Kevin Baldes of Lit

Interview by Sam Bello

Since their success behind their 1999 breakthrough RCA Records release A Place In the Sun, Lit followed through with the moderately well received Atomic and somewhat maintained a low profile…temporarily. Lit is back with the release of their fourth and self-titled that’s bound to light things up again for these Orange County rockers. RockRage spoke with bassist Kevin Baldes about the new album, what happened with RCA, and how the number one fan voted song didn’t make the final cut.

RR: It’s the band’s fourth album and some changes had taken place since the release of Atomic. You’re four albums into your career and now you’re going with the self-titled. Is this kind of saying it’s a new beginning for Lit?

KB: Yeah, yeah. It kind of is. You know, we left RCA. That’s no big secret. And we started writing this album and start working on music and stuff without having any strings attached with anybody else. We didn’t have anybody looking over our shoulder. We also thought it was cool that we wrote it, recorded it, mixed all in Orange County. We thought that kind of had a cool vibe to it. And we did try to come up with some names, but when you come up with a name it’s kind of like, like Atomic. It had a more futuristic kind of vibe for us and all that crap.

RR: So it definitely that you guys did pretty much everything in Orange County instead of going to L.A. and being away from home?

KB: Yeah. The first three albums we did all in L.A. and we kind of lived up there while we were doing it. This time we did it right here in Orange County. With technology the way it is you almost just do it in your house when you wake up. Just grab a cup of coffee and start working on your album. But it was really nice doing here in our hometown.

RR: As you mentioned, you left RCA Records.

KB: Yeah.

RR: These days being on a major label is being on a fine line between huge success or just being a failure.

KB: Exactly. Well, what happened was we signed with RCA in ’98. And from ’98 all the way to now – we had a family when we first were there. It was great. When we used to drink vodka, no not vodka, Tequila, with the president - I mean we had just a great relationship with everybody over there. It felt like a great family. It felt like it would go on forever. Two, three years later people start dropping like flies [and] next thing we knew Clive Davis was in there and we didn’t know anybody. I had a list of numbers. I’d be able to call anybody over at RCA. I had a concern, I’d call them. Lit is pretty connected in what’s going on as far as our little empire goes. So we’d be able to call anybody over there with a concern and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on with this? Can we fix that? This isn’t how we wanted Could we do that.’ Well, it wasn’t like that anymore. There was nobody to call. That’s kind of scary.

RR: Totally. It’s like your lost and then where are you on the priority list with the label now.

KB: Exactly. Nothing against Clive Davis, but the guy kind of specializes in super huge pop artists like Alicia Keyes and what not. We’re a rock band from Orange County. So we didn’t feel like he had his finger on the pulse of what we were doing nor would he really be interested. Just over time we were able to leave. We felt a lot better about it. Then we focused on the music. We were loving what we were doing. We were getting feedback from our friends. We’d have our friends listen to us. Then we did a tour in November. Right about November we started courtin’ with this new label and we signed with them and it’s just great. It’s kind of like the beginning with RCA. We have great relationships with everybody over at this new label. It’s an independent label and it’s great.

RR: That’s something a lot of bands look for.

KB: It really is. Who knows what the future is going to look like in the music industry. But I really feel like this could be the wave of the future. A lot of other bands have already been doing it, but [with] kind of the situation we have now it kind of seems like it might be the way.

RR: Going back to when you guys did the tour last fall, it was news that this was how you were letting your fans determine what tracks were going to go on the record. Hoe many new songs did you play for your new fans? How did they go about voting? Was it online?

KB: You know it was online. I don’t know if it was our website or other Lit fan sites, but we kept our finger on the pulse of all the other web sites and hear kids chattin’ about it. But we had like five songs on tour. It’s really funny, but I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but the song that got the most votes was a song called “Over It” and it didn’t even make the album. But what we did do so we wouldn’t piss anybody off was we made it available on our web site for a long period of time. And we emailed everybody in the Lit fan club and say, ‘We’re making the song available. Here you go. We know you like it.’ Who’s to say it’s not going to show up on other things, you know?

RR: Okay.

KB: It’s just once we finished and had all the songs and the four of us voted on what we wanted that song just wasn’t on the top of our list. And we did kind of wrestle around the fact, ‘Man, a lot of kids out there kind of like it though.’ Were like, ‘Well, we just didn’t feel like it.’ It didn’t mesh with the rest of the songs we picked for this album.

RR: At least you’ll have that option to play it live.

KB: Yeah and I’m sure it’s going to end up on some kind of something. A fan club CD would be really cool. I kind have been pondering that idea.

RR: The first single, “Looks Like They Were Right,” is a good upbeat song, which the majority of the album is. Lit is known for being an upbeat rock band. Is there a statement being made behind that single?

KB: Jeremy wrote the lyrics to that. It’s kind of somewhat picking up where “My Worst Enemy” left off.” I mean “My Worst Enemy” was saying, ‘Hey, I’m a fuck up. Forgive me, blah, blah, blah.’ This song is kind of like ‘Well, your friends warned you and it looks like they were right.’ It’s kind of what it is. They warned you that I was a fuck up. Well, they were right. It turns out that I am.

RR: You guys did a cover of The Cure’s “Pictures of You.” Rocking cover. It starts out nearly alike but there’s a heavier tone to it.

KB: Lit has loud guitars. We wanted to keep it pretty close, but at the same time make it sound like Lit was playing it. I think we achieved it and so far everyone who’s heard it has been into it. The funny thing is we just got back from Washington, DC yesterday. We played that WHFStival out there and The Cure was on the bill. While staying at our hotel, we found out that Robert Smith [Cure frontman] was there and we ended up running into him.

RR: So is this something new or have you played this song live before?

KB: The thing about that song is we used to do it when we were a lot younger. It’s funny because we grew up on heavy metal. If anybody is a big fan of lit, they know we grew up on Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Twisted Sister and all that back when we were in junior high and high school. A kid who listens to heavy metal didn’t listen to The Cure. The thing is we used to do that song when we were a lot young and somehow it crept right back in.

RR: There’s a DVD that’s coming with the first 100,000 copies of the album. I read that there’s a clip of you guys playing in front of 12 people.

KB: Yeah.

RR: I’m assuming it was a long time ago.

KB: Yeah, yeah. It was back in about ’96, ’97. We did a tour with a band called Radish, which Ben Kweller used to be a part of. Man, it was the empty house tour. The show that’s on there I think is Cincinnati and it was a place called Pop Cats. I totally remember that night. There was nobody there. But worse than that we did a show in Memphis on that tour and it was a two-story venue and they sat upstairs. It was a horrible tour.

RR: Ah, man. It’s almost like a slap in the face.

KB: Yeah. You know what though? People need to see that. People need to see that Lit wasn’t just some overnight success.