The cyclical nature of time can bring both positive and negative repetitions of the past, especially when it comes to music. In recent years, many young musicians have embraced late 80s and early 90s alternative rock before the music industry diluted the category. This throwback to the early days of alt. rock can be seen locally through several bands such as Cittàgazze.
Taking its name from a town in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy of books, Cittàgazze delved into the world of classic, lo-fi shoegaze and dream pop sounds that once resonated with bands such as Lush and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Last year, this duo of Michael Beatty (Paid to Pretend) and Andrew McCarthy introduced Cittàgazze’s music to the scene with a debut EP titled “Rosa Sharn”.
Now these two Azalea City musicians are gearing up to venture beyond the studio and into the live setting with a feature debut titled ‘Stokes’ Aster,’ which is a flowery delivery of 14 nostalgic rock musings’ n’ roll with a modern attitude.
Regarding the band’s choice of musical style, band member Michael Beatty said that shoegaze creates an expansive sonic dimension in which anything is possible. This exploratory ideology is seen throughout “Stokes’ Aster” with Beatty and McCarthy proving they are erudite students of the shoegaze sound yet willing to take it in new directions thanks to the liberal nature of the style.
“I feel like there’s a whole freedom in shoegaze where you can do whatever you want,” Beatty explained. “It’s like psychedelic music, but there’s a lot more realm to play within it.”
Beatty and McCarthy first collaborated in the short-lived band Patch. The couple’s artistic similarities led them to start working on their own project. COVID restrictions have created a musical sandbox that Beatty and McCarthy have tapped into their respective musical expertise. The two members shared bass, vocals, guitar and drum duties, with McCarthy providing the keyboards. McCarthy said the two also shared songwriting duties with the help of technology along the way.
“A third of it, we just jammed and wrote stuff together,” McCarthy said. “Another third was just Michael, and another third was just me. It was pretty balanced.”
Beatty added, “All the drums on the album have been programmed. We programmed the drums ourselves and raced with them. Usually it would be that, and then Andrew would throw a guitar at something, or I would throw a bass line at something. I would do the guitar and Andrew would do the rest. Sometimes we would send each other ideas and be like, ‘Do you like that? If you like it, we’ll rock it. Otherwise, I will change it.
The production on display throughout “Stokes’ Aster” provides the perfect wave of surreal sonic elements to make Cittàgazze’s music a reality. McCarthy said these lo-fi, dream-pop anthems were documented through a surprisingly simple recording process that proved quite effective in capturing the band’s music.
He said the band tracked the album with just an iPhone. From there, McCarthy transferred the tracks into the Reaper audio mixing program. While it may seem like a relatively primitive method of modern DIY recording, Beatty and McCarthy’s capture of classic shoegaze elements is unmistakable throughout the album’s 10 tracks. The two said the only challenge in creating and releasing “Stokes’ Aster” centered around planning and Beatty’s COVID diagnosis in the weeks leading up to the album’s release.
Without an exact repetition of the past, Cittàgazze’s ethereal brand of Shoegaze flows through songs such as “Living Without”, “Plants in Your House”, and “Let’s Take a Drag”. Beatty said “Let’s Take a Drag” might be his favorite song he was involved in creating. His love for bands such as New Order and Joy Division made him want to include a tribute to the new wave sounds created by these iconic bands.
With regular doses of tonal curves and vocal reverb, “Bayonet” is one of the most hypnotic and psychedelic tracks on the album. As the quiet madness of shoegaze takes center stage, Cittàgazze provided a heavy rock edge in some of the album’s tracks such as the album’s opener, “Sensory Deprivation”, which delves into sounds heavy guitar notes reminiscent of Hum’s “(She’s Out Counting)”. Stars.” After releasing a traditional shoegaze EP, McCarthy said the duo wanted to add a heavier rock edge to “Stokes’ Aster” with “more guitar and more distortion”.
As the album spreads through the digital world, Beatty and McCarthy prepare to take Cittàgazze into the live world. Currently, the duo is working with a trio of local musicians to finally bring this passionate musical project to regional stages. In preparation for the band’s first gig, Beatty recruited fellow Paid to Pretend band members Matt Demarco and Trey Nobles. McCarthy brought in keyboardist Sam Anthony, who is the son of Wet Willie keyboardist John Anthony. The positive reactions of those who sampled this album also shape the future of Cittàgazze.
As Beatty and McCarthy prepare their mercenaries for a live show, they are also adding to Cittàgazze’s catalog for a future spontaneous release.
“We’re working on things right now,” McCarthy said. “I don’t want to publicize it and suddenly release it in a month. So, in addition to training for the live shows, we’re also working on a follow-up.
Beatty said, “We’re planning on doing a little EP, but we’re not saying much about it yet. We sent the album to people and tried to get more listens and plays on it. People seem to like it, so that’s cool.