Citizen’s rite of passage

Toledo-based rock band played at this summer's Warped tour

  • Citizen-palettes-jpeg

  • A spot on this summer's Warped tour is supposed to be a big deal to a young band.

    It’s high profile on a national level, draws thousands of high energy young people, and provides a ready-made base of like-minded potential fans. But when Toledo band Citizen found out they had a spot on this year’s tour, their reaction was less than enthusiastic.

    That was until they showed up for their set in Holmdel, N.J., one morning and saw a thousand people waiting for them to play.

    “That was kind of surreal because we were just looking out and thinking like, ‘Wow, we thought this tour was going to suck for us and now we’re playing to more people than we ever have,'” guitarist Nick Hamm said. “That was pretty insane, pretty surreal to be a young and new band touring-wise and to be able to play to that many people.”

    Not since Lollipop Lust Kill in the early 2000s has a Toledo-based rock band received as much national attention as the three-year-old Citizen. The band released its first album on a record label — Run For Cover Records — with production from Will Yip, has toured the country several times, and is riding the buzz of its hyper-melodic buzz-saw guitar sound featured on the single “The Summer.”

    The album, “Youth” even dented Billboard’s Top 200 Chart when it was released in June, reaching 171. The band was on tour when it came out and is finally holding a hometown CD release party Saturday night at Frankie’s Inner City in East Toledo. The show promises to be packed with local Citizen die-hards who have gone months without seeing the band.

    “In the past few years we’ve tried to keep our Toledo shows separated so it feels like an event rather than a show that somebody says, ‘Oh I can just see them in a few weeks,’” Hamm said.

    The band is rounded out by lead singer Mat Kerekes, guitarist Ryland Oehlers, bassist Eric Hamm (Nick’s brother), and drummer Cray Wilson.

    Nick Hamm, 19, a Start High School graduate, said he and his brother and Kerekes formed Citizen three years ago after years of playing in other bands. Their sound at the beginning was “embarrassing,” he said.

    “We were kind of just going through the motions of what a sophomore in high school likes and wants to write. It was a lot less mature than I think our music is now and pretty undeveloped,” Hamm said.

    Over time they began to find their creative footing and, inspired by bands such as New Found Glory and The Wonder Years, Citizen developed its own propulsive, tight sound.

    “Youth” was recorded at Studio 4 in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania with Yip, who produced an album by Blacklisted that impressed Nick Hamm.

    “His recordings are very raw and very honest. He doesn’t mess with a lot of studio takes. He just tries to get the best take you can and make any musician recording there feel comfortable,” Hamm said.

    He is especially proud of the song “The Summer,” a dark, hooky, three-minute melodic rocker that captures the emotional fallout of a rocky relationship. It was the result of a more collaborative form of writing for the band, something Hamm enjoyed.

    “I don’t think I’ve ever been that proud of a song and as soon as we wrote it we knew it would be the first thing we would release off of the album,” he said.

    “It definitely is something that we wanted people to hear before anything else. Because it’s so collaborative I think it captures the gist of our band.”

    To hear “The Summer,” go to the band’s Web site,

    Citizen will play at Frankie’s, 308 Main St., Saturday night. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the opening bands are Freedom, React, Pity Sex, and Hostage Calm. Tickets are $10 in advance and are available at all TicketMaster outlets, by phone at 419-474-1333,, and at Culture Clash (419-536-5683), and Ramalama Records (419-531-7625). Tickets are $12 at the door.

    Contact Rod Lockwood at: or 419-724-6159.