A much-needed distraction from lockdown blues

Image provided by Six-Foot Citrus.

As its name would suggest, Six-Foot Citrus is a band with a handle on absurdity — an instrument-swapping lineup with a constantly rotating frontperson, the quartet feels amorphous and playful, striking the balance between sly humour and frank feeling. Trombone player, songwriter and sometimes frontperson Benjamin Hill describes the group’s approach as free-flowing and democratic, a musical connection that grants each bandmember some space in the spotlight.

“Whoever writes a song has to sing it — that’s kind of the rule,” Hill said. “You write your own song and get it as complete as possible so that it’s easiest when we come together, and then everyone just picks an instrument.”

After meeting in high school and at local shows, Hill calls the group’s decision to start a band simple and obvious.

“I had written a bunch of songs and wanted to play them, but I didn’t have a band to play with. And they played instruments and wanted to be in a band, so it made sense.”

When Hill summed up the band’s sound — ’60s pop, modern bubblegum, folk and groove, the Beatles and the Beach Boys and some minor-key blues for good measure — the sense is that of freedom. Whatever the song needs is whatever the song gets. Recent single, the swaying rodent-ode “Prairie Dog,” is perhaps the band’s best yet, but it is the track’s video that Hill is really excited about. Shot during lockdown under strict regulations, it is a high-budget production from a band accustomed to do-it-yourself scrappiness.

“We made a music video, our first one, on a budget of $60 — and that just bought us a penguin costume,” they said. With an exponentially larger budget, the warped, comical outlaw fable — finger guns and candy cigarettes abound — impressed even Hill.

“I was very surprised by how it turned out, because I expected to make a joke music video,” they said. “I thought it was going to be silly and look bad, but it looks really good […] we had the right people and the right sets and the right costumes.”

Hill also calls the video a much-needed distraction from lockdown blues. “It was a good thing that we could work on while we weren’t able to actually play music together,” they said. “That’s the reason we do the band — so that we can play live. I’m not huge on studio recordings, and I’m not trying to sell a product big time.”

They put it succinctly: “It’s been pretty crappy not [being able] to jam with my buddies.”

An album is somewhere in the future, but true to the Six-Foot Citrus ethos, Hill does not seem too pressed about it — the real goal is to make it back to the stage. “When I write a song and I have this idea, it feels so good to have it fleshed out and become a live thing that really has an effect — I feel this very magical effect — and when other people feel that, on a stage setting? That’s the best thing ever.”