This is How We Do It – The C.I.T.Y. is Doing Music on their Own Terms

In today’s Dirty South Club spotlight we give a little bit of shine to band The C.I.T.Y. out of what is known to some of us as H-tiiiiiiiine and to others as Houston, Texas. I learned about the band through one of our 2016 spotlights who just happen to also be one of its founding members, D’Andre “Quicksticks” Gosey.

My wife and I were able to catch the guys in concert at Alley Kat Jazz Café in Houston. I was impressed with their energy and ideas musically and conceptually on stage. It was definitely the band’s showmanship and originality that really stuck out to me that night. They were giving us something I had not seen before, things that even if I told you, you’d still need to see them in person to get the full scope of what they have to offer. However, let me just say this, when you see these guys, you’re really going to think you know what you’re going to get from their performance, but my friend you have no idea!

Additionally, if you happen to catch the band more than once, you may not see the same line up on instruments as you did the previous show. These guys have multi-instrumentalists throughout the band and that is something you don’t see often with a band members, generally you see everyone playing the same instruments each show. I found this to be very unique, not to mention the night we saw them perform I got to see the setup with two drummers. I spazzed completely out! Yet, these are the types of setups you can expect when you see these guys and I love it. Its keeps you wondering what you’ll get for the show and makes you want to see more!

Recently, I sat down and had a little chat with the band’s two other founding members, lead singer Rashard and lead guitarist Dero. Read on as we talk a bit about the band’s history, advice for upcoming bands and the things they love most about the Dirty South. Let’s get into this thing!


I’ll ask the general questions we ask and then I have a few just on the band and the new album. I’ll start with the norm; just your names and where you’re from:

Rashard: This is Rashard, coming to you by way of the twin city, Texarkana, Texas. (903) What’s up? (Laughs)

Dero: And this right here is Dero on the guitar and I am from Houston and that would be the SWAT specifically. If you don’t know what the SWAT is that is Southwest Alief, Texas and that’s where it is; Elsik 03’ by the way! (Laughs)

Rashard: We’re two members of The C.I.T.Y. man, Houston based band, so H-town what’s good and yea, here with the Dirty South Club. We had to do it, cause it’s the South — and we play Dirty! (Laughs)

(Laughs) So tell us a little bit about what inspired you guys individually to get into music and how the band got started. That’s was something I wanted to know myself:

Dero: Alright well individually, I started out man, I first picked up a guitar cause I was jamming some Limp Bikzkit, Korn and Lenny Kravitz. I was like in the 8th grade and I seen these cats jumping around; they look like they were having a good time and it made me want to play a guitar, jump around and have a good time too! I said, “Hey ma’ I want a guitar,” she got it for me and I spent 6 hours a day on it. From 10th grade all the way on up.

Rashard: No lessons!

Dero: No lessons! Yea, I ain’t have no lessons. And this was before Youtube, so you couldn’t go and say; let me go and watch this video. No, this was back in dial-up days so you know you had to read pretty much everything.

Rashard: I’m a P.K. man, pastor’s kid. So, you know I told everybody when I was 4 I had two options either I could sang or be an usher and I don’t like standing up and greeting people! (laughs) So I decided to start singing man. Wild story, I don’t even remember this, but my mama say I used to sit up there and tug at the person leading the song.

My cousin, Monica, she was singing a song during offering and I’m tugging at her leg; I always stood there like give me the mic, give me the mic. Then one day they were like it’s offering and ain’t nobody paying attention and they gave it to me. And they were like, he’s actually good, he’s on key, he’s trying to get it! So, since then I think they started taking me seriously.

As far as the band goes, that story’s weird! Because it wasn’t, hey man let’s hold auditions and get these live musicians and get the best musicians we can possibly find. That wasn’t it at all. So, we met in college at THE Prairie View A&M University.

Dero: Peeeeeeee Veeeeeeee!

Rashard: Yoooouuu Knooow! (Laughs) I actually was in an R&B duo, shouts out to my boy A.T. We decided one day we wanted to do some live instrumentation. Met Dero through the guy who made the beat for the song we were working on, he was his roommate. So, that happen! We do this college thing you know, we’re pretty much the only people, as far as students, that weren’t an organization; just independent students that were doing the band thing. Then, of course, college comes and college goes. Things fizzle out, people move away, people get jobs, people get married; things of that nature. One day I got a call, my homegirl had a talent night. She said I want you to come out and do something. I’m like cool, but if I come out I’m not singing to no track, I never have. So, I hollered at him (Dero) and we hollered at my other friend from Texarkana and he plays keys; in comes Dre.

The only reason we know Dre, the only reason we know Quicksticks is because he played drums at the church that the keyboard player played for. So our first time meeting Dre was our keyboard player saying, “hey man I got a dude that can play drums for us.” We show up that night, I’ll never forget, we did two songs. We did Lady of My Life by Michael Jackson and then we did our original song Lovin’ You to Screw which we recorded and ended up putting on our first project Stay Tuned.

Dero: But it wasn’t recorded. It wasn’t even like a cemented song….

Rashard: Yea, yea, right — this got recorded like 2 years ago. I’m talking about right now was like, 09’, 2010 or something like that. So the song was pretty much one of those things; the only reason the song was made was for the talent thing. We were like, hey man let’s do an original. So that happens and we got approached. “Hey what’s good, I’m trying to sign y’all boys”, but we didn’t have a name. We didn’t have a name. There was no vision or nothing. This was supposed to be a one time.

Y’all were just trying to get through the show that night:

Rashard: Yea, one time thang and you know we just trying to show up. The girl that hollered at me to do it, she been fine my whole life, I ain’t get to holla; I ain’t gone tell her no! (Laughs) I’m gone sang two real good songs. If I’m lucky, we’ll see what happens! (Laughs) We didn’t have a name, no vision and no direction. I always tell people all of the time, you meet everybody for a reason. The sole purpose for us meeting the janky promoter dude was because he forced us to sit down and think of a name and ask ourselves is this something we want to do.

From there on we started practicing every week. We had a bunch of names and they were horrible names! They were so bad! I know they were horrible because I brought about 3 bad ones before I got to a good one. Finally, we came to the C.I.T.Y. It’s an acronym for Completely In Tune with Yourself.

 

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When I finally got to get out and catch you guys; I noticed two drum sets. That was the first thing. Then my wife and I were discussing what we liked about you guys is you don’t look like you sound. (Laughs) Which we love. That’s why I never judge a book by it’s cover.

I believe y’all performed Ms. America that night. It was at Alley Kat and it was a trip because when I heard it I was like, yo these cats are versatile! That’s what I loved about you guys, you definitely do not sound like you look. (Laughs) Which is good. It was a great show! You guys are multi-instrumentalists. Sometimes I would see Quick on the keys and I was like, this guy is holding back man! (Laughs)

Rashard: Dre is the great; I call him the virtuoso. But that’s why Dre is our MD, our music director. I don’t question that at all. The crazy part about it is that we were there when all he could play was the drums! Next thing we know bass is getting picked up. The reason the double drum set thing or anything we do works is because at any point and time, members of the band are together 7 days out of the week. Even if it’s not everybody, it’s always at least two or three of us together and that’s why we’re able to pull off the double drum set. That’s why we’re able to kinda vibe off each other. It’s a wonder we do all of that jumping around and we ain’t hit each other yet. (Laughs) We’ve had a lot of close calls.

Dero: We’ve had a lot of close calls. (Laughs)

Rashard: It’s funny, I’m not lying man, the one question we get a lot of times is what does it take to start a band like y’all? I remember one time, Dero said, “My boy asked me that and I told him first, get you three people that you can hang with at least 4 times a week.”

Dero: No music!

Rashard: No music! Don’t pick up no instrument, don’t do no singing! Just see if you can legitimately hang!

Dero:  Go out, go here, do different types of things around the city man. Can you sit and chill? Can you go drink if you’re gonna drink? Whatever you gone do, can you do it? Because if you can’t do that with them? You can play, but it’s gonna be like you are at work. You go to work and you know you do your thing, but when you leave? You outta there!

So what would you guys describe your sound or style to be:

Dero: It’s about 4 or 5 bands that if you took them…

Rashard: And put them in a pot and shook it up? For example, Parliament is the cake and Maze is like the icing. Then Mint Condition is like the sprinkles. Then you got this one birthday candle, I like Maroon 5. That’s where we kinda got our influence as far as the dressing. Then when you light the candle, that’s LTD. I would say one thing all of them had in common was the groove man.

Dero: I was in rock bands growing up. I was heavy into Limp Bizkit. Whenever it got to the point where we could play like we play now, it was like heaven. When we started out, we were wearing suits, now it’s just got to the point like, we here!

Rashard: At the beginning we were trying to fit. Folks always ask us what y’all play, what genre — Live. You come and you might hear a lil bit of everything, but it’s gone be live!

So, the inspiration for your music or your tracks:

Rashard: It’s two ways it can go down. Either the groove is there first, or the words are there first. I’m the primary singer and songwriter. Lyrically, I try to pull from whatever — wherever, whether it be my situation; whether it be things that I see or something somebody in my family’s going through.

Still to this day Lay In It is probably my pride and joy on this new album because it was actually an idea that he had. (Pointing at Dero) He said, “I want to do a song about laying in a girl’s hair.” It was one of those things where it put me up to the challenge of writing a song from somebody else’s perspective. He sings it.

Yea, I was gonna ask who’s leading it? I was like is that Dero on the lead, what’s going on:

Rashard: So, I had to take all of those things into consideration with writing it. I’m kinda like you, I love jumping around and all of that, but I would be content; I just wanna write songs for people. I mean the inspiration is just life man.

The album title where did the inspiration for that title come from, Audio-N-Chill, right:

Dero: Yeeeeeeeeaaaaaa. *singing* Audio-N-Chill.

Rashard: C-Note! C-Note thought of that title and it just kinda fit the vibe. So, the first project Stay Tuned, we recorded that mug old school. We took the whole band in the studio and we all hooked up at the same time and Take 1! It had a live feel. You could tell that we were all in there playing all of us doing our thing at the same time.

This one, we kinda wanted to mesh the two worlds and make it a little bit more with a studio vibe; a chill vibe. But still having those elements of live music. The thing that probably really makes the album stand out is because the first one it was really just us going to the studio hooking up doing our thing. This one we actually partnered up with some producers Da Engineers at Freshsonic studios.

 

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I’m a believer; so your faith being involved, what’s that like? I’ve always wanted to hear other perspectives:

Rashard: I think the biggest component in that man honestly is that til this day, I love my parents to death because they’ve always supported. My dad being a pastor never put me in a position where I had to choose. Even in middle school and high school, I’m singing in talent shows and I am not singing This Little Light of Mine. (Laughs) My daddy never said, you up here singing on my praise team then you turn around at that talent show and sing some Jodeci? (Laughs) My dad, a strong man of faith, and at the end of the day I think with him being the strong Christian that he is, not being religious, but being a true Christian — he understands.

It’s the journey man, it really is:

Rashard: It’s the journey! Don’t get it twisted, we pray before every show. We didn’t do it on purpose, but we always find ourselves putting a prayer on the album because it’s like, I want folks to know don’t get it twisted.

Dero: You gotta know!

Rashard: We do our thing. We coming out here and we playing and we having a good time, but man we waking up and going to church every Sunday. We pray to the Lord just like everybody else and at the end of the day the only reason this is working, we acknowledge is because HE allows it to work! We taking Him all along the way.

And that’s the way it should be:

Rashard: The thing about it is, it’s been people to come to church and be like, oh what church y’all go to man? I’ve been looking to get into a church. Next thing you know they come, they hear the message, they hear the word and they come back! If the only time it’s occurring is inside the four walls then the church is failing anyway. The church is a hospital. Sometimes you just gotta meet people where they at. Another thing that I really like about the fact that we do both is it does cause us to make sure that we ain’t going a lil bit too hard when we are out doing our thang.

It keeps you accountable:

Rashard: It keeps you accountable like whoa….whoa…whoa! (Laughs) You can’t do that! (Laughs)

Dero: It’s a lot of bands I grew up listening to, man I can’t listen to them cats anymore. But when I was younger, I’m really getting off the energy man; the vibe. But now I go back and listen to some of those lyrics like – Aw Naw!

It’s all of us bro, it’s all of us, you listen to things you haven’t heard in 12 years or something like, Oh shiggity! I didn’t know he said that! Whoa! (Laughs) But you’re right it was the groove. It’s not really even the words, you’re just listening to where they landed. But you get older like, Oh my God! (Laughs)

Dero: And it’s a bunch of songs; rap songs.

Dude, I was a huge Busta Rhymes fan and I tell my wife, you know that’s probably why I was so angry when I was young. This sucka here mayne! (Laughs) I was like, you probably need to stop listening to this guy.

Rashard: It has that kind of influence though!

What do you hope people get when they see you and listen to you, it’s definitely two different experiences:

Rashard: First off, the first basis of the live performance, we just want you to have a good time.

Dero: We don’t perform we party!

Rashard: The C.I.T.Y. is an escape. Your job, your gal or your man, kids; whatever the problem may be? Life is gonna throw punches and most of them are gonna connect! (Laughs) The time you with us, we want to get you away from all of that and just remind you that the good times roll on! That’s what we wanna do for our live experience.

I think for the projects, one of the biggest things I want people to, hopefully go back and see the first one and see the growth.

The best business or personal advice you’ve ever received:

Rashard: I will say this, I had the honor and privilege of meeting Frankie Beverly. I’ll never forget we met him at Benihanas. Slid him a CD and he actually emailed us back 2 days later saying, “Hey I really like Stay Tuned, biggest thing is,” his exact words – “don’t let nobody stop you from doing your sh*t!” I took that as personal and business.

Dero: Mine was, it’s actually two things. One of my biggest things is playing it like it’s your last. Every show, one to one-hundred thousand, you play that mug like it’s your last. Then just from a perspective of playing, I was at this blues spot in Third Ward. I’m playing and this old school cat comes up to me like, “Hey man you killin, but you playing too many notes. Watch this.” He got up there and he played like 2 or 3 notes and everybody’s face just went…..

The deeper meaning is, it’s not about how much you play; can they feel it? If they’re not feeling it, it doesn’t matter what you do! It’s people that can sing the best, play the best, run and jump the best, but if you can’t make people stop and look? Then you’re just doing it for yourself.

Any advice for those who wish to follow in your footsteps:

Rashard:  I know the common thing is don’t mix friends with money and that’s cool. But in this music thang, no offense, in order for it to last? I don’t say you can’t mix friends with money because at the end of the day we don’t even put money as a part of the equation. You’ve got to be friends first and everybody has to have a genuine love for doing this. Because if you love it, it’s going to influence how hard you go for it. You can’t do that journey if y’all not friends because if ain’t no money coming? Why am I here with you? The biggest thing that I hold valuable to the C.I.T.Y., it ain’t the music, it ain’t the dancing; it’s chemistry.

Dero: If you’re trying to do a band, you’ve got to become friends. I always tell people, if you are a singer or a rapper find a musician that you can hang out with, at least one that you can hang out with then everything else will go from there.

How do you guys define success:

Rashard: Waking up everyday doing what I love to do and my kids’ kids’ kids being able to reap the benefits from it. Doesn’t mean that I’ve got to be a multi-millionaire. Doesn’t mean that I’ve got to go on world tours and if I do those things, I want us to do it by the sweat of our own brows.

Dero: My version of success is the vision of what we have coming true. It doesn’t matter how far I make it or how low, but when we wake up this is what we set out to do for this and this is what we’re doing. That’s pretty much it. Personally I’d like to say we can tour 6-8 months out of the year and the rest of the months we doing whatever we wanna do.

Rashard: We all want to do it on ‘our’ terms.

Dero: The best part about this whole thing, even starting from 03’, is really the journey.

The last two, what do you like to do for fun and of course what do you love about the Dirty South:

Rashard: This is fun! (Laughs) The one thing I love about my life is when I’m at church singing, rehearsing with the band, maybe I’m by myself writing; I enjoy doing it! I get to do this, people come, like it and even pay sometimes — and I’m still having fun at the same time! (Laughs) I’m with it! This is fun. The interview? This is fun!

Dero: Yea, we can do this all day. This is fun! This is what we do. We play shows, we all work, I’m an engineer by trade. I got maybe one or two nights out of the week where I’ve got no obligations, maybe! It’s always something, but I enjoy doing it. A lot of people work and that’s work, but they don’t have a passion. You meet people and it’s like work, work, work, but they don’t have anything they do outside of work that they just really love and we have that!

Rashard: That’s real!

I think what people don’t get is when you don’t do that, you have this space where, I believe, you can’t even be fruitful in any other part of your life:

Rashard: Life is balance. Work hard, play hard; you’ve got to have both.

So what do y’all love about the Dirty South, I mean we have so much:

Rashard: Man, I’ve got Texas tatted on my arm. Like, I’m for real about this thang! I tell people all of the time, no offense to the West, no offense to the East, but we’re just cool. Even when we go out of town; I’ve taken trips to New York and taken trips to LA and it’s been times where I’m just like, hey man everybody just calm the f**k down! (Laughs) Like, real talk! Just be cool.

The one thing I love about the South, I really think that we get that life is hard enough as it is, don’t make it no harder!

Please don’t:

Rashard: It don’t have to be that hard. The South, it’s a mindset. Everything is cool; everything is real laid back. From our women to our vibe and our swag. I feel like when people try to put us in a box, that’s when they make me hot. I’ve heard some of the greatest I’ve ever heard from here and doing it now. I just hate that people come from out of town, they pinch and they take it back and don’t acknowledge that they got it from here and they categorize the whole area as that one lil piece that they pinched off.

Dero: And there’s so much more to it man. That’s what the South is, we have our different ways. We’ve got the drawl, it just comes out of ya. It just comes out of your pores.  I remember one time I was in New York on the subway and I probably said like two words. This group of girls turned around like, oh where you from? And they’re like, I like that.

And they know off top:

Dero: They know off top!

Rashard: The food man.

Dero: Awwww man, and don’t get me started on the food! We have benefitted from being close to Louisiana.

Rashard: And some of these places (we visited) don’t even have a Whataburger.

It’s crazy when you go to places and you’re like, wait y’all don’t have Whataburger: (laughs)

Rashard: I think the food is one of those things where if I had to sum up everything from the culture, to the music, to the drawl, to the dress; I think the food kinda tells the story. You can get a burger up North. You can get a burger on the West coast. You can get a burger on the East coast – but it ain’t the same.

Dero: It’s not the same. They make the food for the region.

It’s not the same:

Rashard: We season it up! And that’s in anything. Like music for example, it’s seasoning. You’ve got to take those different elements and put it all together. The thing about the South, everybody’s version is different. You’ve got your Texas version, your Louisiana version of the South; Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida – they all have a different outlook on it. When you take all of that and put it together, we ain’t missing nothing!

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Photos courtesy of The C.I.T.Y.

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