The band returns with a self-titled, self-produced album after a bad experience at RCA

by Robert Kinsler
Special to the Register
June 22, 2004

Lit is back.

Today, the group releases its self-titled fourth album. Tonight, band members will perform and sign autographs at a CD-release party in Brea. In coming weeks, Lit will be featured on the national radio program "Rockline," play the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa and fly to New York to perform on "Last Call with Carson Daly."

And all that comes on the heels of an appearance on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" last week and opening for the Cure in Washington, D.C., last month.

The Fullerton-based quartet - whose membership has remained unchanged since the group formed in the early 1990s - may be the comeback story of the year. Lit left RCA Records after the release of "Atomic" in October 2001, disappointed that the label had not adequately promoted an album that creatively outdistanced the band's 1999 break-through effort "A Place In The Sun."

"For me, it felt like with RCA we were shareholders in a corporation. And I think with the new label (Nitrus/DRT) it feels much more like a partnership," said singer A-Jay Popoff. Lit also features guitarist Jeremy Popoff, bassist Kevin Baldes and drummer Allen Shellenberger.

"It's extremely refreshing to be surrounded with a staff that is as fired up as we are, which is how RCA felt in the beginning and then it gradually lost that, probably largely because (the label laid off) all the staff that we had grown to love."

Lit's latest album boasts the characterisic mix of alternative rock riffs and melodic hooks that made "My Own Worst Enemy," "Zip-Lock," "Miserable" and "Lipstick & Bruises" modern radio staples. The first single off "Lit," "Looks Like They Were Right," is earning well-deserved airplay. And songs such as "Too Fast For a U Turn," "Needle and Thread" and a strong cover of the Cure's "Pictures of You" could well soon find a place on the airwaves. While the material exudes the youthful exuberance of past Lit work, there is a sense of growth - notably with "Bulletproof" - written about a friend of the band who committed suicide.

"It's funny," Jeremy Popoff said. "It's not so much that we tried to grow, it's just after awhile if you don't grow you're dead. We're all in our early 30s now. Everyone has houses and cars, and a couple kids here and there; I would certinaly hope that after all that there would be some more growth and introspective lyrics."

Jeremy Popoff agreed with his brother that asking RCA to free the group from its contract, as well as completely self-producing the new album, helped the band grow. He added that despite lackluster sales for "Atomic," touring to promote the album provided some magic moments.

"As far as Soundscan was concerned it wasn't a success," he said. "But as far as we were concerned, we went out and we toured our (tails) off and we played some great shows in front of some huge crowds and we had a blast."

Lit performed in front of 20,000 fans at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and played for the first time at New York's Madison Square Garden on a bill with Kid Rock in spring of that year.

The band, which still rehearses in the same Anaheim warehouse it has used for more than a decade, recorded "Lit" in Orange County, which enabled members to take their time on the project and work close to home.

"It was a much more comfortable vibe (recording 'Lit'), especially being able to chill out in my own house," said A. Jay Popoff. "To be able to go home and then shoot back to the studio and sing for a while and if I didn't feel up to it or if my voice wasn't happening for me that day, it was no big deal to say 'I'm going to hit this again tomorrow.'"

Unlike Orange County success stories No Doubt and Sugar Ray, the members of Lit have not left O.C. for L.A.

"We all four live in Fullerton. I would never live in Hollywood," said Jeremy Popoff, raising his voice for emphasis. "And there is no reason not to live here and Fullerton is such a great town and great community. We're actually opening a restaurant (The Slide Bar) there this summer. It's got a huge patio and two full bars; it's a rock 'n' roll themed place focused on Orange County rock 'n' roll."

But Lit's focus remains squarely on music-making.

"I think the reason why we self-titled (the CD) was because this is Lit," Jeremy Popoff said. "Whether it's our last record or whether it's the fourth record out of 10...this is the best collection of songwriting and expereiences as a whole (that shows) what Lit is all about."