“Sitting on Shoulders”
An Interview with Bedbug
words by sammy maine
Bedbug is the moniker of Dylan Citron. It’s a world that escapes from the every day, creating tiny capsules of surreal joy and beauty that bring forth a slow, retrospective breath to the most restless lungs. We’ve long been fans of Citron’s ability in stitching together the messy patchwork of human emotions, intimate poetic readings and carefully selected samples from cult TV shows and moments between friends. When they’re all thrown together, it creates a quiet magic that forges an iridescent comment on what it means to be human. Bedbug is the teenage diary we carefully hold on to; it’s the hopes that rise to the forefront of our thinking when the sun finally hits our face; it’s the soft, tender moments we replay when everything feels just a little too overwhelming.
Releasing their latest album I’ll Count to Heaven in Years Without Seasons at the end of January, Bedbug today releases the video for “lilies”. Here, they talk about the struggles of nostalgia, the pressures of human achievement and staying present even when everything around you is moving too fast.
There’s a lot of nostalgia that runs throughout your songwriting. Are you a nostalgic person? Do you think that’s a help or a hinderance in being the best person you can be?
In some ways I am, in some ways I’m not. I definitely like the idea of nostalgia, and sentimentality, despite maybe not being the most nostalgic person all the time. I’ve always gravitated to art with honest youthful energy, and in that sense, even when I was younger and just started writing, I knew I’d want to tap into that. Sort of an awareness that eventually I’d be nostalgic for whenever/wherever I was. Too much nostalgia is definitely a hindrance, but if music is a form of escapism, that’s probably the perfect place to indulge a bit.
There’s a lot of mentions of mother nature and weather and parks and deserts. How much does the weather affect you? Where do you feel most happy?
I’ve always loved natural/supernatural allegory and metaphor in music, it creates a really interesting and vivid visual for people, and can in some ways transport them to their closest memories of those things. I’ve mentioned this a little bit here and there, but I think the weather stuff was mostly a passage of time thing, where either the seasons would change so gradually that I wouldn’t notice, or something would happen to subdue those really fantastic “it’s winter, look at the snow!” or “its fall, look at the leaves!” epiphanies. In many ways it was less about the weather itself and more about my interpretation of it, which at the point of writing the album, was a little bleak, and empty. As for where I feel most happy, woof. Who really knows. It’s definitely less location and more variable to what I’m doing, who I’m with, and all the other factors that make people feel… things.
You also mentions space and the solar system and planets. Do you think a lot about the world outside of Earth? Would you say you’re an existential person?
I’m definitely not an ‘existential person’, although admittedly I might not really have an idea of what that means. The space stuff was maybe less philosophical and more fantastical in my head? A lot of it boiled down to that goofy expression of like, ‘reach for the stars’. There’s a lot in the record about human achievement (at least I thought there was), and a silly ‘impossible’ scenario that kept running through my head while writing a lot of stuff was like, a bunch of people sitting on each other’s shoulders until they got to a different planet. Also, now that I’m thinking back on it, I guess there was some philosophical implication to some of the metaphors in there… who knows, I definitely had a lot of distinct things to say, but it’s music, listener interpretation is what really counts.
Your recent albums feel so emotionally introspective but on this one there were two collaborators. Did you enjoy collaborating? Does it help you to see your work from an objective perspective?
I really enjoy collaborating. I feel like it’s a natural response to work on things you’ve made and have this gut reaction of either “I don’t like this” or “I’m unconfident in this”, but with collaboration, especially if it’s separate from the core writing process (I could never ‘write’ collaboratively in a band and create similarly personal art), I can distance myself from those initial responses and appreciate the things everyone brings to the table. It can help get perspective on the things I liked about the songs when I started writing them.
Melissa’s poems are so beautiful. Why did you include them on this album?
The short of it was that I just really wanted her to be on it! I had dabbled in samples and interludes in the past, there’s a bunch of that on ‘if i got smaller’, but this time I wanted those to be uniquely artistic or truly re-defined as possible. That was the main motivation between ditching the TV show samples and putting in more collaborative pieces and old speeches and weird youtube videos. Having the idea of getting Melissa, who’s poetry is so incredible, to do some sort of interlude for the album definitely kicked off that trajectory change.
There’s a moment on ‘melissa’s poem pt 2’ that talks about wanting to remember everything, so you have to walk away to write them down. Do you think of yourself as a someone who’s always kind of a bystander? Like taking in the importance of moments rather than experiencing them maybe?
So, I really want to emphasize that much like Devin (Pink Navel’s) part, I had zero artistic input for Melissa’s pieces. She heard a few demos, so aside from that possible inspiration, it was all her. That being said, that’s a tough question. When I’m really ON, I pretty much take life by the reigns and try to figure out the most logical ways to get what I want to happen, to happen. When I’m having tough months (and this is sort of a central theme of the album), it can feel like the world is moving around you, and everything’s just passing you by. It’s like that scene (lmao) from Scrubs (lmao) where JD (lmao) is standing still in the hospital and hours pass and he hasn’t moved but everything is moving in a quick blur around him.
There’s a nice little mention of your last album in the lyrics on “outside the air is getting thinner but…” – do you look at your discography as like one big piece of work? A continued thought-process? Or are they very separate?
This I totally ripped from my favorite bands. It’s something that The Microphones does a lot, where they’ll continue referencing back on their own discography, or release updated versions of older songs with variations on the structures. The Brave Little Abacus, which was an incredible Allston band that broke up a few years before I moved here, was really the main inspiration, because their albums (even their discography really) feel like singular, cohesive, completed works, in ways that pretty much no other albums feel like too me. I figured if I could emulate even a tenth of that idea, I’d have something I’d really be proud of, a world people could dive into and spend some time in.
You use a lot of recorded samples from tv and movies in your records. Do you think you enjoy certain shows or movies because you see some of yourself in the characters? Which ones?
I’m not much of a movie person, asides from a few my friends have shown me. In the last few months I haven’t really been watching much TV either. I think it’s pretty normal to see yourself in some characters of your favorite shows, or at least see characteristics of yourself. I don’t know if there are characters off the top of my head that I can say “that’s so ME” but, in general Freaks and Geeks has stuck with me for awhile, and, embarrassing as it may be, I still think about certain scenes from Scrubs pretty often. What a goofy mid-2000’s show… it had a lot of heart but dang it has not aged well. Overall though, the samples this time were from more scattered places. I won’t ruin the mystique for anyone who’s trying to figure them out.
Sonically the music is quite optimistic and cute but the lyrics are often super sad. Did you want there to be a juxtaposition there?
I didn’t… try for that. It mostly just happened. I don’t love writing music that sounds sad or bleak. But sometimes my lyricism (I’ve been told) can be a little poignant. I definitely want to write moments people will feel emotionally connected too while writing, or something evocative. The main juxtaposition I really focused on establishing (which Melissa does… so so well) was between the abstract/surreal, and the emotionally grounded. That kinda lyricism has always resonated with me, and it’s a really satisfying way to write.
Can you tell me about the artwork you put out? There’s always this child-like aspect to it and I wondered whether there was anything intended with that?
The childlike aspect probably comes from the pastel color scheme, which I mostly just think is fun. The pictures themselves are just photos I’ve taken over the years, with small outlines/sketches over them. It’s a simple style but I think it’s unique and recognizable. People have asked me about the photos before as though I knew anything about taking photos, I mostly just shoot expired film on a cheap old thrift 35mm and get lucky sometimes.
You write that you’re “just tryin to write the album i needed when i was 16” on your bandcamp bio – what were you like when you were 16? Do you think your 16-year-old self would like the music you make today?
Honestly, I’m not even that old, but I cannot for the life of me remember what 16 was like. I play fast and flagrant with age in my lyrics too, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been honest about it in song. That being said, I really hope so. I really do feel like the sum of my influences and I feel like the influences for this record are very much true to what 16 yr old me would be into, even if I didn’t know them yet. When I was 16, I fell in love with bands, head over heels, at least twice a month. And that didn’t cheapen those bands’ impact on me, there are bands that were so important to me, that made weird growing up livable, in the way that nothing else in the world could. A lot of those bands I’ve now interacted with, who are completely regular people, who might not even be aware that they’ve had that impact on a ton of teen’s lives. I just want to do justice for those people and write an album that I would’ve fallen in love with and really relied on like a crutch, at that age.
‘I’ll Count to Heaven in Years Without Seasons’ is out now on Joy Void
Order it here