Lit’s Jeremy Popoff | As Metal as Anybody

prof lit_75We’re gonna keep doing our thing as long as people keep coming out.

 

When you think of the late ’90s/early ’00 alternative rock scene, you can’t help but think of Lit. With seven Top 50 Billboard U.S. Alternative Rock singles, anyone growing up around that time knew who Lit was. Then the band took some time off and a younger generation lost touch with an alternative rock mainstay. Now in 2012, with a brand new record, A View from the Bottom, and a monster summer tour called Summerland 2012 (featuring Everclear, Lit, The Gin Blossoms, Marcy Playground, and Sugar Ray), Lit is poised once again to take back its crown.

I spoke with Jeremy Popoff, lead guitarist and backup vocalist for the band, about recording the new record, the loss of a friend, and what the future has in store for Lit.

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Congratulation on the new album! How was it getting back in the studio after such a long recording hiatus?

It definitely felt really good getting back in with Lit and making a Lit record. I had been in the studio a bunch over the years, writing for other people and working in Nashville writing a lot of country music and stuff. So just the idea of being in the studio wasn’t anything new to me, but being in with the boys and getting back to that whole thing was awesome.

Tell me what the recording process was like for the new record.

Every song is different. It’s all collaborative, but each song is different in its own way. We collaborate with other songwriters and other artists, as well, so we are used to this process of setting up time with different people, whether it’s each other or two or three of us and somebody else who is a friend and songwriter. We set up a time, we get together, talk about stuff, and just jam and write a song. Sometimes it’s a title or a lyric; sometimes it’s a riff or a melody. It comes all different ways.

You started recording with producer Marti Frederikson, and ended up finishing with Butch Walker as producer. How much of the record was carried over from the original recording sessions, and how much did you do with Butch?

Some of the songs carried over. We’re the kind of band that, when we’re writing for a record, we don’t write 50 songs and pick 15; we write 13 or 14 and pick 11 or 12. We kind of produce as we’re writing, and if we aren’t feeling it or if we feel it’s not something that’s going to make the record, we don’t bother wasting time on it or finishing it. So some of the songs carried over, but we basically redid everything and started over [with Butch].

How was it signing with Megaforce Records? They are predominantly known as a metal label, and you guys are the opposite of metal.

[Laughs] The funny part is, if you rode the bus with us and got to know us, you’d realize were as metal as anybody. That’s what we grew up on. We can go toe-to-toe with any metalhead out there on metal trivia. A.Jay [Popoff] and I, our first concert we ever went to was Iron Maiden; I was nine years old and he was seven. That’s how Lit met—we all met in high school. We were the guys with long hair and Iron Maiden or Metallica t-shirts. That’s our roots.

That’s the first thing I thought of when I heard Megaforce was interested in talking with us. First I kind of laughed, but then thought, well, that’s kind of awesome. Anthrax is on that label, but a lot of people don’t realize they [also] have The Black Crowes. Third Eye Blind is on that label. They have a pretty diverse roster now.

I don’t know where you really buy [records] anymore. We still sell them on the road ourselves, but it’s a different time now. So our arrangement with Megaforce is more of a partnership than a traditional record deal.

prof lit_popoff_300This is the first album with Nate Walker on drums, after the passing of Allen Shellenberger [Lit’s original drummer]. How was it working with Nate on the record?

Al was our brother and it was a devastating loss. It took awhile for us to get our legs back and figure out how to do it. Nate used to tech for Al sometimes, and they were really close friends. When Al was sick, Nate filled in a few shows, Adrian [Young] from No Doubt filled in. A lot of Al’s really good friends pitched in to help out. When the time came to carry on, Nate was already just kind of sitting there in the chair. We didn’t really audition anyone else, we didn’t talk to anyone else; that’s just kind of the way it went.

The cool thing about Nate is that he’s an amazing drummer. In the studio, he’s very fast and quick; he just nails it. However, he’s also very conscious of what Al would have played. He’s not back there trying to show off or reinvent the old songs. He plays all the old stuff very true to Al, and even the new stuff. He kind of approached it: “How would Al have played this?” He’s very respectful of the legacy and the vibe that Lit has. It’s really cool.

How has the Summerland 2012 tour been going? What has it been like playing with a bunch of peers that all rose to fame around the same time?

The tour’s been great. We’re a little over halfway now, but right out of the gate, it started out amazing. Crowds have been great; crew has been great. We’re a big dysfunctional family traveling circus now. Everyone’s having a blast. It’s a great summer tour.

It’s especially cool to see a lot of young people coming to the show, that were maybe fans back in the day that maybe weren’t old enough to go the concerts. It’s a real blessing to be out here playing in front of thousands of people every night. That was the vision for the tour, and to be honest with you, it was a gamble. You take a bunch of bands that individually would have played the same-size venues and similar-sized shows, but you put us all together and maybe we draw four or five times as many people than as one of us alone. That’s kind of a gamble, but it worked. The strength-in-numbers thing is working.

It’s also been a lot of word-of-mouth. There were a couple shows early on [where] we would have a couple thousand walk-up sales, which is unbelievable. I think people are seeing the pictures, reading reviews, and hearing from their friends online. They’re like, “Holy shit! This is a badass show. I gotta go.” We’re seeing sales increasing like crazy on tickets, and a lot of people excited about the tour, talking about it afterward. That’s the real test for us.

What’s the future of Lit after this tour? Are you guys going to take some time off?

No, man! We’re just getting started again! There’s talk of a Canadian tour, there’s a European tour in the works, and there’s more clubs for Lit. The record just recently came out, and we’re gonna keep doing our thing as long as people keep coming out.

So finally, I gotta ask: Is the car still in the front yard?

[Laughs] Yeah, it’s a nicer car and a bigger front yard, but yeah, it’s still there. | Kyle Green

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