To read about Citi Zēni in their own words, read our interview with the band from February 4.
No Eurovision act this season has made a bigger splash than Citi Zēni did in the first 15 seconds of their Supernova-winning entry “Eat Your Salad”. So it should have come as no surprise that Latvia, Eurovision’s notorious wildcard nation, chose them to represent the country in Turin. But just who are these crazy cat lovers?
They Began as Teenage Rockers
Citi Zēni began its life in 2009, as a band created by five school friends who wanted to expand their music skills. The group, known then as simply ‘The Citizens’, had six members and began playing gigs around Riga in 2010, eventually recording their first song that September.
Though other vocalists and musicians have swept through the band in the following years, two of the founders are still active members of the group in its current form: Jānis Pētersons (vocals) and Reinis Višķeris (keyboards). The other current members of Citi Zēni (drummer Toms Kagainis, vocalist and saxophonist Dagnis Roziņš, bass player and producer Roberts Memmēns, and guitarist Krišjānis Ozols) joined the band in more recent incarnations.
Throughout the early ’10s, The Citizens released a number of singles, played school and local gigs and, in 2012, celebrated their two year anniversary with the release of their debut EP titled “Truth”. (Stream the full EP in player to the right.) In 2013, while enrolled at the University of Latvia, The Citizens competed in the school-wide music competition Hadrons and released a new single titled “1100“.
But it was a more high-profile gig in 2013 that really got the band noticed and gave them momentum to continue recording music. Funny thing was, this was an opportunity they had attempted once before.
They’ve Competed on TV Before
In March of 2011, the original incarnation of The Citizens appeared on two episodes of Troksnis 3, a music competition show on the youth-oriented TV program SeMS. Bands would perform on episodes in groups of three, and the act with the highest number of votes from the public would move on to the next round. You can watch the members’ fun little introductions, and a couple of their performances on the show, below:
The group would go on to win the public vote during their first appearance. Though they didn’t manage to make it out of their second appearance in June (watch here), they returned two years later as one of 18 quarterfinalists on Troksnis 4. (One of their competitors, TAX Free, was a band Eurovision 2016 artist Justs began with his friends when he was 16.) Watch one The Citizens’ Troksnis 4 performances below:
The Citizens made the competition’s semi-finals, but came up just short of reaching the final night. Still, with the added notoriety and name recognition, the band began work on their debut album, 2015’s “Concrete Dreams”. You can stream it below:
They’ve Been Reborn and Rebranded
After the release of “Concrete Dreams”, The Citizens sat fallow for a few years. Other than performing a handful of times per year at weddings and special events, the members of the group scattered to do their own things. (More on that later.) But, in May 2019, the band reemerged with an updated, more SEO-friendly name (The Citizens LV) and a sound they themselves described as “alternative unicorn pop”. You can watch the music video for their comeback single,”Skatos Uz Tevi”, below:
At the time of the song’s release, The Citizens LV consisted of original members Jānis and Reinis, current Citi Zēni members Krišjānis and Toms, and (soon to depart) bass player Mārtiņš Jaunzems. Two more singles followed in quick succession in July and November of that year.
As they told ESC United in an interview earlier this month, things changed in March of 2020 when the boys from The Citizens LV met Roberts and Dagnis at a songwriting camp. Soon enough, those two were absorbed into the group, giving everyone a chance to refresh and rebrand.
“Initially, we invited [Roberts] as a producer, then Dagnis also appeared with a saxophone, and he also sang, and we realized that everyone and everything is on the way, ” Jānis explained in an interview. “In the past, it seemed that something was missing, but now everything is fine.”
And thus … Citi Zēni was born!
After the group debuted their first single, “Vienmēr Kavēju”, with a performance on the July 27, 2020, episode of TV quiz show Gudrs, vēl gudrāks, they were met with chart success and much fanfare. A number of singles followed over the next year, including the song “Limuzīns Uz Krīta”, which won them 2nd place at the 2020 edition of Muzikālā banka. (Watch the performance here.)
Lest you think they were ever in danger of becoming square or too mainstream, they also paired up with a touring male stripper review around that time, composing a quick song and shooting a video that features one of the stars of the show demonstrating his talents.
Finally, in the spring of last year, the current and complete line-up of Citi Zēni released their debut album “Suņi iziet ielās”. You can stream it here.
So Who are These Guys?
As mentioned above, keyboardist Reinis Višķeris is one of the two remaining founding members of The Citizens. A graduate of the Ulbrock School of Music and Arts and Riga Technical Institute, he has been an active member of his local community. He served on the Stopiņi County Youth Council and organized music education events. In addition to Citi Zēni, Reinis is a member of Ulbroka, a choir that has competed and performed across Europe. Watch a clip of them in concert below:
Drummer Toms Kagainis has been a member of the gang since the band reemerged as The Citizens LV in 2019. Currently a drum teacher at the youth music club BJMK, he has been involved with several musical projects, including:
- instrumental jazz trio Madara, with Supernova 2018 3rd place finisher Madara Fogelmane
- swing cover band The Originals, with three members of Supernova 2018 10th place finishers Ritvars
- an instrumental post punk project with Rihards Libietis of Ritvars
Additionally, 2022 was not Toms’ first bite at Supernova. In 2019, he and his band ATOM were shortlisted for the contest and performed in the live audition rounds with the song “Alligator”:
Like Toms, guitarist Krišjānis Ozols has been involved with the band since its reemergence as The Citizens LV and currently teaches at BJMK. In the beginning of his music career, he regularly performed with Supernova 2020 long-lister Elizabete Gaile. (Watch them perform together here.)
Both bass player/producer Roberts Memmēns and vocalist/saxophonist Dagnis Rozins rose to prominence on X Faktors, in seasons two and three respectively. (Of note: Supernova stalwart Markus Riva has been the host of X Faktors since it began in 2017.) Roberts actually competed in the early rounds of the show’s first season, but had to drop out due to scheduling issues. Framest, the music group he was a member of (and competed at Supernova 2015 with) had tour dates scheduled that he couldn’t miss. He returned for another shot in the second season, making it all the way to 6th place.
Shortly after, Roberts co-founded a cappella singing group Insomnia and served as its musical director. (See below.) Dagnis, as it happens, was a member of Insomnia before appearing on the following season of X Faktors. His luck on the show ran out a lot quicker than Roberts‘, though, and he left the competition in 12th place.
Roberts would continue pursuing a solo career under the moniker ‘Robert Ox’. He released a number of singles. and even made the long-list at Supernova 2019 with his song “Feel“. That same year, he and Dagnis collaborated on a new track titled “#CENTIJOS”. (Watch here.)
But What About the Guy in the Green Suit?
Citi Zēni‘s lead vocalist Jānis Pētersons has had a varied life, to say the least.
In addition to being involved in The Citizens/Citi Zēni in all of its various forms over the past 13 years, he has also been on a corporate path. After graduating with a degree in Computer Science in 2018, Jānis was hired on by an IT company, doing the kind of work only smart people who work in IT can really understand. One description of his job in a March 2019 interview with a business magazine described it as, “both the leader of the technical team in projects related to resource management systems and the manager of innovation projects.” See what I mean? Gibberish, but surely that means something to IT professionals.
While working at that IT company AND juggling the life of an up-and-comer in the local pop music scene, Jānis continued his higher education. He graduated with an MBA from Riga Business School just last year.
But that’s not all! If you thought music has been Jānis’ only creative outlet, you thought wrong! Since 2012, he has been a part of traditional Latvian folk dance troupe Daiļrade, and he is currently one of the most senior members. After an appearance in 2015 on Latvia’s Dancing with the Stars, Daiļrade was invited to compete in a folk dancing competition show on Lithuanian television. And in 2016, they did just that, representing Latvian folk dance traditions on the show Kadagys. Watch one of their performances below.
Daiļrade didn’t end up winning the contest, but they weren’t expecting to.
“That’s not why we came here,” Jānis said in a post-performance interview with one of the hosts. “We came here to have fun … It’s been an amazing trip.”
Hopefully Citi Zēni can bring that same kind of positive energy to Turin
Were #YOU rooting for Citi Zēni to win ‘Supernova’? Are #YOU a cat person? Can #YOU explain Jānis’ IT job to me? (No, seriously.) Sound off in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.
Sources: Draugiem, Neatkarīgā, La.lv, Diena, Dailrade, Stopini, BJMK, Pop Rock, tv3
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