Following Epitaph Records' re-release of Fake History, progressive post-hardcore quintet letlive. are fast becoming one of the most talked about bands around, whether it's for their consistently raucous live performances or frontman Jason Aalon Butler being dubbed the "Greatest Rockstar in the World". The band spoke with Punknews interviewer Faye Turnbull in Newcastle, UK.
I was pretty surprised to find out that letlive. has been going for a decade, as itâs only within the last couple of years that youâve really began to make a name for yourself. Why do you think it took you so long to gain momentum? Jason: Well, letlive. sort of started in high school from the aftermath of a pretty typical, really angsty Los Angeles punk rock band with a lot of things to say, so we said them through three quarter songs. We all played music together in other bands for years, Iâve known everyone in this room for a decade now, and about four-and-a-half to five years ago, we got together and created what everyone knows is letlive. now and continued to be with Fake History. We consider Fake History to be a more prominent representation of what letlive. is, because before that, it was more of me and a bunch of friends just recording under the guise of letlive..
I donât know if itâs just because I live here, but you seem to have made a bigger impact and have had more success over here than in the US, do you agree? If so, why do you think thatâs the case? Jason: In the beginning, it was definitely something that we noticed. As of recent, weâve been starting to get support in the US, which has been similar to what we have in the UK. We kind of tried to figure it out and do the math, we thought maybe it was because weâre a US band and more-so a commodity, because weâre not over here that often, so they centralized concentration while we were here, sort of thing, perhaps. I donât know what it is, or maybe you guys are just smarter. [laughs] But as of recent, itâs coming to a very similar participation on both sides of the pond.
Youâre known for your insane live performances, do you have to think beforehand of âwackyâ ideas, or does it just come to you naturally? Do you feel you have to live up to peopleâs expectations now? Jason: No, I donât really think of that. I donât think thereâs any expectation of me, by any means, that needs to be accommodated to or lived up to. I think itâs more of a natural disposition that the band holds. We act appropriately to what we feel at every single show and it just so happens that we believe enough to continue what weâre doing and the way that we perform; itâs the disposition and demeanor of letlive..
I was looking at a list of all your shows and you played an obscene amount last year. Do you think you might get burned out, especially with the intensity of your performances? Ryan: I think weâve done it so often, especially within the last two years, that itâs become the equivalent of home - like, what youâre used to at home is touring for us. Speaking for all of us, I think we do get a bit anxious when we get home and feel like we have to go back out.
Jason was recently named the âGreatest Rockstar in the Worldâ by Kerrang! Magazine, do you think thatâs damaged or helped letlive.âs reputation and credibility? Jason: I think the damaging aspect sort of helped us. They always say âany press is good pressâ. Itâs not a mantra that we subscribe to, but I think in that case, it got peopleâs attention and whether or not people wanted to know or did know, they took the time to figure out what letlive. was. It wasnât really about me, it was about the band and they checked it out, some people dug it and some people didnât. In the end, you canât expect everyone to like, love or hate you. We kind of just took it as a thank you to those that both wanted to become proponents and opponents of letlive.. I didnât buy into it, I donât think weâre the greatest of any thing; we just enjoy want we do.
Playing these tours and getting that kind of press coverage, is the mainstream something youâre trying to accomplish? Jason: I donât know, we donât really think about it, to be honest. We feel that if weâre honest with ourselves musically, aesthetically and logically, then thatâs enough, and whatever itâs supposed to be will be, and whatever we want it to be weâll be. We donât have too many people telling us, well, we donât have anybody telling us what to do at all. Except for our moms.
Ryan: We kind of avoid predispositions too, we donât really think about it in advanced.
Anthony: We just do what we do and, as for Jason, receiving that cool title and the press, itâs nothing we asked for. If they want to do it, then weâre thankful enough for them to do it.
Ryan: To be completely honest with you, we had no say in it and Jason found out the week before it was happening. It wasnât as if he had a yes or no in the situation. Our PR didnât even know.
Jason: But it was great, we are very appreciative.
Why do you think itâs a bad thing for bands to admit they want to get big? Jason: I donât think it is, to be honest. I think if you donât compromise your integrity and thatâs your goal, to become popular, and if you accomplish it, I really donât think thereâs much integrity lost in your eyes. I think itâs more so what you do when you become big. You assume a responsibility when you become such a large band or even a small band with followers that have a cult-like admiration; itâs just what you do. Thatâs when I think a bandâs full of shit, is when theyâre big and then they sort of demean their fans or assume that their fans arenât smart enough to pick up on the bullshit theyâre feeding thing, things like that. When you donât take advantage of a very, very, very glint of an opportunity, I think thatâs bullshit. If you want to be big, be big, thatâs cool.
Anthony: I feel that thereâs a lot of bands that say they donât want the attention or be in those magazines, but they want attention for being that band. They want to be that cult band; they want a bunch of people to know that they donât want it. I canât speak for any of those types of bands whatsoever, I donât know what their mission statement is, maybe theyâre uncomfortable with the attention and responsibility of having more eyes on you, I donât know.
Ryan: As long as you keep doing your thing and pay attention to your original idea, because thatâs all that matters. There are a lot of bands that are successful, when clearly in their minds, it wasnât supposed to bet that way.
I saw another interview with Jason and you said, "I want letlive. to be a vessel for anyone that wants to be emotional or political." Would you say thatâs letlive.âs mission statement? Can you expand on it? Jason: Yeah, anything. If there is one to be carved out or illuminated, itâs simply that. Itâs just a form, itâs just an idea, itâs something that is accessible to literally anyone - except maybe Nazis, we donât like them at all. But other than that, itâs there for people to feel something. Itâs an idea of poignancy and thatâs about it. It isnât really for us; weâre probably as part of it just as much as those who are buying our t-shirts or buying our records or at the shows.
What was it that made you want to focus on being a socio-political band? Jason: I think itâs just because of our environment. Weâre all Los Angeles kids and have a very large liberal sense, but what I feel weâre lucky to have is the notion of fanaticism on a whole, whether it be someone who is completely right or left wing. If anything, weâre hoping to shift the center - politically, emotionally, musically - and thatâs a very large task to try and tackle. Weâre not presumptuous that we can do it; itâs just an effort weâre trying to make. Itâs just paying attention instead of
Anthony: Itâs just being politically and socially aware, itâs not forcing any specific view down anyoneâs throat.
Ryan: Yeah, itâs just being intellectually aware and making sure that you use your mind, and think about thing around you. Thereâs never really been a specific statement and given the opportunity that we have and other bands have, itâs perfect form to think about certain things and do whatever you can do to accomplish what you can. I think a lot of people should take advantage of that, and thereâs no specific thing that weâre saying, but just do your thing.
Jason: We all come from very different backgrounds and different places in the world, and thatâs the representation that weâre trying to make with letlive.. Itâs as in-your-face as Black Flag and ironically just as open-ended as a Radiohead song.
Do you think bands should speak up if they have a platform to get their message across? Jason: If they believe in it and thatâs what theyâre trying to be, then they need to at least make an effort to show that itâs not just a guise and faking a collective thought that nurtured a group of misfits or deviant portion of the world or political party or a social ranking. I think they need to take that and be about it, if youâre going to talk about it, then you should be about it.
You seem like really down-to-earth guys, so how do you feel about those who consider letlive.âs aura pretentious? Jason: I think itâs funny.
Ryan: I think it comes with anybody when they have anything to say, and I donât think weâre very pretentious at all. [laughs]
Jason: You know what I say to that? Fuck you, man! You donât even know me! Straight up, take a moment and figure me out before you fucking judge me! Just because I paint my nails and wear black clothesâ¦ Iâm an individual! [laughs] Iâm just kidding.
The thing that I like about letlive. is that you donât conform to trends and Iâve heard people say that if Fake History came out in the early â00s, youâd be a lot bigger. Ryan: I can understand that perspective, we did grow up during those years and there was a lot of influence from our musical inclinations then, but I like to think weâre progressive and do things however it comes out.
Anthony: Look at the headliners of this tour [New Found Glory]; theyâre keeping 2000 alive.
Jason: That shit is perennial, itâs timeless. But there is something to say about that, New Found Glory wrote songs in 2002 that get the same reaction as they did 10-years ago. Itâs an essence, itâs an attitude and what you mean when you write, and if you continue to believe in it and it still means the same when you wrote it 10-years ago, then good job. Hopefully, weâll be able to do the same.
Since they are a band youâre probably associated with in sound and you even cover them, how do you feel about Refusedâs reunion? Anthony: I got the shivers when I found out.
Ryan: I think weâre all excited, because they were around when we were much younger doing their thing. People can be curious regarding their motives about why they got back together, everyoneâs got negative things to say about everything, but at the end of the day, itâs pretty cool that theyâre getting back together. Itâs cool that they were able to garner what they did over the years, without playing anything, and everyone was still recognizing the band for what they had been. People up to blink-182 cited them as influence; itâs insane. The fact that theyâre doing it now and showing people what that music was and what it can do is something Iâm excited about.
In your song H. Ledger, Jason once said it was "a clever way to pay homage to bands that we felt didn't receive proper recognition until they were no longer active." Can you cite what bands in particular? Jason: Refused. To be completely honest, that was like a mini homage to bands, people and things that have happened in society in the past that didnât get the right recognition, because I think weâre arrogant people and overlook things and take things for granted, then when theyâre gone, weâre like, "Shit, we probably should have paid more attention." Things that probably would have done something much greater than what we allowed it to, so thatâs pretty much what that song is about: Refused.
Have you consciously calmed it down on stage? Ryan: Weâve been doing ok, I think, considering. Thereâs a lot to be said about it, but for the time being, weâre perfectly fine. Itâs funny, though, because a lot of people associated with this havenât heard anything like it, either. We usually have a good relationship with promoters, like in the years weâve been a band, weâve never had an issue, ever. Weâll just move forward and see what we can do in the future, so we donât get in the situation again.
So, whatâs next for letlive. after this tour? Jason: Weâre going to go home for a few days - literally, three or four. Then jump on a plane and go to Australia, so Soundwave, get a sick tan, meet babes, get kicked off that festival, get deported, and then fly back, and literally straight into a tour with Every Time I Die, then directly following that is another tour in the States and that should lead us into around mid-May when weâll be returning home and starting to write the new record and recording it in the summer, and releasing it in the third quarter, hopefully.
Is there anything else you want to say? Jason: Just thank you, and anyone else who is reading it, even if they do think weâre pretentious. Thank you for taking the time to try to figure it out, we really, really do appreciate it. Thank you so much.