Growing up in a Christian household, Kelci Smith listened to a lot of religious music.
“My parents are super conservative Christians,” says the songwriter from Rockville, Maryland. “That was kind of my experience and my upbringing — and I was a part of that for a really long time.”
Smith would go on to form a Christian-leaning band called Kindlewood. But her feelings toward religion began to change while studying at the Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas. She felt herself drifting away from her religious community.
That’s the message within “This Fabric,” a song Smith recorded with her new band, Citrine.
The tune is “a declaration of needing to cut ties from a lot of my past and a lot of things that I was afraid about writing about,” says Smith.
“I won’t play that game/Always second-guessing forward motion,” she sings on the dreamy pop track, her vocals complemented by bright electronics and tropical notes. “This fabric is suffocating.”
In contrast to Kindlewood — a group entrenched in the then-trendy folk scene — Citrine sounds like a cousin of ethereal rockers the Cocteau Twins. But Smith says the band takes care to draw from a variety of sources, from Lauryn Hill to Santana.
“I really tried to dig back into what I listened to in high school,” says Smith, “even though I wasn’t really allowed to listen to much outside of Christian radio.”
Smith recognizes that her new direction could be alienating to people from her past, including her family. But her siblings also play secular-ish music: Her brother, Josh Tillman, is otherwise known as Father John Misty, and her other brother Zach records as Pearly Gate Music. These days, Smith says she’s ready to be vulnerable, while exercising her creativity in the process.
Citrine is rounded out by guitarist Galen Smith (Kelci’s husband, who also played in Kindlewood) and drummer Beau Cole. Based in Baltimore, the trio recorded “This Fabric” in a factory that produces bridge supports. The space smells like chemicals, Smith says, and it hums with activity during the week. But Citrine recorded its entire debut EP, April, in one weekend, wrapping in time for workers to return Monday.
The prolific recording session may have benefited from luck — which is apt, given the meaning behind the band’s moniker.
“I picked the name Citrine because I wanted a little bit of luck,” Smith says, “and the crystal citrine is supposed to bring happiness… and good fortune.”
Citrine’s debut EP, April, comes out April 22.