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Citizen Zero’s Josh LeMay on Representing Detroit, Touring With Steel Panther + More [Carolina Rebellion Interview]

Detroit rockers Citizen Zero have been around for several years, and released their full-length debut State of Mind last year. It spawned the singles “Go (Let Me Save You)” and “Lure and Persuade,” which were the first two songs of their set at Carolina Rebellion. They are up and comers, and added a lot of new fans with their energetic performance. You can check out photos from that performance above.

Frontman Josh LeMay is a very charismatic guy with an optimistic attitude and down-to earth-vibe. Loudwire chatted with him about the band’s rise to success, touring with Steel Panther and other topics.

About nine months after your album State Of Mind came out, how did its response compare to your expectations?

It’s amazing. We were so excited leading up to the record, because it was our first record under a label, with a national tour behind it right away. Up to this point we have waited our entire lives to essentially release that first record. We had this major moment when it first came out, and then ever since then we’ve just been riding the wave.

It’s been everything we could have asked for and more. We’re so grateful for what we get to do every single day that we never really get a chance to sit there and go, “Are we where we want to be?” And think, “Yes, we definitely where we want to be.” Everybody’s got this cool mindset of just being happy at what we’re doing. Just going to keep that going as long as we can.

You’ve been at this a while. How did you make the leap from local Detroit band to a national band with a successful record?

It’s work, no matter what everybody says. Anybody that’s at this festival has gone through very similar stuff, whether it’s industry cliches of nasty contracts and all that kind of stuff, just grinding it out. You know, you’re trying to rig the lotto. It’s like we’re all stupid, is really what it is. You just got to be stupider than the other guy who eventually gives up because it’s too hard. You’ve just got to know there is no plan B, and go head first and as fast as you can.

Tell me about the first time you ever heard a song of yours on the radio.

It wasn’t even in Detroit. We were on the West Coast somewhere, I don’t even remember where it was, and just happened to be listening to the rock station on the way to a show that we were playing, and it came on. It was like you wanted to pull over and get out and start running, telling everybody. It was amazing. I’m never going to get used to it. We’re never going to get used to success at all. Stay hungry. Or maybe we’ll just never be fulfilled and be really sad forever. (laughs)

You just released an orchestral version of “Bang on the Nails.” What inspired that?

When we wrote it, it had bunch of instrumentation behind it, and it was just this epic song that from the moment we wrote it. It was one of those songs that deserved to have a larger than life sound. To put all these incredible musicians in one room, and just to get down on it and play it live was awesome. That’s a thing that we’ve always prided ourselves on doing, is the fact that we grew up third generation musicians in our families, and our dads were kicking our asses if we didn’t play live.

When we did that, it was just like our moment of, “This is what we’ve been waiting for, to do something epic like this.” It’s so cool that people are responding to it the way that they are because a bunch of work went into it and it’s just cool to see how people are like, “Okay, we get it.”

Is there any way to incorporate that into a live show?

I would love to do that. There’s been talk about it at home, so yeah, hopefully. That would be amazing.

What does a festival like Carolina Rebellion do for a newer band such as Citizen Zero?

We just got back from a tour with Steel Panther, and the only reason people knew in some markets that we were there was because we were on the bill, and they go, “Oh, Citizen Zero, let’s check them out.” All of a sudden, you’ve got somebody else that maybe you wouldn’t have had any other way.

Rebellion is that on a very, very large scale for smaller bands like us that are coming up. We get a chance to play for fans of other bands that have never heard of us. And that’s awesome. We’re keeping rock alive.

You mentioned you were on the road with Steel Panther. What can you learn from a band like them?

It’s a show, man. They just know what they’re doing. They’ve been doing it for so long and they’re so frigging talented, that it’s just amazing to watch guys that every single night are killing it. No matter where they are, if they’re doing six shows in a row, three shows in a row, one show, they’re killing it every single night.

They’ve been doing that for a long time. They’re amazing musicians, so we know that when we go on first, we better do our job because they’re going to be backstage afterwards, and we’re going to have to talk about it if we don’t.

Your hometown of Detroit has taken criticism in recent years …

You’re never going to bring down Detroit. We’ll be the punching bag, that’s fine. It’ll keep all the tourists away. I love it. Detroit is not dead, and we’ll make sure that everybody knows we’re from Detroit no matter what. I’m going to say that ten times today to make sure everybody knows that we love our state.

Have you met Ted Nugent, one of Detroit’s most well-known musicians?

We have. We played with him a couple years ago. He’s a maniac.

Our thanks to Josh LeMay for taking the time to speak with us. Pick up Citizen Zero’s ‘State of Mind’ album here.

Watch Citizen Zero’s Live Music Video for ‘Lure and Persuade’

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