"There's lots of ways to be a Guitar Hero. I just think it would be cooler if people tried to be real guitar heroes. I want people to find their inner guitar hero."
Amen, Ezra Feinberg. The Citay songwriter freely admits he's never played the game, but we know exactly what he means: why add the competitive veneer of a sporting match to something as inherently pleasurable as playing guitar? Feinberg needed no prod when he started practicing. "I was really nerdy," he recalls of his hermetic early music-making sessions. "I wanted to learn my instrument really well, and I was really into guitar technique, and I used to sit in my bedroom and learn complicated guitar parts like Van Halen."
Then one day he realized, "Wait a minute, it's much more fun and interesting and cool to work on songs and work on playing with different people and in different styles rather than sit in my room."
Metal, classic rock, jazz, fusion, punk, indie, and "weirder" sounds all left an impression, but after putting in time with the Piano Magic collective and the "stonery" Feast, Feinberg seems to have finally found his voice amid Citay's fragrant blend of psychedelia, folk, synth-rock, and AOR. Taking its name from a Feinberg mixtape of songs utilizing that only-in-rock pronunciation ("The Journey song is included, but there's also 'Living for the City' by Stevie Wonder and 'Fool for the City' by Foghat"), the onetime home recording project assumed a life of its own after Feinberg's move in 2004 from Brooklyn to San Francisco, in collaboration with Tim Green of the Fucking Champs, who had previously recorded Feast.
Seemingly bursting full-blown from the brow of a rock 'n' roll Zeus, Citay's startlingly excellent 2006 self-titled debut found a home on Important Records, inspiring Feinberg to tell people "we were their Partridge Family, next to all the found sound shit, Merzbow, Axolotl."
Naturally, Feinberg adds, "The next challenge was to see if these songs could be pulled off live because it was a studio-centric project." But no worries, he managed wonderfully, with the help of, at various times, Green and members of Tussle, Ascended Master, and Skygreen Leopards. The latest additions following the amicable departure of Jesse Reiner of Jonas Reinhardt and Crime in Choir, and Adria Otte of the Dry Spells (Feinberg also drums with that band of kindred Bard graduates) are Sean Smith and Josh Pollock of Daevid Allen's University of Errors. And how does he rope in such talented players? "I'm pretty gregarious," drawls Feinberg, sounding like those nerdy homebound practice sessions are far behind him.
Still, judging from the sublimely interwoven acoustic and electric guitars and lushly appointed folk-rock streaked with sweeping synthesizer found on Citay's most recent long-player, Little Kingdom (Dead Oceans), perhaps the onetime bedroom-rocker's guitar hero and musical visionary days are here to stay.
Citay perform at the Goldies party, Tues/11, 9 p.m., free. 111 Minna Gallery, SF. (415) 974-1719