An Interview with Citizen: Heaven Sent

Toledo, Ohio-based quintet Citizen are back on the road in support of the Vans Warped Tour for the first time since 2013. Around that time, the band received an overwhelming amount of praise in the pop punk community immediately after the release of their debut full-length, Youth.

Not only are Citizen making their return to the Vans Warped Tour this summer, they are also celebrating the release of Everybody Is Going To Heaven, an innovative sophomore follow-up effort that brings to life a refreshing musical avenue that captures the progression of the band since releasing Youth. While critics and fans alike have made comparisons to Brand New’s The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, Everybody Is Going To Heaven is an intriguing entity of its own that strays away from the band’s beloved pop punk sound.

When the band started their first run of dates on the Vans Warped Tour, I had the chance to briefly chat with Citizen guitarist Nick Hamm and talk about how Warped has been treating them so far, what to expect from their upcoming sets this summer, as well as the transition that influenced Citizen’s highly matured direction on their sophomore full-length, Everybody Is Going To Heaven.

Not too long ago, you started your first run of dates of the Vans Warped Tour. How has this first week of shows been treating you so far?

It’s been really, really cool. I think when we do a festival tour like Warped, we’re really only hitting a small portion of our fanbase, so it’s cool that the crowds are still big and responsive. I’ve been really surprised.

How do you think your time on the Warped Tour will be different this time around?

We’re playing new songs that might seem initially out of place, but I think it offers something that doesn’t already exist on the tour, which is important—even if people aren’t really into it.

What were some of your fondest memories from the last time Citizen played on the Vans Warped Tour, or even from when you’ve attended in the past?

I watched [drummer] Ryland Oehlers pit to Aiden at Warped Tour once. I think I un-ironically like Aiden so that was sick.

Since you have a short amount of time to play throughout the summer, have you guys been focusing on playing mostly new songs off of Everybody Is Going To Heaven? Or have you been also throwing a good variety of older material in the mix as well?

We’re doing three new songs and five old songs. I think it’s the smartest mix because the record really won’t catch on lyrically until maybe August. So we don’t want to overdo it.

With that being said, how do you think people have been reacting to hearing the new material from Everybody Is Going To Heaven live, since the record is completely fresh in people’s minds?

I think people seem more focused and interested during those songs. It seems like they’re taking it in more than a song that might spark a head bobbing or something. It seems like people are down but you never know.

Getting into the writing and recording process for Everybody Is Going To Heaven, how has Citizen changed personally and musically since releasing Youth? What were some of the events that led to the band’s current direction of your sound on this record?

The list is long. We’re literally a different group of people if you take into consideration that [guitarist] Jake Duhaime joined the band post-Youth. He is a big tastemaker in Citizen. Him and I bounce ideas back and forth constantly, and we’re always taking in new music and art. Besides that, I think the difference between being 18 and being 21 is huge. I just feel so different. I can’t point to any events specifically besides growing a bit older.

Considering the anticipation of this follow-up, were there any lingering pressures in the back your mind that Everybody Is Going To Heaven was not going to live up to Youth in any way?

Absolutely not! I think we were ready to show a more true version of Citizen. I think people sort of talk about the album as if it’s going to be our “weird record” or something but this is just closer to the music we like.

When you first released singles like “Cement” and “Stain,” I’ve read many comparisons to The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me-era Brand New. From a personal standpoint, who would you say were influences that shaped the band’s sound on Everybody Is Going To Heaven?

            It’s funny to me because I think that people have their fingers on the trigger on that one. I don’t hear it at a lot of the points that others do. But I like them [Brand New] and they’re more popular than ever, so I’ll take it. I think what I was influenced by didn’t really come across on the LP. Maybe “Stain” with the Touch & Go-type stuff but a song like “Weave Me (Into Yr Sin)” doesn’t really sound like anything to me. We were all really proud of that one for that reason.

By the time you continue to play these new tracks live, do think fans who might need more time to digest the new record will be more receptive and open to the Everybody Is Going To Heaven?

100 percent. I think the shows will only be more exciting as the album cycle continues.

After Warped Tour, what are some plans that you have in the works for the rest of the year? I assume there will definitely be a lot of heavy touring in support of the new record this fall, correct?

We’re doing some shows with Taking Back Sunday in September. I can’t quite say in regards to the rest but I will say that 2015 and 2016 is going to be an extremely fun touring era for Citizen. We have some really cool stuff in the books. I can’t wait!
Citizen are currently on the road this summer, supporting the Vans Warped Tour, which will be making stops at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden on July 10, the Jones Beach Amphitheatre in Wantagh on July 11, and the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel on July 19. Their sophomore full-length, Everybody Is Going To Heaven, is available now on Run For Cover Records. For more information, go to