Citay’s sophomore album Little Kingdom is a great dose of sweeping psychedelia. Think Byrds harmonies, Floydian pastoralism, and more than enough reasons to namedrop Popol Vuh. Despite those epic arcs, the SF septet’s songwriting and atmospherics are skillfully tight — like my favorite Twisted Village bands deciding that excess is absurd. With that mix of chops and discipline, it’s fitting two Citay members are employed by the School Of Rock in San Francisco. Guitarist and songwriter Ezra Feinberg works part-time, while drummer Warren Huegel teaches on a full-time basis. I asked them questions about Jack Black.
STEREOGUM: How long have you guys been teaching at the School Of Rock?
WARREN HUEGEL: Two years.
EZRA FEINBERG: Off and on over the last year and a half.
STEREOGUM: How’d you get hooked up with them?
WH: When I worked at Amoeba Records, Aldo Naboa (who is now my boss) dropped off flyers for a rock school show. I just happened to be at the information desk and struck up a conversation. The rest is history.
EF: Warren is the drummer in Citay and a good friend. Again, the rest is (San Francisco School Of Rock) history.
STEREOGUM: Which came first, the movie or the actual school?
WH: The school.
EF: Yeah, there is a documentary called Rock School about the first School Of Rock, which was in Philly. The guy who started it is named Paul Green, and the official name for the school is the Paul Green School Of Rock, and they have them now in Philly, SF, and many other cities.
STEREOGUM: So, like the movie, you teach youngsters (6-16) how to play classic rock songs and build up to a live performance?
WH: 8-17, but yeah that’s it basically. Some of the music is more contemporary than classic rock, but it heavily draws from the classics — Led Zep, Black Sabbath, Queen, and the like. Right now we’re working on a ’90s show that has Soundgarden, Jane’s Addiction, Foo Fighters and even Tool. I’m pushing for a Fucking Champs show — but we’ll see.
STEREOGUM: I hate to belabor the point, but other than not talking to his students about Tim Green’s bands, was Jack Black’s portrayal accurate? What did you think of the film?
WH: The film was fun. I saw it years before I worked at rock school myself. There are some similarities for sure, as far as acting silly and lecturing the kids on how much they should love Black Sabbath.
STEREOGUM: Had you taught music previously?
WH: I had taught a high school drum line a couple seasons, and some private lessons with adults. Never anything quite like rock school though.
EF: I had taught in an after school arts and literacy program when I lived in Brooklyn, teaching literacy through music to 7-11 year olds.
STEREOGUM: How is this different than those drumline/private lessons?
WH: Drumline is a whole different animal — much more focus on technique and precision. Five drummers have to sound like one, and you deal with rudiments a lot. Usually no drumset in marching bands. It’s different then private lessons because there is a performance you are working toward most of the time. The kids at Rock School get to immediately play with a band — I think that’s invaluable. Sometimes it’s a bit of a bummer because I like to work on basics for a while before moving to drumset, and at Rock School you have to skip that step.
STEREOGUM: Do the students come with their own equipment or is that all provided by the school?
WH: There are instruments at the school. The guitar and bass students usually bring their own instruments to lessons and practices.
STEREOGUM: How do they get involved? What does someone need to do to be accepted into the program?
WH: A desire to rock is the only criteria.
STEREOGUM: It’s free? No application process?
WH: it’s definitely not free. I think they do give scholarships, but I’m not sure how that all works.
STEREOGUM: In general, how many students do you have at once? And all of them are working together as one band?
EF: Teachers can have up to 10 or 15 students per week, and on Saturdays they have practice with the whole ensemble, as a band.
WH: But teachers teach one on one generally. Sometimes you will run a whole practice, and that’ll be more. Total chaos!
STEREOGUM: Any quick studies in recent memory?
EF: One kid plays with his teeth better than most dudes I’ve seen playing normally in bands at Bottom Of the Hill or the Hemlock.
WH: I have a 13-year-old student named Paige Baxter. She is amazing, quite precocious.
STEREOGUM: What are some favorite songs? Any songs that aren’t allowed? Like certain early Slayer tunes…
EF: I’ve heard the kids do “Angel Of Death” and they destroyed! I’m not aware of any censorship, though I believe excessive cursing is frowned upon.
WH: Yeah, no blatant swearing. Other than that, Slayer is encouraged.
STEREOGUM: Ha ha, the irony. What are some of your favorite songs to teach?
WH: I enjoy all the shows for different reasons, but my favorite was the metal show. Metal is what first inspired me to be in a band, grow my hair out and even buy a pair of Nike Crosstrainers when I was 15 (thanks, Lars Ulrich!). Playing along to “Master Of Puppets” with a student was an unreal experience. Probably my favorite Rock School moment was explaining the lyrics of “Free Bird” to an 11 year-old.
- Citay – “Eye On The Dollar”Download
- Citay – “First Fantasy”Download
Little Kingdom is out on Dead Oceans.
[Photo by photo by Gretchen Robinette; L to R: Ezra Feinberg, Tahlia Harbour, Warren Huegel, Julie Napolin, Diego Gonzalez, Jesse Reiner, Adria Otte]