Interview

Citizens Brigade

Megan Torelli
If you are a longtime rock music fan from the Zanesville or Central Ohio area, you probably have heard or heard about the band Citizens Brigade. The band's differentiating styles and rhythms are captivating and interesting, and their spontaneity and style keeps the audience pumped during their live performances at local and out-of-town venues, sparking music fans everywhere who are lucky enough to catch one of their shows to truly delve deep into the multi-talented facets of their music and enjoy a performance that is full of energy and excitement. The band members also share an extensive history as a band together, and I caught a show of theirs at the Hilltop Cafe, where the incessant rain didn't prevent their many fans from crowding the stage and snapping pictures of them and bobbing their heads to the music and shouting the lyrics as they played the crowd's long-time favorites.

The members of Citizens Brigade sat down and each individually answered questions to an interview for AltOhio. The members consist of Troy Bennett on guitar and lead vocals, Don Rush on guitar and vocals, Dave Sherfy on bass and vocals, Mike King on drums, and Kyle Campbell on lead guitar. The band has a long and interesting history, and I tried to include around ten years worth of their lives as a whole in this interview which could have been a daunting task, but it was a very enjoyable one! Here are their answers.


Megan: When I visited your Facebook page (www.facebook.com/citizensbrigade), to read up on some of your history, I read on how you guys met up and how you began to form what would eventually become Citizens Brigade around ten years ago! Tell me more about how you met the other members and what you do in the band nowadays.

Don: I met Troy somewhere around 2000. From the word “go”, we had a strong musical connection and enjoyed a lot of the same stuff musically. I was just learning to play the guitar, but I was not very good or very serious about it. He had told me that he played bass in hardcore punk bands, but he was not playing anything when I met him. So we started tinkering around with junk guitars that we had at the time. One night we sat out in this field behind where we used to live, totally inebriated and wrote our first collaboration- it was called Constellation Ground. From that point on, even though we had no band, we had a little project to work on, and basically wrote songs and hooks. For the most part, we wrote shitty songs and basically played the same part on two different guitars. We eventually got our hands on a four-track recorder and did as much as we could with it. But at the time we were not very good. But this is really how the band started. Every now and again we would write something cool, even if it was only cool to us. We eventually added a young drummer named Jason Ault, but he took off to London to become a director. We were by ourselves for a long time. We assumed that the only ones who would hear any of it would be our friends and such. Then a funny thing happened. Troy's wife Brenda suggested that we talk to her ex-husband, Mike King, to be our drummer. I was to say the least, skeptical of the idea, because I didn't know the guy, and second, I figured their pasts would play a part in not making it work. But I have no reservations for saying that I was wrong. And since this was a “me and Troy” thing for so many years, I was overly protective of “our” project. However, noone could deny that Mike was the perfect roll of thunder to what we were doing. So we cemented him a roll to be our percussionist. And to say the very least, he is a bad ass along with being a good guy.

Troy: Yes, its true, Mike is my wife's ex. Its been years. Its old news here. Mike ultimately is a nice guy, and though he might not agree, of the best drummers around. He was just meant to be. He added a lot of flavor to the songs. I recall being giddy for like a month or two straight having his beats behind the songs. Dave was the man who really set everything into place. He was really quick with the bass. He just played along over and over, and before we knew it, he had all of the hooks and fills. He also rescued us from a 50 watt bass amp as a vocal PA. Not to mention he has been around musicians most of his life. He knew the right people. He believed in the music we were making enough to ask for the help of Gayle Force Wind friends. Me and Don had known Dave through a mutual friend and often talked about jamming. So when we heard Dave was willing to give us a shot, it seemed natural to call him. Somewhere along the line, I wrestled with the idea of putting the guitar down as a stage instrument. I was just starting to get comfortable with singing and strumming at the same time. I was originally a bass player. When we found out Kyle wasn't playing with anyone, it didn't take much to win me over to losing the stage instrument. I still write songs with guitar, but Kyle does everything I hear in my head that my stubby little fingers won't do. I met Kyle when we started playing shows with Gayle Force Wind.

Kyle: I went to high school with Don. He graduated a year or two ahead of me. I first saw CB play at a Gayle Force Wind show and immediately liked what I heard. I was in another band at the time and when we broke up I was invited to come try out for the band and never left. I play lead guitar and will start doing some vocals soon as well.

Megan: To those who may not have heard your band play, what would you describe as your sound, and list some of your influences.

Dave: I would say alternative/rock. Influences are the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, and a lot of others. Anything from blues to heavy metal.

Don:To me, I don't really think any label describes CB. I mean, there is blues, rock, alternative, hard rock, folk, and everything in between. As far as personal taste, my roots are somewhere in between Michael Jackson and old school hip-hop, and my personal opinion is that they are both DEAD! Nowadays its so much more vast- I love Radiohead, Tool, the Black Keys, and anything Jack White touches. I mean it goes from Ladysmith Black Mambazo to Busta Rhymes to Bright Eyes and back to Michael Jackson. I love to listen to stuff no one else is checking too, nothing like finding a track you love from a band no one has ever heard of. And like most musicians, mainstream is GARBAGE!!

Troy: I've never really known what to call our sound. Its all blues-based. We write tunes without really choosing a genre. We have a wide range of fans because of it. Kind of a neat bonus! Its nice to be dug beyond a generation gap. Personally, the first band I was ever into was the Steve Miller Band. My dad had the Greatest Hits when I was 5. Good air guitar memories! I mostly dig the classics: the Beatles, Zeppelin, the Who. That's what I was jamming while the rest of the 80's while the rest of the 80's were wearing makeup and frizzy hair. Right now, Don's got me listening to this band called Graveyard. They are like heavy 70's rock and roll. Tom Waits and Iggy Pop are my two favorite show-men. Tom is possibly my favorite songwriter. But that list changes daily!

Mike: Some of my main influences are Rush, Santana, Tower of Power, the Dregs, Zep, and a lot of unknown jazz fusion artists. I still love the early 90's grunge scene and my current influences are.. CB!!

Megan: I was personally impressed with the song “Man of the City” when it was played live, due to its lyrics and the incorporation of the harmonica in addition to the usual choreography of your songs. Could you tell me your personal favorite of the band's work and what its about and why it is special to you?

Troy: My favorite on Slow Motion Explosion is “Victory”. I like the feel of it. The new stuff we are doing is exciting right now. We have put on a little muscle since S.M.E. My personal favorite right now is a song called “Quarter Empty”. I like the driving rhythm. And “Man of the City”. It was a poem before it was a song!

Mike: “Man of the City” is probably my personal favorite as well. The story behind the lyrics is so simple and the song has a great groove to it.

Don: On the old stuff, I really still love “Victory”, the opening track on Slow Motion Explosion. It is guitar-heavy with good hooks and great vocals. Its also fun to play at shows. “Political Shuffle” is another favorite is another favorite because the crowds we play love to hear that song! “Tables are Turning”, “Many 7 Years”, and “Little One” are probably my favorite tracks on the album. But right now I am totally in love with the new material we are working on. “Quarter Empty” is one of the new tracks that is just going to smack people in the face. Good times!!

Megan: What are your goals as a musician? If you could go as far as humanly possible musically, what would be your “utopia”?

Kyle: I would just be happy to quit my job.

Mike: Having whatever size room we are in full of smiling people sharing our energy and singing along.. maybe enough money to pay the bills too?

Troy: I just live and go to work every day, but I always have my eye on the prize. Everyone would like to do what they enjoy for a living. Whether I ever have that utopia or not, I could never not enjoy playing music. It rolls around in my head while I try to sleep.

Dave: I would like to make it to the main stage.

Don: To be able to write and record with the guys on a permanent basis would be a dream come true. It beats any day job I can think of. Sometimes goals change by the day though, one day its to play a bomb show, the next its to write something immaculate, the next day its to record, etc, etc.

Megan: How do your friends and loved ones feel about you making music such a high priority in your lives? Who gives you the most support and why?

Mike: I have no family except for my children, and their vote is voided in my dictatorship!

Don: My family has been pretty supportive. I mean, when you have a child that wanted cassette tapes instead of toys, it shouldn't have come as a shock to think I was in a band. But they dig it, so its cool.

Troy: Music is really a big part of my family. As it always was for me growing up. There has always been a tune cranking somewhere in the house. My family mostly enjoys the band. They've had to endure it at times. Practice until 2am and all. My wife supports me the most- she may not like to see me leave for practice, but she is at every show. Shaking her rump. Sometimes she collects door money. She genuinely enjoys the music and takes a special interest in the band.


Megan: Why did you choose the name Citizens Brigade? Is there a meaning behind your band's name, or did it just sound good to you?

Don: Long story, boring. Troy and I had a bunch of names- Slow Motion Explosion- which ended up being the album title-, Counterfate, hell, we even thought The Dicks was a cool name. Troy and I were always bouncing ideas off one another in those days. I just remember we sat in a room bullshitting, and one of us said “Citizens Brigade”, and went... “Oh, man, that's it!!” Troy has this thing at the shows where he says “You are the Citizens! We are the Brigade! Together we are Citizens Brigade!” I always loved that. Its just as much theirs as it is ours now!


Megan: Lastly, tell me something unique to each of you- what you may enjoy, something you may be into that most aren't (or at least unique to the other members of the band).

Troy: I enjoy poetry. Especially outlaw poetry, the Beatniks, etc. I collect records, but don't listen to most of them. I like digging flower beds for my wife and holding my daughter upside down and tickling her until she can't breathe from laughing.

Don: I am the geek of the band! I enjoy software and computers. That usually leads to me doing the promotional artwork such as show flyers and things. I am the go-between for the band- I usually book the shows, and keep everyone on the same page. But everyone plays a part. That just seems to be mine! Other than that, I am the one rocking the fedora and shooting tequila, with the loudest laugh!
Another thing I would like to add is bands we enjoy playing with and respect the talent of- we have done a lot of shows with Thee Now Sound and Gayle Force Wind. Both of those bands have different and original sounds. They are two of my favorite bands around here. We did a show with a band called Wings for Armor out of Pittsburgh- those girls rock! And in Columbus, there is a band called Hotel War that I am a fan of.

Dave: I like to play basketball.

Mike: Hanging by my toes in a dark closet with only a pen lamp and a picture of Jessica Alba.. and some lotion!!


Other than on their Facebook page, samples of Citizens Brigade's music and directions for ordering their first album, Slow Motion Explosion can be found on their sites at www.reverbnation.com/citizensbrigade, and on www.myspace.com/citizensbrigadearmy.