not our job to sell records," states soft-spoken Lit front man
A.Jay Popoff. "Our job is to write good
songs and kick ass live. If we're not doing that, then we've failed."
The Orange County,
California-based lineup of A.Jay on vocals, Jeremy on guitars, Kevin
Baldes on bass, and Allen Shellenberger on drums, together nearly 15
years, have in their own manner, begun anew with Lit. Now on
Nitrus/DRT/Dirty Martini Recordings after a productive stint with RCA,
the band produced Lit themselves, and did it, to paraphrase
Sinatra, "their way," as Jeremy explains: "We went back
to our warehouse in Anaheim, feeling free, jamming, for the reasons
we started playing in the first place. No deadlines, no expectations,
and no one polluting the process; just getting together to have fun
and write songs. That said, this record is a little more serious than
our others," furthers the axeman. With songs like 'Bulletproof,'
about a friend who committed suicide, and 'Lullaby," a song written
for his son, "there's not a whole lot of tongue-in-cheek goin’
"We just write
and then see what direction it takes us," explains A.Jay of the
process. "There was a period of a few months that were pretty rough,
for the whole band, and you hear that in the record. There's a darker
side; we do more sharing of our personal turmoil. 'Times Like This,'
'Hard to Find' and 'Throwaway,' are that way." In addition to soul-baring
songs, Lit was likewise recorded somewhat naked, musically
speaking, that is. The whole record was written, recorded and mixed
in Orange County. Plus, the classic band photo on the CD cover is in
line with the sort of basic "this is Lit" vibe the band was
feeling. That stripped-down approach also went for the actual "sounds"
The "real sound" matches the gut-level "weird combination of personal issues and drama," that went into the writing on Lit, which included being first-time dads for both Jeremy and his brother, A.Jay, plus the mixed emotions of opting to sever ties with a major label. Jeremy finds, as always, the perfect analogy for their leaving RCA: "It was like when you break up with somebody. You know it's for the right reasons, but it still feels weird not having them around." The record industry has changed drastically in Lit's lifetime, with layoffs and consolidations around every corner. And, as Jeremy notes, "there was literally nobody left at RCA from the day we signed; people weren't motivated to work; they were operating out of fear. We decided we'd rather we do it ourselves. We parted ways as gentlemen, totally amicably."
And, clearly, doing
it themselves has worked out beautifully, with Lit as proof
Other cool Lit nuggets: David Campbell (aka Beck's father) did the strings on the song "Times Like This," while co-songwriters include Dennis Hill from the band Lefty, and Marty Fredericksen of Aerosmith fame, while the young guitarist from the Matches, Jon Devoto (who cites Lit as the first concert he ever saw, and who Lit took out on tour!), plays the solo in "Needle & Thread," a song bassist Kevin originally brought to the table. "Kevin has grown a lot as a song writer and he played a bigger role this time around, which was cool for us,” says Jeremy, who adds about the collaborative process "It’s like if you're a chef and you get a chance to cook next to Wolfgang Puck, you're gonna go, 'fuck yeah!' We tend to co-write with our friends, like Danny from Handsome Devil, or Butch Walker. When you get friends in the same room and everyone digs each other's style of writing, throw in some drinks, and it's an inevitable thing."
comes in the form of Lit's first-ever DVD, due in Fall 2004, and featuring
two-and-a half hours of cool "shenanigans." Plus, it features
live gig footage and videos, all compiled by a close friend of the band’s
from an astonishing 700 hours of videotape. It chronicles the band’s
history from the mid-'90s right up to the completion of Lit.
Like the band's
past efforts, Lit is clearly loaded with potential singles,
but they never know what
As the band reflects on Lit and what went into the making of the album, it's clear they dug deep without coming too close to the bottom. "This business can chew you up and spit you out, and it's all a matter of how you come out on the other side," muses Jeremy. "Sometimes you come out on the other side stronger, and ready to kick ass. In a way, any hardships of the last few years brought the band closer together, because although we never questioned the future of the band, it gave us a chance to rethink the process." And though Lit ends with the sorrowfully inspired "Bulletproof," the song and CD itself ends with rousing hope (and a nod to Cheap Trick), as the band intones "here we are / we're all alright."
And in Lit's case, they're better than alright.