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Gallery Music Lit Teams Up With Butch Walker: This is How Awesome is Made

by Barbie Brady and Catie Laffoon

January 2, 2012 - 1:20 pm

If your car is in the front yard, and you’re sleeping with your clothes on, then you know what I’m talking about when I say its time to get LIT.

Although they may be known for being their own worst enemies, the guys from Lit have teamed up with the notorious Producer/Singer/Songwriter Butch Walker to complete their latest opus, as yet untitled. I dropped in on the boys at Walker’s studio in Santa Monica to have a listen and catch up.

I asked A.Jay Popoff what his inspiration is for the new songs? His reply – “It’s therapeutic if anything. This record is a lot more introspective.” And that’s saying a lot. It’s been 7 years since their last album release and the band has had multiple divorces, a wedding, family trauma, and of course the worst of it was losing beloved drummer, Allen Shellenberger to brain cancer in August of 2009.

The thing about Lit is that they really never stopped being a band. Although it was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to Allen, he passed the torch and his blessing onto current drummer, Nathan Walker. Nathan has been a long time friend to both Allen and the entire band, so when they say its really more of a brotherhood than a band, you honestly feel that. They also added guitarist and songwriter Ryan Gillmor into the mix to help with a big bold sound.

The thing that strikes me about the way they work is unlike anything I have personally experienced. I have always found that in every band there is one member that holds the biggest “NO” in the room. There is one guy who keeps a tight reign on the final say, creatively, musically, someone takes the lead. But with Lit, they all work the songs until each member is 100% happy with it. They all have an equal say. A. Jay told me that although he might be the voice of the band, he feels like he represents all of them. And he takes that seriously.

Bass player Kevin Baldes sits down beside me bounding with energy. He tells me they just signed a deal with MegaForce Records, which is home to such greats as Anthrax, Bad Brains, the Meat Puppets and more. One incredibly positive conference call with label owner, Marsha Zazula and they were sold that it was the right fit for them. Kevin has been entertaining himself these past 5 years with side project Good Man Down, which recently came to an end. He’s back to being fully focused on Lit and freshly inspired by the new sense of life in this band who’s been together 22 years. No small feat.

Adding a bit of spice into the mix is Producer, Butch Walker. He’s been a long time good friend with Jeremy Popoff, lead guitar and big brother to A.Jay. Butch took a turn in the hot seat and let me know what a joy its been working with these guys. You can tell that they have all come up together and that they are certainly comfortable in their own skin by now. Butch tells me their working together has been a long time coming, as they had often wanted to but simply not managed to make their schedules coincide. I asked him how difficult it was to be a songwriter and then to write for other people. Butch says that generally he keeps the more sentimental themes for himself, if something strikes him too close to home, but that there is an ease and joy that comes with working with good friends you have been close to for over a decade.

There is a mix of Bourbon and Wine scattered throughout the control room and you can tell that the boys are more likely to sip than to smash through the alcohol on hand. Just a little something to keep it mellow, or celebrate a job well done. I wouldn’t say, long gone are the days of Jager bombs, but when its time to work, the work comes first.

Lastly I had a chance to really pick the brain of Jeremy Popoff. Super excited about the new label, the new bandmates, and the new songs, Jeremy’s anticipating a big return for Lit. He tells me this record represents the results of a lot of life happening. It wasn’t by choice that they took so long to get back into the studio, but they’ve grown up a lot. Their perspectives have changed so much. “When you are a Dad, being a Dad has to be your No.#1 priority. I would have loved to put an album out 3 years ago, but Al got sick. I know that everyone says this when they are working on something new, but honestly I feel like this is the very best record we’ve done yet.”

Jeremy has never stopped writing songs and actually owns a house in Nashville, where he goes to work on his country sound. “A.Jay and Ryan and I write a lot together for other artists as well.” Mixing it up with pop, rock, and even a bit of Disney artists for good measure (after all they are from behind the Orange curtain in Fullerton.) They don’t get all hung up on who writes what, a good song is a good song, and Lit is full of em.

“There is a sense of everyone being successful on their own, humility and calm. We shed enough of the bullshit over the years. It kind of makes you look around the room and realize we’re still standing and we’re still doing it. We’re still laughing. At this point, nobody’s gonna be able to do anything to us that we haven’t be through before.”Jeremy has that rare and awesome quality of a man who knows exactly who he is. To quote a line from one of their new songs, “You can’t break the broken.”

Lit’s new album should roll out in March or April of this year. They are also set to do a national tour of 30 dates this summer. 2012 is going to be a great year for Rock N Roll, I can feel it.

Words by Barbie Brady (@barbie5x5).