Lit are about to release their fifth studio album, The View From The Bottom on Megaforce Records, so it’s natural to ask yourself, “Where has the band been?” But the answer to that question is particularly complicated, rife with stories and situations of triumph over tribulation. The answer is all in the new record’s title.
No, it has nothing to do with Lit having slid off the face of the earth (and the charts) over the past eight or so years. In fact, through a number of heartbreaking challenges, the Fullerton, CA rock band, comprised of bros, singer A. Jay Popoff, guitarist/singer Jeremy Popoff, and lifelong friends, bassist/singer Kevin Baldes and drummer Allen Shellenberger, would remain active. Even vital.
As if it needs to be said, the group, had seen significant success with their second album A Place in the Sun (1999) which spawned 3 uber hit singles: “Miserable,” which went to #3 on the Modern Rock Tracks, and whose video featured the flaxen voluptitude of Pamela Anderson; “Zip-Lock,” and “My Own Worst Enemy” (which held the number one position on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart for three months, and received a Billboard Music Award for the biggest modern rock song of 1999). The song has actually sold over 650,000 downloads to date, which is no small feat considering that it was released before the advent of that technology.
Most of Lit’s salad days were spent on the road. They rocked Woodstock 1999 and supported the Offspring, No Doubt and Garbage, spanning the globe and clocking in close to 500 shows between 1999 and 2000 (They were also seen all over television on MTV Spring Break, Cribs, TRL, Leno, Conan and more). And riding on its heels, A Place In The Sun’s 2001 follow-up Atomic boasted yet another Top Ten single for the band, “Lipstick And Bruises,” and a support tour with Kid Rock.
After a very short breather, Lit would again, hit the road in 2003, this time, with a more intimate club tour to support the release of their fourth, self-titled LP, released in 2004, post a bold move to an indie label. A long-form live performance DVD release, All Access would follow later that year, and concurrently, Jeremy would give the band's hometown of Fullerton, CA a new watering hole, the Slidebar, which fast became a top Orange County hang.
Then, in a tragic turnabout of fortune, A. Jay and Jeremy’s stepfather was killed and their mother seriously injured when they were involved in a motorcycle accident with a drunk driver on the Ortega Highway near their home in Lake Elsinore. The tragedy would make it extremely difficult for the band to weather the work but despite it all, they would continue to write and play shows. In July of 2008, the band had been called to support Kiss on a European tour but just days before the first date, misfortune befell the group again when Shellenberger was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Just over a year later, the illness would take his life.
Spirits left in ruins, still A. Jay, Jeremy and Kevin found the wherewithal to make the music. Initially, the group still felt unable to pen songs for a new disc. Slowly, without forcing it, the group began writing. “It took those traumatic things to slowly start pulling us back together as a unit,” says A. Jay.
With the help of a new drummer/old friend, in fact Shellenberger’s drum tech, Nathan Walker and guitarist/keyboardist Ryan Gillmor, Lit suddenly found themselves with a pile of new material. The inspiration had struck and during various writing sessions throughout 2010 and 2011 The group began to construct their first new tracks in many years. “We’re ready as a band to get out there again,” A. Jay says. “We have the right guys now and our band is more focused than it’s ever been, maybe because we’ve learned so much in the process.”
The group headed into the studio in late 2011 with Butch Walker, who had recently helmed records by Panic! At The Disco, Avril Lavigne and Weezer, (along writing credits on countless hits), armed with a selection of these new songs and, for the first time ever, demos. Whereas in the past Lit had written just enough tracks for an album, on this album the band was prepared with way more tracks than appear on The View From The Bottom. The majority of the disc was tracked live on two-inch tape in order to capture a “very organic and real” feeling in the recordings. The process felt natural, like the time to make a follow-up to Lit was finally the right time.
“We were thrilled and excited to be able to finally make a record with Butch,” Jeremy says of the recording process. “It was such a blast. It was a very fast, organic process- completely drama free. It was all about fun and making the best music we could make. Just really enjoying the process, which we now have the luxury of doing. It was just the way it should be making a record.”
The resulting album is impassioned and alive, a collection of solidly catchy rock songs that reverberate with inspiration.
Mixed by Joe Zook (Katy Perry, The Hives, One Republic, Pink) The View From The Bottom tangibly tells the story of Lit’s in between days. The tracks, which veer from upbeat rocker to pensive ballad, narrate the story of the musicians’ experiences over the past ten years, encompassing both their individual and collective histories. Allen’s death is threaded throughout the album, coloring the songwriting on tracks like “The Wall,” a number based around a photograph of the band taken at his last show. “The picture’s in my living room,” Jeremy notes. “We took the picture off the wall and took it into the yard when we were writing and the lyric is ‘There’s more behind that picture than the wall.’ It represents an important growth as songwriters. I’m really proud of that one.”
Other standout tracks include, “The Broken” and most poignantly, “Here’s To Us,” but the new record is not without its lighter, Big Rock Moments- reference the absolutely monolithic kick-starter, “C’mon” and the equally tremendous “You Tonight,” co-written by Marti Frederiksen whose collabs include Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Mick Jagger, and Carrie Underwood among others, not to mention the glam stomper, “Same Shit, Different Drink,” (co-written with Walker).
Ultimately, The View From the Bottom is inherently a Lit album, driven by propulsive tracks intended to make the listener let go and have a good time. It reflects two sides of the same spectrum, offering a balanced, diverse listening experience that finds cohesiveness in both its tone and songwriting prowess.
“Part of us wanted to touch on the stuff that we’d been through and there was another part of us that just wanted to get back to the idea of having fun and being excited to play live,” Jeremy says of that dichotomy. “I think there was also an element of wanting to make music we felt like was missing from the radio right now. Which is exactly how we felt 12 years ago when we were writing A Place In the Sun.”
Now, as the band heads back on the road, Lit is prepared to both re-excite their longtime fans and win over new ones. With a recent record label deal with Megaforce, a company that Lit felt connected to in terms of their goals and musical philosophies, the band hopes listeners will see the past ten years as a success story. In the end, the band is just a group of guys who saw some triumphs and along with those achievements came some tragedies. But they stuck together and have come out on the other side swinging, new music in hand.
Look for a headlining tour of the southeast in April and May and, the band will join the Summerland Tour (along with Sugar Ray, The Gin Blossoms, Everclear and Marcy Playground) in late June through August.