Citizen King

When it comes to the summer of 1999, I have tremendous memories, including meeting and hanging out with Britney Spears! I was also in college at the time and remember the music on the radio with much fondness.

One of my favorite songs from that summer was definitely “Better Days (and the bottom drops out)” by Citizen King. The song was even featured the following year on the soundtrack for “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

If you don’t remember the band Citizen King, don’t feel bad – you are not alone. To this day, anytime I hear this song at a bar or on my IPOD, somebody says, “I love Sublime!”

“But no,” I tell them, “it’s not Sublime – its Citizen King.”

I then draw a confusing look that says, “Who is that and why the heck do you know that?”

The question of who Citizen King is isn’t easily answered, because they were very under the radar when they were out, and many members have scooted into relative obscurity since they disbanded.

Citizen King formed in Milwaukee back in 1993 after meeting and hanging out at a bowling alley. After playing Milwaukee clubs and creating a buzz, “Speech” from Arrested Development discovered the band and helped them produce their record Brown Bag in 1995. The record got minimal attention, but the band caught a break in 1997 when they traveled to Austin, Texas for the South by Southwest convention. The head honchos at a subsidiary for Warner Brothers heard them play live and the band was signed to a record deal. By 1999, Mobile Estates came out and featured the one hit the band would deliver.

“Better Days (and the bottom drops out)” spent twelve weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that summer, peaking at #25. It was a very unique sounding song and the one thing I remember most about it is the sampling about 2/3 of the way through, when a woman asks, “Do you like my Gucci bag?” And the guy responds, “Its beautiful, beautiful.”

I have since learned that Malcolm (the groups DJ) found those on some really old blues records. And for that, he should be commended!

From what I can gather, Citizen King’s members (Matt Sims, lead vocals; Kristian Riley, guitar; Malcolm Michiles, turntables; Dave Cooley, keyboards; DJ Brooks, drums) were not at the happiest points of their lives by the time mid-1999 came around. As a result, its not surprising that the band disbanded in late 2000 with little to no fanfare.

From digging around a bit, I have learned that Matt Sims now lives in Germany and is doing retro post punk and electro music. Malcolm Michiles is still doing the turntable thing in Milwaukee. Dave Cooley is a producer in LA. DJ Brooks owned a restaurant in Milwaukee but it recently closed (a delicious” place”, according to my friend in Milwaukee). Nothing could be found about Kristian Riley, though he was with a band called “New Sense” for awhile.

While Citizen King will be forgotten more and more as the years pass, every time I hear the song “Better Days (and the bottom drops out)” I will be taken back to the summer of 1999, a much simpler time, driving in my Isuzu Rodeo with the AC and radio cranked, and not a single worry in the world.

Check out Citizen King’s “Better Day’s” music video here

Until Next Time – Dave O

Check out Citizen King’s “Better Day’s” music video here