MEB staffer Austin Gordon recently caught up with Jason Butler and Anthony Rivera of letlive outside of Emo’s East in Austin TX to talk about their recent tour experiences, their record Fake History, the music industry, and their plans for their upcoming untitled record.
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MEB: So let’s start with the question of all of your relentless touring: how gratifying has it been to have been a part of so many different tours in places thousands of miles away from here? Would exhausting be an understatement?
Jason: Exhausting. I feel that would encapsulate to a fair degree what we feel. It is in fact trumped by the inexplicable nature of how we feel, as a result of these things; gratifying is one way, but grateful’s probably a better way to put it.
I think grateful’s the best way to put it really.
How has the crowd response been from say the various countries around Europe compared to the US?
Jason & Anthony: Different.
Jason: I think there’s an intrinsic braid that we’ve found that goes throughout the world. Now it’s starting to sort of meld together, as before it was a very glaring disparity. From a mainly European country, to a British city, to a city in the states; you could definitely pick them out. Now it’s starting to seem kind of similar, but it wasn’t before.
Anthony: Yeah, it’s a slow growing thing, and that’s the thing with being grateful and being appreciative. If it wasn’t for the fact that we saw some growth with each and every tour that we do, wherever it is, whether it’s in Europe or in the states, we probably wouldn’t keep doing it. I could see how with other bands, spirits could be crushed if you feel you like you’re doing it for nothing. That’s definitely not the case, we definitely see purpose behind it.
Right, that’s definitely not the case.
Are there any particular incidents that have stuck out in the past few years that instantly made you guys think “this is it, this is why I’m here doing what I love every single night”?
Anthony: We played that festival with Dragonforce. (laughs)
Jason: Yeah we played with Dragonforce! It’s going to sound real fantastical, or cheesy – but every night man. It’s good to have compare and contrast to what would be considered a terrible show. Alright, he hates my answer (laughs).
Anthony: That made my heart tickle (laughs).
Jason: It could be a horrible show, and it could be the best show; and within that on both ends of the spectrum is when you realize what it’s worth. Gandhi said it best man, but I won’t tell you what Gandhi said, you should read it for yourself. He said it was personal (laughs).
Definitely, look it up!
Now I’ve seen you guys live many times, and I know that once you all get going there is not much that can stop it. Tell me about a time where you guys caused the largest amount of literal destruction to a venue during one of your shows?
Anthony: There was a PA recently that got kicked off of the stage. I don’t know if it was damaged, I assume [it was]. It was a pretty high stage.
Jason: They hit us with a $2,000 bill.
Anthony: Did they? I didn’t see that bill. There you go, there’s one example. Threw around some drums. Microphones, many a time. I don’t know, glass?
Jason: Glass, that’s the new one.
What about when you tore through the tent last year at SXSW in Austin? Did you get billed for that?
Jason: (laughs) They tried to. We had new friends who were very much on our side and went to bat for us, and helped us out of that one. We eluded the cost of a tent.
You put a decent sized hole in that (laughs).
Jason: I did, and I feel bad. I don’t do that because I want to come back and have something later on to talk about, I just do it because I’m not thinking. That’s all it is, I’m a child.
Yeah, you’re totally caught up in the music. That’s exactly how it goes. One of those “in the moment” things.
Jason: Yeah! Absolutely.
Anthony: I broke a drum stick once.
Jason: Yeah you did, ay ay (laughs).
That’s hardcore man (laughs).
Is there a particular fan or person who has approached you guys and told you about how much of an impact your music has made?
Jason: Actually, we’ve become pretty close with a lot of people that have told us that. Typically, it’s a very sincere approach. I feel it would be a disservice to those select people who have done so to name one or two.
Anthony: It’s really inspiring to see when it inspires art with other people. Whether it’s them doing covers of our songs, seeing that online. To put that amount of effort into something –
Random dude: Hey yo letlive is the best band!
That’s the truth (laughs).
Jason: You’re a pimp, that was FUNNY! That’s like hip-hop. Yeah, what’s up. Straight out of Los Angeles. Talk about your band, in your songs. Trick Daddy tricked a lot of kids.
Anthony: Love ‘em.
Jason: And himself. I’m sorry. Fuck that. I completely digress that whole thing.
Anthony: That’s his fault, fuck Carlos.
Jason: Fuck Carlos, we’re starting beef on this mother fucker.
Anthony: That’s what’s up, let him know. Mind Equals Blown, Carlos equals blown.
Oh yes, more plug-age for the website (laughs).
Anthony: Anyway, what was I saying? But yeah, art with other people, whether it’s covers, or we’ve seen a few drawings of Jason, or some poetry they’ve written, or letters they’ve given to us, I think that’s really cool. Our creativity can inspire creativity to somebody else.
It all goes back full circle, really.
Jason: Yeah, it really does.
Moving on to more serious topics, in the context of the music industry being a train, a propellant object that is always traveling (keeping in mind that its destination can be changed), where do you think it is going?
Jason: Backwards really, and it should. It should go so far backwards that it’s beyond the horizon and no one can see it anymore. Then, we are forced to hit the reset button and start over and make it for ourselves. Put it back in the hands of the artists and the people, and stop worrying about what people like to call “big wigs” and “fat cats.”
Jason: The final frontier for music is in fact that, and it’s coming, and it’s very, very blatant. I’m excited about it. Because people, fans, and friends, that’s what is most important in music. Of course, there’s the art, and they go hand in hand – one can’t exist without the other. That’s the next wave.
Anthony: People are looking for something, you can tell it’s the whole next retrograde trend. Even sonically, bands trying to imitate whether it’s like a surf rock band or punk band. They’re just doing stuff that’s already been done, because that’s what people were attached to before, and obviously because there was something of substance within it. So, I think it’s just a matter of getting that inspiration and making it into something relative – and you. It still pays homage to true art and what true music is.
Ultimately, do you guys think it’ll ever reach a point of content?
Jason: I hope not. I never want to be content.
Anthony: I don’t think so.
Jason: The idea of progressive nature. That’s Buddha too. That’s real. It’s true though. I think the progressive nature of this music, of this existence of the human condition is to move forward. Yeah.
Right, now that makes perfect sense.
Give me your opinion on the ideology of the “larger than life” figure (the example being a famous musician). Basically, what I’m asking is in relevance to our society and the importance of this person’s work, or music; is it right for us to “worship” them and idealize their music and their persona? Does a person ever stop being just like us, and if so when does their music transcend their persona?
Jason: I believe in iconoclast. Kill them all, crash all those icons, we don’t need them. Nah, I do think there is certainly warrant in some artists and musicians being larger than life simply because they’ve found that the normalcy or typicality that sort of runs itself in between, in the middle, they’ve found a way to reach that. In what light you want to view that is up to you really. I’m saying this as a fan of music, not as an artist: there are in fact artists I don’t want to meet because I enjoy the mystique, but at the same time as an artist, I don’t believe in that. So I guess I have a very ironic and contradictory duality with all that. Myself and us, hell no. We don’t deserve that, and we don’t want that.
Anthony: Yeah, and I think again it comes full circle. I think with icons or whatever you want to call them, they’re just paying respect to every individual. Everyone has something different to offer everyone. I talked to somebody over here that has crazy ass ideas, draws crazy ass art, but he just doesn’t happen to have these icons, whether it’s Kurt Cobain, James Brown, Miles Davis. Back in the day they just happened to have the microphone. They were able to be a part of something in the right place at the right time. Who’s to say that if someone else didn’t get that microphone or stage, or was able to get on television, then that wouldn’t have been the case for them as well? They would’ve been the icon.
Now let’s talk about your last record. Do you think that Fake History has more of a set attraction (in terms of what the message its trying to convey is), or do you think it is a machine of its own – letting people take from it what they will and convert it to fit their own life experiences?
Jason: I think to answer that in one way would be presumptuous, and another would just be hopeful. I’m gonna be hopeful, and just say that I hope that it allows and it affords itself to some sort of malleable sense where people can make whatever they want of it. I said what I said, he played what he played, we all did what we did in the moment. We really do believe in the transcendental music that is music, both sonically and emotionally, and all that is in between. If there’s any sort of disclaimer that will couple itself or companion itself with that record, then yeah. I hope people take from it what they want, you know?
If Fake History had an intended goal, describe that goal in five words.
Anthony: Make money.
Jason: Make money, take money, bitch.
Jason: Five words? I hope you feel something.
That is absolutely perfect, that is the exact response I was looking for. That is perfect.
So now as you guys are approaching the inevitable slow-down of all things letlive to write and record this new record, where is the angst and passion fueling from this time around? Is the place where this record is coming from different from where Fake History came from?
Jason: Lyrically, I believe so, yeah. As candid as I may have seemed on the record, and definitely as blabbermouth as I am on stage, there’s still a lot of things that I have compartmentalized and introverted that I could talk about. Moreover, more importantly, a lot of the things I’ve learned since the record, because of the record, and because of the people who involved themselves and subscribed themselves to what it is that letlive’s trying to be and do. Because letlive isn’t just five dudes on a stage, it’s literally everything that has to do with from the show, to the music, to the people we’ve met, to the interviews we do. With that, we’ve learned a lot. We’ve been humbled, extremely humbled. We’ve stripped away, we’ve rid ourselves of these ideals, and hopefully that nature can put itself out there on a CD and just be honest.
Anthony: I think it’s definitely coming from a different place granted that we’ve been touring so long. I think it makes us better musicians, pretty much practicing every night makes us more solid. It gives us a better overall perspective as performers. There’s still the art and the craft of the songs, structuring out certain notes and things like that. Having the mindset of “we’re playing this for somebody,” personally it’s given me a good perspective on that.
Right, you’ve just had a broad range of things to take in and put together.
Is there an underlying theme for the new record?
Jason: Anthony and myself have been discussing this recently, having some sort of conceptual approach, which we’ve never done really.
Anthony: Without it being a concept album.
Jason: Yeah exactly, without being ostentatious or completely obvious. I think the theme is an attitude. It sounds so ’90s, but it’s just an attitude. It’s just the way we’re feeling at that time. The idea is simply is that essence that we hope to shape.
Are there any topics that you guys haven’t explored yet but want to cover?
Jason: That’s good, I think they’re coming all of the time to be completely honest. No, not off the top of my head, but I think it’s almost better that way. When it comes and if it’s worth it, then it will grant itself and lend itself to not being forced.
It’ll make perfect sense at the time, when it’s created.
Is the world prepared for what you all will soon be unleashing on us?
Jason: I don’t think they were ever prepared, I think they just kind of gave in (laughs). Let’s hope so. I don’t know.
Anthony: I don’t know. I hope so.
I guess we’ll find out?
Lastly, last words for everyone out there who is listening to or reading this?
Jason: Understand that what this is, is not just a band talking to a very fine-looking gentleman.
Why thank you.
Jason: You know, on an audio recording. They’ve dubbed it a scene, but this is much more than all that. I do sound pedantic, and I do know that, so me calling that out will make it a little more sincere. Fuck letlive, pay attention to Mind Equals Blown, pay attention to the people next to you, pay attention to what it is going [on] around you, and not just a band.
Anthony: Thank you for supporting music and journalism beyond just going on YouTube or Tumblr or you know, some other sort of stimulation.
Being a part of something that is larger than yourself.
Jason: Please, oh my goodness. Please. We don’t want your money, we just want your support.
Anthony: Paying attention.
Exactly, and that’s what anyone would want. Thank you.