Interview with Josh LeMay of Citizen Zero

Citizen Zero
with Song River

Coming from the heartland and out of the rumbling sounds of Detroit, Michigan band members: Josh LeMay - Vocals/Guitar Sammy Boller - Lead Guitar John Dudley - Drums Sam Collins - Bass together comprise Citizen Zero. The ups and downs of life though have lead this band to remain buoyant as the heart of their rock n roll soul can never give way to anything less than creating, recording, touring, and performing the passion of rock n roll.

Song River: Hey Josh, how are you doing today and isn't the weather beautiful for once in Michigan?

Josh LeMay: It is beautiful, we don't really have a chance that often to say that... so I am going to say it! (laughed)

SR: I was digging into your background and found a bio up on the Sonicbids site.

LeMay: Wow, that has got to be old.

SR: Honestly, I find it humorous how words get used in press releases and bios sometimes. When something reads in that in relatively short amount of time band so and so has climbed to the top... looking at yours Citizen Zero started in 2010 and it is now 2016- nothing quick about that is there? You have put in a ton of hard work!

LeMay: (laughed) I think it is to give the illusion that there hasn’t been any blood, sweat or tears going into it.

SR: You guys have gone through some pretty heavy stuff as a group of band mates and friends.

LeMay: Yeah, I can't account for any other bands, but I got to imagine we have had a rockier road than maybe some. If they haven't had difficult times, my hats off to them, because life is crazy.

SR: And you wouldn't have it any other way. You love what you are doing Josh.

LeMay: I wouldn't have it any other way. If we had a choice... we would have quit a long time ago. There is no choice, we love it, this is it.

SR: Really all of you have been messing around with music since you were little kids.

LeMay: We were squirts, yes. I started playing drums actually when I was three. Every single member of the band is generational in the music.

SR: Really?

LeMay: Yes, our grandparents played music and that was passed on down to our dads, and then passed down to us.

SR: On your side of the family Josh where did the line-up fall and what did they do?

LeMay: My grandpa was a Bluegrass player, he grew up in Virginia. He passed away a good few years back, but I have tattoos of things that remind me of what he brought. He was such a huge part of my life. My grandpa grew up going to venues, bars, concerts and that is how he raised my dad, then my dad grew up and raised me that way too.

With my grandpa being a Bluegrass guitar player and my dad a drummer in a rock band, well that is how I have spent my entire life.

SR: When you look back Josh at your childhood was it really that different than all your friends?

LeMay: You know at the time I didn't think so. My dad's buddy he was in a band with was just over here the other day and my girlfriend was in the other room. We were chatting and dad was talking to me about those times growing up and all the crazy stuff that has happened over the years. Then after they left my girlfriend came to me and asked, “What in the hell is wrong with you guys?” (laughed) I guess kind of at that moment it hit me that maybe the way my childhood was wasn’t a totally normal thing.

SR: I suppose as you think towards your own future Josh, that is probably how you are going to be raising your own kids.

LeMay: It is. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn't change a thing.

SR: There is so much to be learned. You really grew up in the honesty of music. That, in turn, is a history in education.

LeMay: That is a great way to pinpoint it to. Music is, to be honest. You need to be doing music because of what it is, for yourself, not for anything else. Being around those kinds of people who are playing their music because they love it, that is a powerful education in history.

SR: I think some of the best songwriting comes from those points of time too.

LeMay: I would agree 100%. We will be releasing a song that will be on our new album coming in August and the whole song is written about getting back to a time of writing a song where we call it the “unconscious unknowing” stage. Which is... you're doing it, you don't even know you're doing it. You don't know the rules, you don't know anything. You're just doing because you have to. Which is arguably the purest form of songwriting there is.

SR: I think that says a whole lot about your relationship personally Josh with music.
As Citizen Zero has been writing this new album Josh and reflected back to all that had occurred with the passing of a former band member, Matt Dudley, talk to me about what happened and the journey now with all of you.

LeMay: I cannot speak for his brothers in the band, but from the time Matt and I had met until the time he passed away I spent every waking moment as a group together working on writing music or going to the bar and getting sauced up so we could write music (laughed). I guess for me, from a songwriting standpoint I am super 'eyes-wide-open.' I am easily inspired.

Of course, an event like that is going to trigger an emotional reaction. A song from something like that is going to come out of it for me. It could be a feeling that makes its way into a song, or a vibe or whatever.

For John our drummer, Matt's brother, he has said it a thousand times he can't imagine that his brother would have wanted him to stop playing music and quit. It would have been easier along the way, but he never did and WE never did. Johnny strongly believes his brother would have wanted the music to go on.

SR: Can you tell us what did happen?

LeMay: Yeah, I can give you the 'Cliffsnotes' version.

I was in a band with three brothers, there was Matt, John, and Greg. We had gotten some traction in Detroit and had attracted some people who were wanting to work with us. At the time, we were thinking this was going to help progress our career forward, and they did big time. So, we ended up working with those guys and cut a record on April 3rd. I remember that day so well. We were all in the room and we worked for nine hours straight on just two songs. We just killed it. Matt playing guitar, all of us switching off ideas with the producers at the time, it was really a positive experience.

On April 4th, we had a noon call time to be back in the studio. I get a text from Matt, maybe around 10:30 am and it said, “Hey just going to let you know I am not going to make it into the studio today.” And at the time we are all unsigned musicians working day jobs, so I didn't think anything of it, thinking okay he is stuck at work probably. A couple of hours later I texted him that we were all still in the studio, could maybe come in and do his guitar part because I suck at guitar, and there was no answer. Again, I didn't think anything of it and just went about the day and I get a frantic phone call from John, our drummer, in this crazy phone call let me know that Matt had committed suicide. I don't know the reasons, to be honest. Of course, it knocked the wind out of our sails, but within a couple of weeks, the brothers said, “We are not giving up. He wouldn't have wanted us to give up.”

SR: You got to pick up the pieces no matter how difficult they are.

Maybe, if the band wants to reach out to an organization called, To Write Love On Her Arms. There might be a connection you all could bring together in helping others who are coping with loss, contemplating their own struggles, etc...

LeMay: I know John has been wanting to check out different things and get involved to help others too.

SR: I will send their information over to you Josh so you can share.

Back to your music. If you were to describe “Detroit” based rock sound, how would you explain it?

LeMay: You know I try to keep my eyes open and look for that myself. I can't quite figure out Detroit. It is a weird town. I love it here. I guess you could say it is really eclectic. There is a huge indie and electronic scene here. Those are big enough to say they stand out. As for rock, we have always had a great loyal following here. There are super bad ass rock venues here and the venues really put a lot of funds into them. Actually, Flint, which has been in the news a lot, has The Machine Shop. Which is legendary.

SR: Ah, yes.

LeMay: We were just doing Rocklahoma and Rock On The Range and all these people were traveling from all over the country. And in both places Oklahoma and the other one in Ohio we so many people wearing Machine Shop apparel it was insane.

SR: Do you have a place you like to play when you are back home?

LeMay: The two that stand out are The Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac, MI and of course The Machine Shop in Flint.

SR: You signed with Wind-up Records recently, and how has that been treating you?

LeMay: Yeah, it would just be over a month or so ago. It is a fresh partnership. The ink is still drying. (laughed) It is really good. You know going back to when I was a kid, you grew up with stories of how the record label is the enemy... now bare in mind... we went into thinking how do you get signed, and why aren’t we getting headway and why not us? We showcased for other labels, no explanation was given, the old it's not you... it's us.

So, Wind-up came along and it was an incredibly human reaction with them. No stock responses, they hung out with us, they had interesting things to say to us, total honest vibe to them. The more we got to know them the more we saw just how genuine they are. It is an amazing family feel. I can't help maybe thinking really this is fate. We've always wanted a family to feel to what we have created. They have that. There is no stifling our creativity. We are sort of this little island and they are just pushing us and pushing us. We are super busy. We are ingrained so much into our art and we just love it. They are totally emotionally invested in us as we are in them.

SR: I think we are seeing this shift in how we interact with each other.

LeMay: I think so too. It is way more human. Less machine, more human.

SR: I think you would probably agree with Josh that the arts usually lead the way in society and culture.

LeMay: I hope we are seeing this shift. “GO (Let Me Save You)” is our first single. It was written about a singular event but now means so much more. It was inspired by that Sandy Hook tragedy with the lack of integrity the media reported on it with their own agenda. That is a sign of our times. I think especially rock n roll it should be a 100% a reflection of our times. If you’re going to be in a rock band it should be unadulterated, full, just say it.

SR: Freedom has a voice and it has to come out in rock n roll.

LeMay: There is more power in music than in anything.

SR: Where did the name Citizen Zero come from?

LeMay: It came from an idea back in 2010. The idea of one person in history has been able to change history for the better or the worst. It could be a terrorist like Hitler, or someone who brought about peace like Martin Luther King... it's about any citizen can be that paradigm shift. It is not easy to go after something you love. It's terrifying and there are low points, but it's worth the fight. And courage can come from anybody.

SR: The album, State of Mind, really goes with the whole band process.

LeMay: All of it together, fate or not, goes together. Buoyancy is the way, stay afloat. We believe in what we are and what we do.

C I T I Z E N   Z E R O +  f a c e b o o k