“For some reason things are always hard for us,” says Keviano Azevedo, drummer for the San Jose-based progressive alternative quartet, Citabria. He’s got a point. Considering the band’s fraught seven-year history, it is a wonder they’ve made it as far as they have.
After their initial formation as a trio in 2008, the band spent over a year searching for a singer. In all, Azevedo estimates, they turned away around 50 applicants before settling on Leopoldo Larsen—former frontman of San Jose nu-metal/rap-rockers Zero Mind.
From there, they recorded The Stereo Guillotine EP—an energetic and highly technical set of eight songs. After releasing the EP on July 1, 2010, Citabria quickly earned a local following and started gigging like crazy. But still something wasn’t quite right.
“We wrote that album way too fast and out of excitement,” Azevedo explains. “It wasn’t getting recognized the way we wanted it to. We weren’t getting any radio play. It wasn’t socially friendly enough.”
The Stereo Guillotine by citabria
And so they set out to write simpler songs. Or, as Azevedo puts it: “Something that we thought grandmas could rock out to—something girls would want to dance to.”
They began working with Bill Cutler—older brother to John Cutler, the Grateful Dead’s longtime sound engineer. Cutler became like a fifth member of the band, helping the group shape their songs.
Azevedo wasn’t into it. “I felt that we were losing our individuality and our identity,” the drummer says. “I started to feel like I was just going to practice as a job—but not getting paid.”
Azevedo had a falling out with Larsen and quit. He started playing for other bands—Anya Kvitka, Los Hotboxers and Eyes on the Shore, as well as accompanying DJ sets with live drumming.
Things eventually cooled off between Azevedo and Larsen. The two ran into each other after a show and got to talking and texting. Soon they were sending each other song sketches via email, and other band members got involved. After scrapping most what they had come up with while working with Cutler, they had 18 demos.
The next big hurdle came when they all got together in the same room for the first time to play the songs they had written using electronic music production software. “That was a challenge,” Azevedo says, but they eventually figured it out.
Citabria then took to Kickstarter to ask their fans for money, ran a successful campaign and headed into the Green Day-owned JingleTown Recording studios in Oakland to record what would become Exit Reality.
They tracked the album’s 14 songs in just eight days. But Exit Reality was far from being realized. After laying down all the music, the band found itself trapped in mixing purgatory. They went back and forth with JingleTown for an entire year, but the mix never came out right.
Finally, they requested the raw tracks from JingleTown and took the album home to mix it themselves—a process that would take yet another year of layering on effects and other general tinkering. They finally released the album on Feb. 24.
“It was exhausting,” Azevedo recalls. However, as long as it took, and as difficult as the road has been to get to this point, Exit Reality goes down as smooth as buttermilk.
Take “The Animal,” for example. Aaron Axelsen, program director for Live 105, recently played Exit Reality’s second track on his Sunday-evening new music program, “Soundcheck.” With a stuttering, Moog bass line, soaring vocal harmonies, jet-plane guitars, the song sounds like a cross between Muse, Depeche Mode and Dredg.
“The Animal” is directly followed by “In Your Eyes,” which takes cues from sultry PBR&B crooners like The Weeknd and Frank Ocean. Where The Stereo Guillotine was built upon dry guitar spasms and technical drumming, Exit Reality, is soaked in codeine-laced syrup and propelled by dance-ready rhythms.
Azevedo says the band is totally stoked on the new album and ready to hit the road. He says they are especially excited to share all their new tunes with their hometown fans for the first time live. “I know there is going to be really good turnout for this show,” he says. “I feel it.”
Citabria play The Ritz on June 26 at 8pm. More info.