Interview: Lit

lauren stern wonders why her car is in the front yard…

California rockers Lit have been off the radar for the last six years due to a slew of unfortunate circumstances … but they’re back now and ready to prove to the world that they are not just some one hit wonder. The renowned ’90s alternative rock band, who is notoriously known for their hit single ‘My Own Worst Enemy,’ is kicking off the summer with their fifth studio release The View from the Bottom. The new album doesn’t stray too far from the band’s older, catchier hits and showcases their hardworking effort to get back on their feet after a long hiatus.

Singer A. Jay Popoff sat down with Pop-Break’s Lauren Stern about the band’s new album, their infamous single ‘My Worst Enemy,’ and their inclusion on the Summerland Tour and what the band has planned for the rest of this year.

[Editor’s Note: Lit will be performing at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel Saturday July 21 and at Revel in Atlantic City on Friday July 27 as a part of The Summerland Tour with Everlcear, Marcy Playground, Sugar and The Gin Blossoms.]

Pop-Break: The View from the Bottom is your first album in six years, what makes this album different from your previous albums?

A. Jay Popoff: Well, it’s definitely, you know, a few years have passed and within that time I say we’ve experienced some of the most life changing experiences that anyone can go through. So that definitely fueled a different side of us, maybe. Maybe some more serious topics, some heavier things that we kind of needed to get off our chest. But aside from that, I say we still tapped into the Lit energy that we had all along and probably closer to some of the stuff we would have written on our first or second record just being that we sort of had time to, you know, kind of hit reset and allow that passion and that fire and that fuel to come back. So I think this time around we definitely captured a lot of the more serious stuff but at the same time that party energy that we’ve had in the past and then on top of that there’s a couple of new members and we added a fifth member which is something that we haven’t had since um actually, never in this band but in previous bands we’ve had additional guitar players. But we’ve brought in fifth member that plays piano and guitar and sings great harmonies and also a new song writer as well, he’s guy that we’ve been writing with for a little while. So that added a cool dimension to the new stuff and it’s also something we are able to take out on the road, another layer that we’ve had in records but haven’t been pulling out live. So that’s added this really cool huge sound to our live show.

PB: You were talking about before how you all have been through some pretty rough stuff. What do you think was biggest challenge approaching this new album?

A. Jay Popoff: I think the only challenge probably was just waiting for the time to feel right. I think the actual creation of this record and the writing process was probably one the easiest of all just because we allowed the time to feel right and we’ve never been a band that was good at forcing songs, so you know when we don’t feel like writing, we just don’t even touch it. So, I think it was the time that it took to get to the point where we as a band felt ready to make a new record. That for us was the biggest challenge because when one us was sort of the feeling it, the rest of the guys, you know, just getting us all on the same page again.

But it’s crazy how this band works and we’ve been a band for 18+ years now and I think that’s the one thing that has kept us together all this time is we seem to all come together on the same page, at the same time, a lot of the time. So at this stage in our careers, it’s pretty amazing that we still have the three original members call each other up and everyone’s fired up and ready to roll again. It’s pretty incredible. But as far as writing goes, the songs were flowing out, the creativity was probably the highest level I can remember it ever being. And then going into the studio, I mean we worked with Butch Walker, and that was probably one of the most painless processes we’ve been through in making a record. We just had a great time doing it and I think it shows in the record. It’s just cohesive sounding and it’s something we’re extremely proud of we feel like. We couldn’t have made a better record at this stage.

PB: The music industry has changed a lot since your last record. I’m sure you guys have seen a lot of the new stuff that’s been happening since you last released a record. Was there anything in the process of recording that you had to assimilate or adjust to?

A. Jay Popoff: Well not necessarily. I think equipment wise we didn’t use anything that we haven’t used in the past. It was pretty much the same process, you know a lot of the recording studios are pretty much, in Butch Walker’s studio especially, he’s rolling pretty much the same gear. I mean that’s a tough question to answer, I guess, I’m not much of a gear head. I feel like the process was pretty much the same as when we recorded ‘A Place in the Sun.’ As far as the industry in general, yeah a lot has changed I mean we haven’t made a record in a long time but we never really disassembled as a band. We’ve continued to play, we’ve always gone out and done, flown out for the weekend and done a couple of shows and we’ve sort of stayed plugged in and definitely stayed aware and in touch with what’s going on in the music industry and sort of watched a lot of things crumble and a lot of things sort of diverge, a lot of new promotional tools and the internet that’s helping a lot of bands. But, you know, the death of the industry in a very big way.

I think right now with most bands, and especially watching the bands from the era that, you know, late 90s, you know early 2000s that were fortunate to be a part of the industry at the tail end of I don’t really know if you want to call it a dying breed but the whole, you know, ‘arena rock’ bands and you know, radio, I don’t know if you want to say radio stars. But generally having the dream of becoming a big rock star and getting a big record deal and seeing your video on MTV and all that kind of stuff is something that we were lucky to be part of because if it’s not gone completely, it’s just about there. I think now you’re watching a lot of people scramble and figure out okay what’s going to happen next? Because people, I don’t know if it’s record labels or bands or just finding a new way to preserve the industry or to make it so new bands can come out and live their dream and make a living doing it. I don’t know, I think that’s something that’s still, we’re definitely on the forefront for something that’s going to be genocide or something really cool.

PB: Are you worried about the reception for this new album?

A. Jay Popoff: No, I mean it’s really impossible to try and please any certain core people, we’re just such huge music fans and if you look at any of our music libraries individually it’s like all over the board. We’re just into a lot of classic stuff, new stuff, indie stuff, just the most random, eclectic playlists that when we make music, our influences come from so many different angles. Our roots are definitely eclectic, like we go from metal like Iron Maiden, Metallica, bands like that to like Elvis Costello so we’ve never really made music that was “current” or “flavor of the month.” It just so happens that when ‘My Worst Enemy’ came out in ’99, if you look at some of the charts when that song shot up and made it to #1, if you look at some of the bands we had to compete with it was Limp Bizkit, Eminem, and Fatboy Slim and none of the stuff was anything like what we were doing and I think that’s just where music fans, when they are not being force fed, like this is what’s cool right now, it’s gotta have giant bells and sound like Foster the People or whatever to be a hit song, I think it’s just songs with hooks and a good sound. We look at ourselves as a guitar driven rock band with melodies and hooks, and hopefully that’s not something that’s going to go away. I think there’s times I can hear a band, I’ll put a song on and sometimes I’m like okay, that sounds like the 80s or that sounds like the 90s. But it’s not like we’re putting out, you know, were not making grunge and were not putting out you know hair metal or power ballads and stuff it’s just like, although we might head for that here and there just cause were fans for it and we just want to pay homage to it.

But, were just making rock songs and rock music that’s like I was saying is pretty much influenced by every era of music and it’s just there are fans out there that don’t want to hear it then I guess we’re getting bored making music for those people. It’s just we gotta be stoked to go out there and play it live and when we start playing our songs they have to do something to us where we just to get more, we have to keep going.

PB: I listened to your new single ‘You Tonight’ on Youtube last week and I really liked it. I wanna know, what inspired that track specifically?

A. Jay Popoff: That was actually a song where the whole band went out to Nashville just to get away and just to focus on music and not have any home distractions and stuff. At the time we worked with Marty Friedrickson, the producer, you know he’s a song writer as well, and we were all bouncing around town and writing with different people. We came back from a day, my brother and Ryan our new guitar player, and we were out riding with some other guys and we came back to the studio and that’s a song that Kevin our bass player was working on with Marty and we just got back and went ‘This is what we got going today’ and we were just so stoked on the raw energy and just the heavy riffs, it just had something that none of the other stuff we were writing had. I think at the time we all sort of like, our ears perked up and we gravitated towards that one and finished it up. There’s so many different sounding songs on this record and we covered, I guess all our records have been that way where we have the real heavy ones and something a little more ballad-y, you know mid-tempo. That was just the label people and management, after listening through over, over, and over and going back and forth between songs, it was tough to decide on which one we wanted to throw out there first and I thinkjust that’s what it comes down to. When we make a record, we’re not like okay, this is going to be our single and you know this might be our second single or whatever. We just write what we feel like is an album worth of singles we just sort of go like, in what order do we want people to hear these songs.

PB: You guys have some great singles over the years and I know you were just talking about ‘My Worst Enemy’ before when it came out. I wanted to know, looking back at that song, because that song was released in the 90s, what are your feelings towards it now? Do you feel different towards it now or do you hate playing it? I heard a couple of weeks ago that Gotye came out about his song ‘Somebody that I Used to Know’ and said that he’s getting sick of it. So I was wondering is there were any ill feelings toward that song for you guys.

A. Jay Popoff: I can see what Gotye means about his feelings about his song right now. Probably when a song first takes off in radio and you’ve got a hit and you’re being asked to you know, schlep around town and play it on every morning show and you’re talking about it constantly and especially when you’re a new artist and that’s the only song that people know by you it can get probably a little stale after a little while and then I think you’re antsy to sort of move on to other singles and some time passes and you start to, I don’t know I guess in a way I’m trying to think of how I would look at it. But there was never really a time, yeah there was a time where it got a little overplayed as much as we were playing it and that being like the main topic all the time but I think it’s incredible that that song you know, I get in my car to go somewhere and I still hear it on the radio like once or twice a day. I think it’s uh, I don’t know, I’ve always been thankful of that single and the fact that it’s sort of become a staple in a way and the fact that it’s now on Rock Band 2 and kids that weren’t even born when that song came out and now those kids know the song it’s, I don’t know, I’m pretty stoked.

PB: Now that you guys are coming back, is there anyone who you would like to make music with?

A. Jay Popoff: The most ideal paring would be to have Elvis Costello do something. He’s like a hero at least for my brother and I. I’m just a huge fan of his song writing. Yeah that would be my first pick. My other hero is Steven Tyler and if he got to at least sing on one of our songs that would be cool.

PB: You guys toured with a lot of great acts over the years. Who was your favorite artist/band that you’ve shared the stage with?

A. Jay Popoff: Wow, that’s a tough one. We’ve been so lucky with our tours we’ve made friends with, if we weren’t already friends with a lot of bands. I can say we never had any nightmare tour stories, which is pretty rare, you talk to a lot of bands who can remember a tour where the band they were out with treated them like shit or at least had a horrible time. The first two bands and the first two tours that are coming to the top of my mind are The Offspring, we did a European tour with them, just great guys, fun tour. Um, and the No Doubt tour was awesome.

PB: What are your plans for the rest of this year?

A. Jay Popoff: We just got back, we did a three week run on our own and were about to head out at the end of June we’ll be on tour for about seven weeks throughout the states, hitting most of the major markets. That’s a tour called Summerland, and we were talking some of the nostalgia, I think this tour is probably be one of the coolest summer tours I can think of because of the idea of being in an outdoor venue with Everclear and Sugar Ray, its just all these like fun, summer anthem bands from the late 90s and what’s really cool, they asked to do that tour, and at first we were a little reluctant, you know we got a new record coming out and were focusing more on the new music but then the more we talked amongst each other as a band and we came to a conclusion that it’s summertime and why the hell not go out and have a great time with bands that we know and have such good songs and to be able to play in a kind of group and playing such larger venues and playing all these anthems and coming back out after being a while is kind of hard to do on your own. So just getting exposed to those kind of music fans again is something were excited about doing with our summer at least.

PB: Yeah that sounds awesome.

A. Jay Popoff: But after that what’s next on the agenda is probably to come home and to start mapping out some European stuff, get over the UK and do the rest in Europe this fall.