Now that the ’90s are almost three decades gone, it’s easier than ever to hear how the blown out, gritty aura of that era lingers on in new iterations of punk, pop, and rock. For Citris, a New York punk band who came up at Purchase College in Purchase, NY, the ’90s are a major touchstone on their debut album Panic In Hampton Bays. But for the band’s frontwoman Angelina Torreano, the influence of grunge is just another weapon in her already formidable songwriting arsenal.
“The ’90s — of course — is one of my main styles,” she said. “But it seems but if you think about it, the late ’60s, early ’70s and the ’90s share a lot of similarities. For instance, Elliot Smith drew a lot of inspiration from The Beatles, and he was a huge ’90s songwriter. So I’d say it’s actually a combination of those.”
While grunge is a foundational part of Citris’ sound, so is a scathing critique of society’s expectations for women’s appearances and relationships, and a feminist perspective, which specifically brings Hole and Alanis Morissette to mind. Torreano writes all the band’s lyrics, drawing largely on her own experiences, and then collaborates with guitarist and producer Chris Krasnow to create the swirly, heady rock songs that have recently caught the ear of listeners far outside the band’s east coast bubble.
The band self-released Hampton in 2015 as a streaming-only album, but after the small, local LA record company New Professor Music got a hold of the record, they decided to re-release it this year. For Torreano and Krasnow, who write all of Citris’ songs, played every part on this record, and taught the parts to other band members for live show and touring purposes, the opportunity to get another chance with their debut record is a huge positive.
“At first I was worried that people would overlook the reissue because we had released it before,” Torreano said. “But now I’m happy we’re doing it, because I’m realizing how many people we actually didn’t reach. We reached our friends but we need to reach more than just that.” If you don’t have the pleasure of already being friends with the band, get to know them in our conversation below, and look for the new iteration of Panic In Hampton Bays coming out this Friday, 2/24 via New Professor Music.
“Little Scars” feels like an obvious jumping off point for people who are unfamiliar with you. Can you talk a little bit about the process behind writing that one?
Torreano: When I wrote that song, it was maybe almost a year out of college and I felt very frustrated with where my life was at the time. I kept thinking about all the sh*t that bugged me. My failed relationships, my disinterest in people after a while of dating them, my sort of jaded sense of what love meant, my desire to escape in various amount of things, my envy over other peoples’ success and my seemingly stagnant career at the time, plus working a service job I wasn’t very into. I just ended up getting fed up so instead of sitting there all bummed out, I used the very last bit of energy I had in me to pick up the guitar and start messing around. And that’s how all my songs come about, just messing around or noodling on the guitar with a riff or a chord progression. I started writing the lyrics “Here I am with the poison,” and I thought, yes, that’s exactly how I feel! Then once I got to the chorus, I started thinking, Does this sound cheesy or catchy? F*ck it, I don’t care. Let’s just write the song that it’s supposed to be.
Krasnow: Well I didn’t do much of the writing of the song, but I did help out with bringing Angelina’s vision to life. When she first played it for me, usually from an voice memo of her and an acoustic guitar, I knew what had to be done. Big guitars, heavy rhythmic drumming that would keep a beat but also maintain some uniqueness, and a straight ahead bass line to glue it all together. Solid formula for a simple and large rock song. I try to make everything I do leave space for Ang’s vocals to shine and sit right on top of the band at all times.
So obviously people compare you to Hole a lot — as I did — but who are some of your other key influences/idols? Do you consider grunge and the ‘90s to be your main stylistic touchstone?
Angelina Torreano: People have always compared us to Hole, which is great, but I was always a huge Nirvana fan. I think that was my first favorite band growing up as a kid and they ended up being a pretty big influence on the music I write. That and of course, The Beatles was a pretty big primary role. But those two bands were just the start of my inspiration. Down the line, I fell in love with Elliot Smith, Radiohead, Bjork, Queens of The Stone Age, Tame Impala, NIN, Speedy Ortiz, and the list goes on. Alanis Morrisette was a big influence on my music as well. Of course I love Jagged Little Pill, but Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie was probably my personal favorite and where I drew most inspiration from.
Chris Krasnow: You should’ve heard us when we first started playing in college! Even more grunge, if you can even imagine. People would constantly make the obvious comparisons to Nirvana, maybe even sometimes early Incubus, but I feel that Angelina’s songs are becoming a bit artsier and have more depth. Having come from a slightly heavier setting, the grunge and garage rock sound definitely has stuck around and trickles it’s way in even if we aren’t trying to. Makes sense, considering we were all angst filled teens at some point. On my side of the project, for this band I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Tame Impala, Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, The Flaming Lips and more recently even some St. Vincent.
Tell me about the band’s inception, how did you guys become Citris?
Torreano: It all started in college. My friend Claire had made friends with a dude named Alex Cote who happened to be a drummer and also happened to be living in the dorm across from me freshman year at Purchase. After we were introduced, me and Alex were playing together with his friend, Jake Smisloff on bass. So at the time it was a trio. I wanted another guitarist to add to the band and Alex had mentioned his roommate, Chris. So once Chris and I met, we confirmed testing out being in a band together at some random, drunken party one night (I think our current drummer, Clint, was there standing right beside him, too). Anyways, once we all got together to practice, it felt like the missing puzzle piece.
You met in Purchase, New York, which has become something of a hotbed for indie rock in New York over the last couple decades. Why do you think that place in particular has assumed this significance?
Torreano: Good question. The school, unlike other schools, has always catered to creativity and to the arts. I don’t know much about the liberal arts portion of the school, but I know that the VA and the music program, along with the dance program, have always been prestigious arts programs. With that being said, a lot of the music scene at Purchase derives from all different types of students, music major or not. I feel like the kids at Purchase were adamant about having their own places to hang out, to be social in, to host events, to create spaces in which people could exchange artistic expression. There was always something going on during the week at the STOOD (The Student Center) whether a band was playing or someone was hosting a poetry night, you could count on there being some sort of social function.
I think it’s basically because the students wanted it, the community wanted it, and the legacy perpetuates that for generations to come. Why? That’s an even harder question. I think that a lot of the NYC schools don’t have the sort of tight-knit community that most SUNY schools or other schools in the region areas have. We had the option to go to the city because we were about 30 minutes away but we also had the luxury of creating our own sort of culture, because we had a campus where we were stuck with people we’d be forced to see on a daily basis. It was almost like we had the best of both worlds, you could escape to the city, a place rich with culture, or you could stay on campus and build on that culture.
Krasnow: Purchase College is the kind of place where you have to make it what you want it to be. They offer great classes and have a great community, but I’ve noticed and found that the most successful students and artists to come out of the area are very self driven and motivated, as both of us are. It’s basically a small campus with a lot of students smack dab in the middle of a forrest, so there’s endless amounts of time to meet people and work on your craft. Our band and other groups we were friends with would rehearse, write and just grow together every second we could. I feel the kind of bond people develop there is a huge formula for success and all of the popular groups seem to be on the same page because of that.
Of course, Angelina, hardcore Mitski fans will remember you from the old “I Want You” video. How did that come about and how did you feel about the finished video?
Torreano: Ha, I’m not even sure if they will or not because it’s sort of an old video from an older record of hers, but it’d be nice if they made the correlation. It came about in an interesting way. Mitski and I were in the same Studio Composition program at Purchase. We had became friends, friends who scheduled coffee dates and gossiped and spoke of all sorts of different topics that two women could only share. I remember her asking me if I was ever interested in acting or being on screen.
And I didn’t know why she was asking me this but of course, I said yes. Because I do enjoy acting and I have had some experience. I remember her being very professional and hosting a series of auditions. I auditioned for her, I didn’t do much. I just read one or two lines. Next thing I knew, I was sitting on a stool, smoking a cigarette in front of some wallpaper looking like it was the end of the world. I thought the finished video was nice. It’s interesting looking back at what I used to look like then, double eyebrow piercing and all, versus now.
Re-releasing an album is always a bit weird, but it seems like more and more people are pursuing that tactic when it comes to unknown indie bands getting wider recognition. Both Japanese Breakfast and Lucy Dacus did so when signed to Matador, etc. How does it feel on your end to have the album coming out “again”?
Torreano: I think it’s a good idea especially when the first self release could have gotten more recognition. Especially when you change up the album order, are able to make vinyl copies, along with an extra added bonus track and extra music videos to go along with the singles (as well as help from a label) you find that it’s worth it to give it another shot. Especially knowing people and people my age in general, people aren’t paying attention as much as you think they are. They may remember one or two things you released yourself a while back, but sometimes it takes an extra stab to get people to care or to listen or to remember something.
Krasnow: I think it’s great and I can’t thank both New Professor and Girlie Action Mag enough for sharing the same vision we see and giving us a proper send off into this crazy and confusing world of music. It’s hard, and I’m right at the top of this group, but anyone and everyone nowadays has the means to produce very professional sounding demos or records right from their throwaway college laptop, which is increasing the amount of fish in the same size pond. Once they’re done, it’s immediately uploaded to their streaming site of choice and considered “out there.”
We worked really hard on this album, and despite it having been recorded about two years ago now, it never gained the sizable traction we were hoping for. I think it’s the best idea possible to give it a professional release on an actual label, considering it’s a record we still stand by. Coming out with something completely new might actually steer the attraction in a different way, so I’m happy and more comfortable having sat on this album for a while and reintroducing it to a bigger and newer audience.
Is there a song on the record that is a personal favorite for the band/has a more personal backstory in particular?
Torreano: Right now, I’d say the personal favorite off the album is “Coco Chanel,” probably because it’s the added bonus track on the song and the newest out of all of them haha. But I also think it’s the most different out of all the songs, it’s more dance-y and fun but at the same time sticks to the grungy, dark, rock vibe. There’s no personal backstory with the band on that one but as far as backstories go, everyone just seems to vibe with it because it’s groovy and catchy and sort of fun. When the guys learned it, they automatically were drawn into it.
How did you get connected with Greg Katz and New Professor Music?
Torreano: One day I realized that life is short and that the most important thing is what you do in the present moment and that I’m never gonna get what I want unless I work for it now and I work for it hard. In the past, I had worked with management before that seemed to care about the music I was making but always seemed to be putting us on the back burner or making us wait or telling us, “next week,” “next month, or “next year.” I was tired of it. So I decided that I would go through my contacts on social media (a plethora of musicians and artists) and see who I could find that could possibly help Citris out. I messaged a bunch of people on various social media websites. I researched who was having success within my circle and why they were having success. I emailed a ton of people. Finally, through a mutual friend, Cindy of the band Very Fresh, I found Greg. And Greg also found us, since I noticed he ‘liked’ our Facebook page before I even got to emailing him. So once I emailed him, we got on the phone. And ever since then, we’ve been working together.
What are your plans for the future? Have you already been writing new music? Is there a tour in the works?
Torreano: The future plans are probably to see how this record goes, tour this record around as much as possible. Once we do that, release a new record (which I’ve already pretty much written) and tour that and see how that goes. February has been a pretty busy month for us with the residency and the regional shows, so once that’s done we may need a few weeks to rest and then I’ll start looking to book another tour. Onward and upward!
Krasnow:We can’t stop writing and recording music, probably already have an albums worth of fully tracked new songs.
Pre-order Panic In Hampton Bays here.