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When done honestly, rock ‘n’ roll can stick with you for a lifetime. It rides shotgun for the whole way, soundtracking those big moments and memories. Once you hear a Citizen Zero song, you remember it.
The Detroit rock outfit—Josh LeMay [vocals], Sammy Boller [lead guitar], John Dudley [drums], and Sam Collins [bass]—deliver arena-size anthems fueled by intricate musicianship on their full-length debut album, State of Mind [Wind-up Records]. Striking a balance between edgy grunge attitude a la Stone Temple Pilots and bluesy alternative expanse reminiscent of Kings of Leon, their knack for a hook immediately resonated with a growing national fan base.
“We really focus on writing great songs,” says Josh. “That’s where the connection comes from. People can see that it’s real. There was no plan B for us. If we did this, it was going to be all or nothing.”
Since the release of their first independent EP Life Explodes in 2012, the band has played alongside heavyweights such as Kid Rock, ZZ Top, Halestorm, Royal Blood, Highly Suspect, and more. “Life Explodes” would win the Detroit Music Award for “Outstanding Rock/Pop Recording” in 2013. As their profile rose regionally, they signed to Wind-up Records in early 2016.
Along the way, they cut State of Mind, a record that heralds their arrival with a bang.
“I think the best music comes from the most honest place,” continues Josh. “Being from Detroit, there’s a no fly zone for bullshit. You have to be real, or the people will know. State of Mind is one-hundred percent who we are.”
“That’s something all of us grew up with,” affirms Sam. “It’s the mindset around here.”
The first single “Go (Let Me Save You)” builds from an eerie melody into an overpowering refrain punctuated by an incendiary guitar lead and hypnotic vocal.
“It’s actually the first song Sammy and I wrote together,” Josh remembers. “It happened right after the Sandy Hook tragedy. I was watching the news, and I couldn’t believe how the cameramen were consciously filming crying parents. It was so wrong. Having gone through tragedy, it made me really angry. I had to say something.”
Elsewhere on the record, “When The Rain Comes” couples six-string fireworks with an unshakable chorus that’s both uplifting and undeniable.
“I always wanted to live in Seattle because it rains all the time,” laughs Josh. “The song is literally about how the rain is relaxing and soothing to me for some strange reason.”
Then, there’s “Love Let It.” Tempering an unpredictable sonic backdrop with another powerhouse hook, it holds a special place in the musicians’ hearts.
“It’s the most personal to me,” admits Josh. “When things were really bad, the song was a way to convince ourselves to let our love for what we do overcome everything else. I ended up tattooing ‘Fight to Love’ on myself because everything was a fight to maintain this dream. We thought it would be unacceptable to give up.”
They never have given up—even in the face of the unimaginable. Just as they began rolling in 2012, Citizen Zero endured a tragedy that would shake their brotherhood to its very core.
“John’s brother Matt was our original lead guitar player,” says Josh. “One day he told me he couldn’t make our session, and I didn’t hear back after. A few hours later, John called and told me Matt had committed suicide. It took a bit to get back on our feet, and I couldn’t even imagine a world where John went on without him.”
“After he passed, I didn’t stop playing,” adds John. “I knew he wouldn’t want me to quit. From the beginning, I had to keep going for myself and for Matt.”
Regrouping, the boys turned to YouTube as they sought out someone to fill those big shoes. Searching “Best Detroit Guitar Players,” they found a video of Sammy. At their first audition, everything clicked.
“As soon as I walked in and heard them warming up, that was it,” recalls the guitarist. “John cracked the snare, and it was on. The chemistry was there right away. I knew we were on to something special.”
It’s going to be special for listeners everywhere as well. Their name ultimately hints at big and very attainable ambitions for the band.
“Every generation has a leader who changes things for better or worse,” concludes Josh. “Citizen Zero represents the faceless citizen. It’s the everyday person no better than any of us. However, that any one individual can change the world.”
“We can be the Citizen Zero in rock ‘n’ roll,” John leaves off. “We can be the guys who help bring back musicianship and unforgettable live shows.”