Zach Bolen isn’t interested in debating differences. As the lead singer and songwriter for worship band under the new moniker Citizens & Saints, he hopes his music can do one thing—unite the Church by proclaiming the gospel through song.
“I feel like there’s so much division right now,” he says. “It’s really disheartening. I’m hopeful that that somehow our music can bring some unity. We might have different views, but we’re ultimately citizens. We’re part of the same kingdom.”
It’s a message Zach and his bandmates, Nate Garvey (keys), Nathan Furtado (bass), Spencer Abbott (guitar), Jeremy Kelderman (percussion), Adam Skatula (drums) and Brian Eichelberger (co-writer/producer/keys), have woven into their sophomore release on BEC Recordings. Join the Triumph reminds the local church that they’re part of the big-“C” Church—a victorious body whose sole job is to proclaim God’s Kingdom across the Earth.
The collection of revisited hymns and original songs advances the approach of Citizens’ self-titled debut album, which was released on BEC Recordings and Mars Hill Music in 2013. While Citizens & Saints hit Billboard’s Christian chart at #20 and #6 on its Top Heatseekers chart and received critical acclaim, the biggest signals of success are comments about the songs being cross-generational: “We’ve been hearing stories about kids singing these songs all the way up to grandmas and grandpas joining in,” Zach says.
The Holy Spirit used this realization to expand their viewpoint of music and ministry to be about “the entire church,” not just for specific demographic. “It’s actually for all people who are a part of the body of Christ.”
This lesson in unity is one playing out in the band itself. While Citizens was formed in 2011 when Zach served as the worship leader for Mars Hill U-district campus in Seattle, his departure from his position with the mega-church in 2014 led to a defining moment when the band made a “strong commitment to one another” to continue making music—no matter where they live, work and attend church with their growing families.
“I think that just shows the unity that Jesus brings in the Church. The primary thing for us will always be to serve the local church whether or not Citizens is playing together as a band at a specific church.”
Other differences mark the album. Whereas Citizens reflected the rawness of leading college students in worship in an old church building on Sunday nights, Join the Triumph emerges with skillful signs of maturation. Questions like “Is this melody actually sing-able?” and “Does this theme actually connect with a broad audience or is it so specific that it’s too personal?” were questions the band learned to ask with their first recording and sought to perfect on the second. Sonically Join the Triumph melds musical influences and eras. “It doesn’t bother me at all to say that we’re worship band, but I think that we pull from all kinds of different genres. I really love synth stuff, but I also love the rawness of electric guitars and big drums, so we’re kind of just taking from everything we love.”
This sophomore album brings a new chapter for the band with Zach no longer on staff at Mars Hill and the recent announcement of their new name Citizens & Saints. After releasing their earlier projects, it came to their attention that there was a UK band that was already working under the Citizens name. In a season of change, the band prayerfully changed their name to “Citizens & Saints.”
“Ephesians 2:19, where we got the name Citizens from is a celebration passage. From the beginning it was important as band to have a name that focused more on the people of God participating in joyful and expressive worship of Jesus, then attention being placed on a band, it’s songs or it’s name,” shares Zach. “Moving forward we feel as though “Citizens & Saints,” better exemplifies Ephesians 2:19. It is our goal to be clear in our presentation of the gospel. To put it plainly, the citizens and saints party ain’t over and it will continue long into eternity. We are grateful for the work that God has called us to, and will continue to do, now through “Citizens & Saints.”
At the end of the day, Zach realizes what connects musically with one may not connect with another. But he hopes there’s one thing all followers of Jesus can connect with: the Gospel. “What I love about worship music and what I love about both of these albums is that if we’ve been faithful to communicate what the Word is saying, then at the very least we can agree upon that.”