No matter how many albums you sell, you cannot buy immortality. Hit singles won’t save the ones you love or spare you from the pain of loss. Success is only an affirmation that you did it once and might be able to do it again. And even that is a longshot.
Nearly two months before their album “The View from the Bottom” was released, Lit performed at Vinyl Music Hall. A return to music has marked a comeback for the band and their first album in eight years. Eight years that saw the band suffer several tragedies, including the death of the Popoff brother’s stepfather in a motorcyle accident and the loss of their drummer Allen Shellenberger to cancer in 2009
In our interview-a week prior to the show at Vinyl-Lit frontman A. Jay Popoff discussed his love of metal, concerts and life for my music column in the Pensacola News Journal.
*** A. Jay Popoff Interview ***
MS: What can fans expect from the new album and this tour?
AJ: As far as the new album goes, it’s been awhile since we put out a record. For a lot of reasons, we went through a lot of shit as a band. I’ll just give you the short version. There was such a dark cloud following us everywhere we went, that we just kept on hiatus during that time and sort of waited until not only it felt right, but until the time was right, and we were inspired to write good music again. Not to bring a dark angle to it, but losing our brother and our drummer was such a devastating blow that it just knocked us on our ass. We weren’t ready to make a record until we healed a little bit from that. It lit a whole new fire under our ass and inspired us again in a bigger way, like never before. Consequently, the songs that were coming out-the ones that are on this record-are probably our best songs ever.
MS: What did you listen to growing up?
AJ: Man, my brother and I are from such a musical family. We grew up listening to everything. Our grandfather was a jazz musician, so we were exposed to a lot of jazz. Our dad was in top 40 radio. A DJ at one of the bigger pop radio stations at that time in a L.A. My brother and I, when we were old enough to buy our own records, we were huge metal heads. We were listening to bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and all that heavy stuff. That’s why when you listen to a Lit record, people don’t really know what genre we fall in. Some people in the beginning were like, “Oh, Lit is a pop-punk band.” People that kind of dug deep into the band realized that these guys are a straight rock band. We’re all over the board on our records. You’ll hear stuff that’s maybe a little more pop than most rock bands and then you’ll hear a heavy side, especially live. A lot of our music translates a lot heavier live too, because we have that influence. We used to go to heavy metal concerts. Those were the kind of shows that made us want to be onstage. When you see us up there, it’s not like watching Blink 182, it’s probably a little more like watching Iron Maiden. Although we don’t look anything like those guys.
MS: What’s the best concert you saw as a kid?
AJ: I’d probably have to go with Iron Maiden. We went to almost every tour that those guys came through with. “Powerslave”, “Live after Death”. That tour, that was actually a live record that they put out. I was at that show as a kid. My first concert ever when I was eight years old was Iron Maiden “Killers” and that was before Bruce Dickinson started singing. I got to see Iron Maiden with the original singer. Yeah. Shit, I’ve seen a lot of great shows. Another one that stood out was Jane’s Addiction at the second Lollapalooza, just a phenomenal show. Muse. I think Muse put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, just an insane live band.
MS: With the touring, performing, recording, what part gets you off the most about the whole Lit experience?
AJ: That’s a no-brainer, man. It’s the live thing for sure; being out onstage and playing. I love writing music. I love the writing process. Not a huge fan of recording studios. To me it’s all the energy and all the passion happens when you hit the stage. That’s another thing that I can say, that I dislike television performances because you’ve got nothing but cameras in front of you and lights. It doesn’t feel natural at all. Definitely, without a doubt, being onstage is the kicker.
MS: I know that Lit shows get wild. Inhibitions fly, but what is the craziest thing you’ve ever done or you’ve ever seen at one of your shows?
AJ: I’m sure I’ll forget about some of the crazier shit, but definitely one of the things that stands out-just the only time it ever happened on tour-was the time I got arrested. Actually, I pretty much got arrested right after I set foot off the stage for taking my clothes off. Normally, I wouldn’t have done anything like that. Well actually, we were in Charlotte, N.C. and probably one of the worst places to pull a move like that when you’re playing a show in the Bible belt. I remember the security was real tense and ruining everybody’s time; making people sit down and I just remember, I was so annoyed. I just started pounding Jagermeister and I took myself to a point where I didn’t give a shit anymore. That was memorable. You just never know with us, what’s going to happen. That’s what’s so cool about being on tour. You’re in a different city every night. You never know what the next night is going to bring and that’s part of the excitement. Every city gets their own little treat of some sort. You’ll see something that no one else is going to see because it’s captured in that two hour period. It’s history, man.
MS: I know you’ve been asked this a lot, what was the inspiration for the writing for “My Own Worst Enemy”?
AJ: Oh man. It speaks for itself. (laughs) The inspiration is all in that. We wrote that song-that was probably one of the painless songs we’ve ever written. Not that the other songs were painful, but that song really wrote itself. We showed up to our rehearsal space that we had been in for many, many years and throwing parties and what have you. We were on sort of a writing binge and showed up to practice with a case of beer and just had a good time. And that riff, my brother started playing the riff, the band just joined in, I had a concept already and the melody. Seriously, that song was done in a couple of hours.
MS: Would you consider yourself a bad boy or a nice guy?
AJ: I’d say that most people know me as being a little too nice. I guess it depends on where you draw the line or how you define “bad boy.” I’m a nice bad boy, I guess. I mean, I get into trouble, but I don’t really piss a lot of people off. I don’t piss the wrong people off, I should say. I piss the people off that I want to piss off.
MS: You always stand up for yourself. That’s what I’ve learned.
AJ: Yeah. We’ve definitely paved a road of destruction, but we’re sympathetic (laughs).
MS: With everything you’ve been through, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
AJ: Shit, I don’t know. I think advice is…yeah, you can take good advice, but for me I feel like learning through the school of hard knocks and just going out there, living it and learning things the hard way. Personally, that’s taught me the most. Definitely, I’ve talked to some people who are pretty insightful and I probably learned a lot from it, but I can’t fucking remember (laughs).
MS: What words of wisdom would you give to up and coming artists who want to be where you are?
AJ: I would say, spend more time playing music with your band. And less time on Facebook. Social media is really important. I feel, sort of bands nowadays, not really building strong grass roots out there on the street and not marketing their band as a band. It seems like a lot of bands spend time in separate rooms on their computers than hitting the streets together as a team; talking to fans, getting out there and actually connecting with people on a real level. I think that’s important, man. This virtual world is starting to kill the scene a little bit.
MS: People do, but people rarely even put up fliers anymore. I remember when you flier’d every place in your city.
AJ: The cool thing is, you have the internet now and it helps reach a lot more people. Once you’re out there and you’re doing it. I really think that people have got to get back to old school marketing. There’s no reason why you can’t be doing both. The main thing is connecting with people, man. And helping people connect with the music and you as a band, and not so much, not only the brand.
MS: Creamy or Crunchy Peanut Butter?
AJ: (laughs) Man, is this a trick question? This is going to mean that I’m a certain kind of person if I choose one or the other.
MS: I’ve heard some crazy answers.
AJ: I’m allergic to nuts.
MS: Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction said he likes “Crunchy, but…..
AJ: I’m going to stick with my answer to stay safe.
MS: Is there anything you want the diehard Lit fans to know?
AJ: Oh shit. I think you’re going to see Lit with full guns blazing. In better form than we’ve ever been. We’ve got a great band right now. We brought on a fifth member, who adds a whole new layer to the band that we haven’t had out on tour yet. Yeah, man, we’re going to play all of the classics that everyone wants to come out and see and I promise that you won’t be disappointed with the new shit live.
– Michael L. Smith
Link to an additional photo gallery of the event by the PNJ crew.