I think the first and most important achievement of the Citizens’ Loft Congress of Fall 2018 was the writing of the mission statement. “Citizens’ Loft is an organization dedicated to the creation, cultivation, dissemination, and promotion of musical and artistic expressions.” We want to be exhaustively clear that we are simply only in this to serve as the engine of sound and vision. Mutual respect is the only other principle that comes to mind. If we can find a way to work within your parameters while you’re simultaneously working within ours, why wouldn’t we help someone distribute or record their audio/audio-visual work?
Part IV: FIRST RELEASES
BD: Our very first release was Jack FU’s first single “I Don’t Know What To Do.” As Jack has detailed, the majority of that recording was done at JamSpot Somerville, working with producer Josh Bernstein. At the time, I worked at JamSpot as a shift supervisor, and I say this because many of our first releases were begun and completed at JamSpot. We used any resources available to us. The Chestnuts were in the throes of writing numerous songs each week, and we, along with Koogler, were very focused on the idea of yielding a studio recording while still tracking live together, all at the same time. The Chestnuts employed Vic Angelo, and incredible musician and producer in his own right, to help us set up a session at JamSpot, in which we held two separate sessions, and recorded 8-10 songs at each, live, yet with isolation. Many, many late nights at JamSpot proceeded, as we edited, mixed, overdubbed, and layered tracks together. We added percussion and fixed some messy areas and re-tracked vocals, ending up with a studio-quality product—two of them in fact. These releases not only cut our teeth, but helped us sort out how we would handle the process of being a distributor for bands and using any resources at our disposal.
The Chestnuts released their debut album, Trail Mix as CLR#3, with us distributing, and a single preceded that as CLR#2. CLR#5, Live From the Grassy Knoll was the result of the first Citizens’ Loft live production, one of our other avenues, where we had live recorded a set performed by Coalminors, and finalized production at JamSpot Somerville with Adam Ireland. In classic CL fashion, Coalminors, The Chestnuts, Koogler, and Jack FU shared multiple members, and stemmed from a longing for real music, where band members played together and captured a moment. CLR#6, “Public Art Initiative,” saw Koogler employ similar techniques at one of Northeastern’s recording studios, recording live, with isolation. However, we then layered on vocals with a ton of spoken word winding together, fitting in our perspective of the collegiate system and also attempting to make a music video to accompany the release. We worked with Luke Miller for audio production and John Syszonenko for video production. This release served a purpose in the moment it was released, as it was commentary on Northeastern’s large Public Art Initiative, that somehow saw them paying out commissions to major artists to make murals on campus, while ignoring the very many talented and professional art students in its own ranks.
Citizens’ Loft has shown that we do not shy away from critiques and statements within the art we release. CLR#9 was “Bricks For An Old Fat Man” by The Chestnuts, a commentary on the recent presidential election of 2016. Recorded with Dan Mulligan at Northeastern, this release employed similar live recording techniques. We were happy to branch out with Cadence’s first single, “Your Pedestal” (CLR #13), a melodic hardcore anthem, and “Dreamt” by Archetypes (CLR#14), which I created with Austin Scavetti (guitar/vocals/production), a progressive metalcore dreamscape.
As we began branching out with other musical styles, we also were finding success in running our very own house show venue on Mission Hill, where we threw some really amazing shows. We had one show and one open mic a month, beginning in September 2017. The first show featured Koogler, Tribe Sweat, This Is Pointless, Ozlo, and it happened to be Raavi & The Houseplants’ first show. Up to this point, we had mainly released records that our founding members were involved in some capacity or another. Having Raavi & The Houseplants on this bill, we offered our services as a distribution center and our ability to help with recordings. This eventually blossomed into Raavi & The Houseplants recording and releasing their first EP, And I Miss You Already (CLR#24), with us. This inspired us to start working with musicians outside our Northeastern sphere as we advocated the collective resources we had to offer. Our shows also saw us perform our rendition of the soundtrack of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at our October 2017, Halloween event, in which one of our favorite local bands, Rogozo, shared the bill. We realized that by having both a recording/distribution and production/live events presence, we could be so much more effective and show our support, while continuing to create amazing works.
JFU: One of the wildest recording sessions we’ve ever had yielded CLR#10 (“Time Warp” by Koogler) and CLR#12 (Koogler Presents: Rocky Horror). I had never recorded in such a cramped space with so many people, so many instruments and so many microphones all in the same room. And thankfully we got it all on video! Even if I wanted to forget, Ben has it saved on several secretly secured hard drives. It wasn’t until CLR#37 (“The Seven Deadly Sins” by Maximilian Maybury) when we, with the help of frequent Loft contributor Vic Angelo, recorded an orchestra that I had seen during a session as complicated as the Rocky Horror one. And at least then we had a bigger space to work with. Rocky Horror features contributing vocalists from several cast members of the local Drowsy Chaperone production and also features Asa Spring on keyboard and vocals. Asa was the first member of Rogozo I met. And Asa begot Kamen (keyboard/vocals).
LR: Ooh wow, almost too many memories and stories to share. “Public Art Initiative” by Koogler has to be one of the first, and “Bricks For An Old Fat Man” of course.
In the early releases with Koogler you’ll also see a lot of The Chestnuts and Jack FU. These all have so many memories and stories associated with them because so many of the first releases were bands that we ourselves were in, or the bands of our friends. These were the friends and groups that we had already been so involved with musically. We played together at open mics that Jack hosted, supported each other at gigs of any kind, shared ideas with and looked for feedback, following along every step of the way.
Part V: 100-RELEASE RETROSPECTIVE — FAVORITE RELEASES
BD: Rough Diamond by Jeannie Taylore (CLR#15). I was so honored to be involved in releasing this amazing record by British artist Jeannie Taylore. The tracks were recorded in 1988, and 30 years later they were brought to us by my uncle Michael DeUrso. We were so happy to help bring her songs to life by completing the distribution of this group of tunes. For me, it was all about reveling in the joy she took from working with us! We brought that to that person, and meanwhile, we released an amazing record to the world. I highly recommend Jeannie’s original composition “Everyday Was Sunday,” off that album. Also, look out for the 5 year anniversary performance by the Citizens’ Loft House Band in 2022!
JFU: The Veil (CLR#26) and 4bucted (CLR#27) by Egyptian Magician Ra because one day the artist hit us up out of the blue saying he had two records he’s ready to drop. They were sitting in a Google Drive folder with all the cover art, as he saw fit. It was not exactly formatted correctly, but Ben went and talked with the Magician himself, fixed the layout as necessary, and we had two releases within three days. As I became more and more addicted to social media, their lyrics became more and more relevant for me to reflect on.
IB: Fayhee by The Rooftop (CLR#8). A release where I remember being in practice spaces and watching this material come together. Rahgi Abaza’s songwriting always has some odd time sections, and non-diatonic progressions, which are things that I like in a track.
BD: We’re Just Doing Our Best by Tribe Sweat (CLR#18). One of my favorite local Boston bands, Tribe Sweat, had been able to record some tracks after partnering with Converse Rubber Tracks. However, they didn’t have a home for their recordings. We had featured them on our first house show at the CL venue, and after many discussions about what to do, they turned to us for distribution support. We were so honored to release this amazing record of proggy, alternative punk takes on growing up in today’s world. My favorite tune is “Squad Pops,” and this band’s use of melody, within complex song structures and boggling odd time signatures never ceases to elicit a smile.
JFU: Viewfinder by Still (CLR#38) is a record I tried to copy almost immediately after hearing it. I went as far as to track down the mensh who produced it. It’s long, clear, meditative and lives up to the name. I’m satisfied despite needing to squint while listening to this hour long piece.
IB: Back And Forth by Jack FU (CLR#36). Jack’s artistic output is prolific and always surprising; I love listening to it all. Back and Forth, though, has got “Leather Wallet” and “Fuck You Mozart,” which are two of my all time favorite. I dunno, though, with Clocktown’s (CLR#68) relative chill, there’s a Jack FU for every moment.
BD: Mind Palace by Freaking (CLR#63). I met Freaking in 2018, and was immediately enamored with their gentleness tipping to heavy on a dime, their calculated message, and their intensity of emotion. When they approached Citizens’ Loft about distribution after benign pushes from myself for months, I was so overwhelmed with joy. While just an A/B single release, both songs on Mind Palace leave you wanting more. They are haunting and joyous, and get the message across. We are honored to continue to work with Freaking, as we just released their debut full length (featuring re-records of the two songs from Mind Palace), Walk On Land on 02/14/2021 as CLR#101. [Ed.: Full Hassle review can be found here.]
JFU: Am I Happy In Life? by Gaynor (CLR#58). Isn’t as sad as it sounds. It’s in fact very dreamy. Due to copyright laws in India and Pakistan, it can not be distributed there which makes this record that much more fun to listen on the Anghami streaming service. I like the lyrics on this one especially.
LR: Live From The Grassy Knoll by Coalminors (CLR#05). As I mentioned before, this is a very early release and one of my favorites. Worth many listens.
IB: Life of Leisure by Be Released (CLR#100). This has been one of two regular jams in my headphones this month involving Tyler Zizzo (the other being Freaking’s Mind Palace). Sam (Robinson), Chris (Faria), Tyler (Zizzo), and Jackson (Martel) have put together a really nice sound here. “Laughing & Laughing” is my favorite.
BD: Four & Twenty with Citizens’ Loft (CLR#75). When the quarantine hit, Jack and I developed the idea of releasing a compilation just a month later, on 04/20/2020, to urge musicians to not let their creativity stew, and at the very least work on something. It was a thrill and joy to have 18 releases come down the pipeline, from artists old and new. The eclectic nature of this record makes it a very, very fun listen. It’s amazing to have some first time releases from some incredible artists, notably “Are You Free?” by Mutual Friends, a indie-punk release featuring insanely beautiful harmonies by Casey Greenleaf and Michelle Mouw, with Luke Miller on Bass and Craig Short on keyboards; “Perfect Insect” by Bore, a grinding metal release that is sure to stick in your head; “Fun With Masks” by 하루秋와くま, an almost 8-bit sounding journey through metallic levels of metal and rock; “The Lesson Of Chernobyl Isn’t That Modern Nuclear Power Is Dangerous; The Lesson Is That Lying, Arrogance, And Suppression Of Criticism Are Dangerous” by Arachnodactyl, an angular, bludgeoning, progressive metal track; Ted Plotkin’s “Fire-Fight,” a grungy, powerful punk-rocker; as well as Jacky B’s “Meant To Be,” a folksy ride down old school lane. Rogozo is also featured on the compilation with a sprawling epic, “Outlands,” that sounds like a movie score. There are some amazing gems to be found in this release.
K: I really liked Four & Twenty. It felt like just a little taste of what the Loft artists can accomplish when we all work together. I’d love to see something even grander involving absolutely everyone!
I do have some more recent favorites as well. Life of Leisure by Be Released hits really hard; their poetry is unlike everything else in a really familiar and special way. I’ve also really enjoyed what I’ve heard from Cpt. Bisquick (Club Zoo, CLR#77) so far, and I’m excited for the next leap in that project! Also wow am I so entranced by Mutual Friends; their melodies and textures blend so nicely. Digging a little deeper with some friends I’ve come to know Archetypes as well, and I find that those songs stick with me even having not heard them for months. And I absolutely MUST mention Freaking; seriously, just listen to them.
And of course I’m also really thrilled with what the Loft has done with all of the musical acts I’m involved in (The Citizen’s Loft House Band, Citizen’s Dead, Rogozo, BILLY BALDWIN, 하루秋와くま, Arachnodactyl, Sexy Coyote).
Part VI: LOOKING FORWARD
BD: We are gearing up to release CLR#111: Full On Koog by “Koogler,” which is an 18-song record featuring 83 members of the extended Citizens’ Loft community. Also, Rogozo’s latest release, “Fun With Masks” (CL#102). Ted Plotkin’s debut album Fire Fight, featuring the single from the 4 & 20 compilation, is coming out later this year as well.
As we approach 200 releases, I’d like to see Citizens’ Loft work with many more artists that are yet to be discovered, as well as delve deeper into specific genres, such as metal, world music, and funk. I want to see us making more waves in the scene at large, and having more of a presence as well as a well-known name across the board. I want to be able to use the music we are releasing as a method to help others. So far, only one of our releases has been charitable, though we’ve had a few benefit shows as well. Here’s to hoping touring returns soon, so we can return to making a difference there as well. We are about to release our website to the general public, and also work with Logowearhouse, a merchandise company out of Philadelphia who distribute our merchandise. Our point of contact at Logowearhouse is Austin Scavetti, a former Citizens’ Loft board member who is still intimately involved through creating music and being involved in a few bands on the label, as well as connecting us to Logowearhouse. The website project is spearheaded by Dylan Collins and Rachel Lesser, and will be the hub for all things Citizens’ Loft!
JFU: I’m planning to release 22 more albums as per my one-album-for-every-letter-of-the-alphabet project. (CLR#7 Albany Girls, CLR#36 Back and Forth, CLR#68 Clocktown, CLR#91 Devils’ Advocate). My 5th album, Echo Alone, is dropping May 26th this year. If all goes according to plan, I should pass the NYBAR exam and get my H album out before we hit 200 records!
LR: They’re all exciting! I’m very excited to see another compilation album. I love how many different people contributed to the first one and I think it came out so great, so I’m really looking forward to more albums like that among all the other releases. I think that the 200th release when we get there will be UbLub by the Space Racers Collective, or Full on Koog.
IB: For me, I just want to see the release and performance of more great music. I believe there’s another compilation in the works, as well as a duo release from the dynamics themselves. I’m excited to get back to live music in the next couple years.
K: I would love to see everyone involved with Citizen’s Loft go all out for an over-the-top stage musical, even if we have to wait for our thousandth release.
BD: I just want to touch on how in 2018 we began to focus on two other branches of Citizens’ Loft in earnest. CL Management & CL Productions (touring). We have had 5 Citizens’ Loft tours since then, and our sixth tour was a 26-date run that got cancelled due to quarantine. Our third and fifth tours were Grateful Dead tribute groups performing with a myriad of Citizens’ Loft artists when in the area, and we traveled all the way from Boston to Nashville and back. West Virginia was one of the most amazing states we toured in. We’ve also provided management services for at least 10 artists. Our 100th release was an honor to be involved in, the first record for Boston hardcore band Be Released, Life of Leisure. We enjoy branching out to a multitude of genres, and also want to give a shout out to the awesome upcoming release “Mailman Legs” by Cpt. Bisquick, which is sure to prick some ears.
JFU: I’m sure we covered everything.
K: Friendship, love, and music. I dare you to think of anything more worthy. I think these live in the core of each of the people that make up Citizen’s Loft. Also, if anything goes my way, the musical will happen.
This oral history was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its BINJ Arts and oral histories initiatives. Learn more about BINJ and support more cultural reporting like this at binjonline.org.
Nicole Collins (aka N. Malte Collins) is a trans music writer from Boston and Music Section Editor for the Boston Hassle. She specializes in trans and anti-capitalist underground music, and the revolutionary strains that run through them.