Citizen Zero’s Josh LeMay Interview
Every once in awhile I discover an old fashioned rock ‘n roll gem of an album in my InBox. Believe me, it’s becoming a more rare experience as the market is flooded with either overly pretty or dirty rock, but I still thirst for straight-forward rock ‘n roll. Citizen Zero has delivered exactly that on their new album State Of Mind, and I took a few minutes to chat with frontman about the album, the Orlando tragedy, Chris Cornell, and a bunch of other things.
Cretin: Congrats on your debut album State Of Mind. It’s been in the can for a while, right?
Josh LeMay: Yeah, that’s an understatement. There’s a whole back catalog of songs that are still in the library, and eventually, they’ll see the light of day, but we picked the 11 that are most cohesive for this record, which we’ve been writing for over two years. “It’s a unique opportunity” is how we spin it in a positive light, but really, it just took a long time.
Cretin: Why so long?
Josh LeMay: There was a lot of red tape to cut through. Nobody really gets to see how the sausage is made, and it was a lot of making the sausage to get to this point, but we are finally able to get to release it soon.
Cretin: And you picked up a record label, Wind-Up Records, somewhere in the middle of that process.
Josh LeMay: We did. We signed not that long ago, maybe about a month ago.
Cretin: So they basically bought into a finished product.
Josh LeMay: It wasn’t completely finished. They got us involved with a guy named Jay Baumgartner to remix the album and really give the album life. That was their hand in this record. They heard it and thank God fell in love with it and here we are getting brought to the game.
Cretin: Tell me a little more about the new album?
Josh LeMay: It will be released in August. It’s an album called State Of Mind, and it’s just about that; human beings having a comparable state of mind despite all of the B.S. that goes on in our everyday lives and how we overcome. The whole thing is about buoyancy and keeping your head afloat.
Cretin: The album is stacked with dynamic rock tunes that seem built for rock radio. Have you received any feedback from radio or the critics of the world?
Josh LeMay: Not yet, but it’s only a matter of time, right? There’s a lyric on the album, in the song “Home.” It says, “I’m tired of trying to be everything to everybody, I think I’ll just be all things to a few.” That’s something we started living by because it’s tremendously less stressful to not try to please everybody.
Cretin: That’s sage advice. So, Citizen Zero’s sound reminds me a bit of Red Sun Rising’s Polyester Zeal – a straight-forward rock album jammed with catchy rock tunes, and they’ve been doing pretty well for themselves. Are you familiar with the band from Akron?
Josh LeMay: Absolutely, they’re doing okay (laughing. We had a chance to hang out with them and play at Rock On the Range. As musicians, we appreciate guys who are great entertainers and great musicians live. They are a live band. You can kind of hear it and feel it on the record and we’re hoping people get the same vibe listening to us. We are still in the hoping stage now. Thank God they’ve proven that there’s still an audience for bad ass live rock ‘n roll. And “live” is the key word there.
Cretin: I totally agree. I felt it was refreshing when I first heard their album, and had similar feelings with your State Of Mind. So, you are also from the Midwest. How has your Detroit upbringing impacted the band?
Josh LeMay: I think yes. It may not be obvious but the more I get this question the more I think it does. Detroit is known for being a ‘no bullshit fly zone’ town. If you are not original or you’re trying to be something that you are not, this is a place where you are gonna get called out for it. It’s made us be realize the more honest we can be with the music, the better it’s going to be.
Cretin: The first single is “Go (Let Me Save You),” did I read that was inspired by the media reaction to Sandy Hook.
Josh LeMay: The whole lyrical content of that song was written in about 15 minutes. As I was watching the events unfold I started paying attention to the way the media was portraying it. The lyrics were written after Sandy Hook tragedy but it’s just as relevant today with Orlando.
Cretin: Yeah, I can definitely see that.
Josh LeMay: First of all there were so many missed reportings and so much wrong information that was sent out. But the worst part was that the law enforcement there pushed the media back a few hundred feet. The media was shooting it’s way through the mobs of law enforcement to get shots of the families to capture the looks of devastation on the families’ faces. There was this close-up from hundreds of feet away of this mom and dad who we have to assume just lost their child and they’re bawling their eyes out live in front of a million people. It was just insane to me. It really concreted in my head that all of these media affiliates operate with their own agenda and very little integrity and it happens every time we have one of these tragedies.
Cretin: Yeah the media treats regular private people like they’re Hollywood celebrities where you’re always in their sites.
Josh LeMay: Yeah, in a weird twisted way, it is almost glorified.
Cretin: And I was going to ask if you felt it applied to the Orlando situation, because after listening to the lyrics, it seemed that the national media was looking for the most sensational, agonizing shots.
Josh LeMay: You’re right, and also, within an hour of that happening, you had the right-siders and left-siders going to battle over what’s to blame.
Cretin: Yeah I wrote a piece (You can read it here) on that the night this happened and all of the political bullshit had already started.
Josh LeMay: It’s amazing and the media has created that… social media has created that. It’s given everybody a voice and at sometimes you don’t need a voice, you need to have respect.
Cretin: OK, let’s get back to the album. “Come Away” is my personal favorite, can you share a little about the creation of that one?
Josh LeMay: I was flying to Dallas the next day when we were recording that song. We were in the studio and we have this motto that if things are going well, we stay in the room. You don’t want to leave something unfinished when the creativity is free flowing. We cruised through the recording process and I was feeling this melody I had, and the lyrics were pouring out. I had an 8AM flight, and by this time, it’s 1:00 AM and we kept thinking. “Let’s stay in the room a little longer,” and we did. We finished the song that night, but I had to stay up all night before catching that flight…
Cretin: What’s your favorite track to play live?
Josh LeMay: “Bangin’ In the Nails” is my absolute favorite song to play live. Musically, it’s a bad ass song to play. There’s no one point where the three guitars (two guitars and a bass) are playing the same thing. Everybody’s doing something different and it’s this wall of sound.
Cretin: Speaking of guitars, your band has endured some heartache with the death of your original guitarist?
Josh LeMay: Our original line-up was the three Dudley brothers and myself singing. Matt was the original guitar player and he committed suicide in April of 2013 which took us completely by storm. We didn’t know what would happen from that point, and ended up finding Sammy on YouTube. The first song Sammy and I ever wrote was “Go” which is now the single. It’s sort of poetic that our first single ends up being the first song that Sammy and I wrote.
Cretin: That’s an awesome story.
Josh LeMay: Yeah it’s weird that these years later, it’s our first song.
Cretin: You have a gritty distinctive voice that I love. It’s just built for rock ‘n roll. Do you have any inspirations as a vocalist?
Josh LeMay: Definitely. I’m a huge fan of Chris Cornell obviously. Myles Kennedy, I was a fan of his first band Mayfield Four?
Cretin: I don’t think I ever listened to them.
Josh LeMay: Check those guys out. The record they did with “Sick and Wrong” on it is unbelievable and his voice is just ridiculous.
Cretin: I saw him with Alter Bridge at a Welcome To Rockville a few years ago and he just blew me away live.
Josh LeMay: He’s a monster as far as vocalists go. Cornell is my favorite lyricist. I don’t think he’s ever written a happy song but it doesn’t matter. The guy knows how to twist words that play with your head like crazy. Another one of my favorites who might not get the credit he deserves is Brandon Boyd from Incubus. Listening to him growing up was one of my first loves as a vocalist. I kind of hold him in the same category as those other two.
Cretin: What do you think of Cornell’s last album?
Josh LeMay: I totally love it, but I’m biased. You could be like “Chris Cornell did this song on kazoo,” and I’d be like “fuck that’s great.”
Cretin: That album, Higher Truth was our RARA’s Farm Album of the Year in 2015.
Josh LeMay: It was awesome and that first song, “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” and the haunting mandolin part at the beginning is great. The dude is a genius. Have you ever listened to Euphoria Morning?
Cretin: I haven’t.
Josh LeMay: If you get one thing out of today, do me a favor and listen to Chris Cornell’s Euphoria Morning, the whole album from front to back is unbelievable.
Cretin: He’s one of those guys who deserves the title genius.
Josh LeMay: Yeah, he does not suck.
Cretin: You’ve toured with some big names and hit a few festivals, have you learned anything from those experiences that has helped your career?
Josh LeMay: Totally, we always pick up on stuff like that. We’re constantly picking up little nuances but at the same time it has been really important to us to have our own identity. You don’t want to compare your path to someone else’s because there is no right way or wrong way to get where you are going.
Cretin: When will we see you guys on the road?
Josh LeMay: It’s about to be announced. We’ll be out all of August, from East Coast to West Coast, but no Florida in there yet, but soon.
Cretin: Yeah, for some reason, no one likes to hit Florida in the summer.
Josh LeMay: Maybe because it’s the fact that it’s like a wet oven there all summer.
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