Latvia’s Eurovision selection is set to kick off this coming Saturday, and we were fortunate enough to meet with Citi Zēni before the semi-finals began. Together we talked about how the band came together, their viral Supernova song, and how much they love the contest!
Hello there Citi Zēni – thanks for taking some time out of your day to interview with us. Why don’t you tell our readers a bit about yourself and the band?
Where do we start? We usually characterize ourselves as a 6-piece musical act from Latvia, whose music can be described as a recently shaken and suddenly opened can of soda. We are self-proclaimed princes of rap & divas of 21st century pop sounds. What can we add? Yes, we have selected explosive performance energy & eccentric style as cornerstones of ‘Citi Zēni’.
However, in the context of Eurovision – we are one of the contenders to represent Latvia in this year’s contest. Our song “Eat Your Salad” is the reason why we are here. Thank you for having us!
Wonderful thank you so much! And you were recently announced as a participant for Supernova 2022. What has life been like since you were announced as a participant?
It was a surprise we really expected to be honest. We approached Supernova as a platform for bringing our message to a wider audience. It is very serious for us – we organized 3 songwriting camps, wrote 30+ songs, analyzed the success of the participants before us and only then decided to participate ourselves.
As for the impact on our life – there are no crowds of fans outside our apartments, no discounts in stores and even law enforcement still are giving us tickets, while we are rushing to all the rehearsals. On a serious note – we don’t feel a massive change quite yet, because we have not had the time to reflect. Currently we are focused on the contest itself. There will be time to look back & enjoy the results once it has finished.
As you mentioned, Citi Zēni is made up of six members. How did you first meet and when did you decide to create the group as it is now?
This must be the most popular question we get! All of us have different backgrounds, so we met one another in different times during our lives. All of us together met for the first time in March of 2020, for a songwriting camp in a beautiful place outside of Riga. We met at a weird time of our lives, where we were at crossroads about our further careers. The motto of the camp was: “NOW OR NEVER” and apparently the “NOW” could not have come at a better time. We have since played numerous concerts, gained the trust of local listeners and we are grateful for that. On a professional note – in these 2 years we managed to release a full-length album, multiple singles, we have been nominated for 4 local Grammies and also we just placed second in the running for the best single last year. All in all – it has been amazing.
That is an amazing motto – and I would say it created a great product! If you had to describe your music to someone, what words, descriptions, or phases might you use?
Neo-soul, jazz, groove, R&B, hip-hop, acapella & everything in between. All these musical influences are covered in a heavy sauce of satire, fun and originality via the lyrics. That makes our understandin of pop music.
We are not afraid to step across any set musical canons, because we believe that it is necessary to do so in order to drive any sort of evolution. That is our goal, to let the world know that Latvia has a wonderful music industry, which is ripe for listening. Oh, and we are doing all this while being sexy and green.
Now this is your first time participating in the Latvian national final Supernova. What made you decide to submit an entry this year?
We had a feeling that it would be a logical next step for our career. We are young, full of energy and ideas – this is our time to shine. Nobody cares about music that is soul-less, thus we want to capture & document what it is like – living as 20-year-olds nowadays. It is bonkers, but that is what our lives are like. We hope that we manage to share at least a little bit of our energy and experiences with all the listeners that are ready to hear what we have to say.
Our dream, however, is to write a wonderful album in English with a label on it “MADE IN LATVIA”. If we are selected to go to Eurovision, we will have the reason to finally finish it & release it soon after visiting Turin. Maybe this will serve as a motivation to send us there for somebody reading this.
Well I for one can’t wait to hear the album if it ever gets released! Of course, I want to ask you about your song “Eat Your Salad” which opens with some pretty attention-grabbing lyrics in the first line. Tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind your song and how it came together.
There were two main sources of inspiration. The first one came a couple of years back when Jānis (our lead singer) noticed that a vegan friend of his was wearing a T-shirt that said, “Instead of meat, I eat p*ssy”. He noted that in his folder of lyrical ideas and it got lost for some time. Then it was brought back, when he participated in a TV show for cooking, where one of the participants was a hard-core raw vegan. She inspired him to change his views on the environment around us and then came the challenge – can we write & develop this into a song that would not be depressing. That is when the analogy of making green lifestyle sexy came to be. Those are two themes that are seemingly untethered, but we hope we managed to find the knot that ties them together.
Our aim is to make a hard topic easy to digest & fun to listen to. That is why we decided to lyrically pursue a tone that is full of irony and satire. I guess you could say that the development of the song itself was quite professional in the sense that the idea & message came before any finished music or lyrics. All in all, we think we succeeded. The song has gained popularity to a degree we could not have ever imagined.
I did notice that your song is going viral on Eurovision TikTok from blind reactions, memes, and dance videos. Did you ever expect that the song would go viral in such a short time?
Never! We hoped it would, but we never expected such reaction. There are currently over 4000 TikToks with our song, they have been viewed more than 40 million times, we have reached more than 230k listeners on YouTube and more than 130k streams on Spotify. All of this in three weeks. I guess we just are talking about something that needed to be said.
We are extremely grateful to all our listeners – the more of us are there, the bigger the movement behind our message. I hope we all know that being green really is sexy nowadays.
I think with the attention it’s got we can safely assume that it is! And with such an upbeat, catchy, and energetic song, I have to imagine there’s a big plan for the live show – what can we expect to see from you on the Supernova stage this weekend?
We have huge ideas, but not all of them can be made possible in the short timespan we were given until the semi-finals. Additionally, the capabilities of the national selection are quite a lot more limited than those of say Benidorm fest in Spain. We come from a small country, but our goals are grand.
For Supernova we focused on what we can bring & later transfer to the big stage in Italy. We have massive energy, amazing choreography all while playing our instruments. We know that those are pre-recorded according to the rules of ESC, but we wanted to stay true to ourselves. We are a live band; thus, we play live even if nobody hears it. We will definitely hold back some parts of our performance in the semi-final, but the final performance will be EPIC. There needs to be some growth.
The winner of Supernova will go on to Eurovision to represent Latvia in Turin. Are you all fans of the contest? If so, do you have any favorite entries?
It has been the childhood dream for all of us – to go to Eurovision & represent Latvia. Because of this we have watched the contest every year and we have never been disappointed by the acts. We would not want to single out any all-time best performance, because there have been so many, but we really loved one of last year’s contenders – Daði og Gagnamagnið. They have it all, but most importantly – they have managed to capture the hearts & minds of their audience after the contest as well.
As we wrap up, for those who want to connect with you ahead of or after the selection– where can they find you and your music?
Everywhere! Our music is out on all major platforms – Spotify, Apple music, YouTube, hell – even Tinder. Go and stream. Spread the love! Eat some veggies & hopefully some p*ssy too!
Last question – is there any message you’d want to share with the ESCUnited readers?
We hope you have a great time today, tomorrow and all the way until Eurovision as well as after it. It is all for fun, thus let us enjoy the ride.
Well guys thank you for taking some time to speak with us and we wish you the best of luck during Supernova!