Our friends at Epitaph know talent, alright. The label wisely snagged up Los Angeles’ Letlive., a band known for their chaotic live shows, strong passion for music and impressive 2010 album Fake History. Back in December, I spent a good hour chatting with the boys and filming the first MEB Acoustic Session. Below is one of my favorite interviews I’ve conducted while working for MEB. Enjoy, and check out last week’s re-release of Fake History (which earned 4.5/5 stars in an MEB review).
Mind Equals Blown: You have a large presence online; there’s still a little bit of mystique about you. You have the WordPress site where you do a lot of updates. To describe you as a band seems a little small; rather than asking who is letlive, what is letlive?
Jason Butler: letlive is in fact whatever you would like it to be. Not so much that it’s malleable or influenced by the things that are happening around the environment, but more so will move along as we progress. What we want to do is open up as many avenues for as many people as we can. We’re not here with a mission statement to change the world; we would just like people to believe they can change the world, and if we happen to serve as that medium or vessel, then we are very much appreciative of that and hope that people can feel that with the essence that is letlive. It is more than music, it’s not about us at all. It’s about what people want to change.
Your fan base seems to grow daily, largely from the critically-acclaimed release of Fake History. For the newbies, give us a brief bio on what letlive was before Fake History.
Ryan Jay Johnson: Not this. haha. Fake History was written over 3 years, very slowly. We were touring in and out of a lot of random little kicker tours. The progression was just us growing up essentially, I think our mindsets were much different four years ago when we came together than they are now. Fake History is just a complete compilation of the last four years.
Jason: That’s the best way to put it; Fake History is simply what we’ve wanted to have done at some point. We never gave ourselves a timeline, we never gave ourselves a due date. Thankfully, it came to fruition at its own pinnacle; it made itself. That’s really what Fake History is. It’s what this band is, and what’s to become.
What specifically do you feel like with your creative process is different than other bands or different than your other experiences?
Jeff Sahyoun: I think what separates us from a lot of other bands is how collective the process is. Everyone in letlive understands how every instrument works and how everything coincides with one another. Everyone has a say; there’s not really one dominant songwriter. When we get together in the studio or on a sidewlak or wherever it is we’re trying to write, everybody’s in. Aton’s our drummer and he’ll write me guitar parts or I’ll write him drum parts. You don’t see that in a lot of bands too often.
Jason: I think the irony in it is humorous. We very much remove ourselves from letlive as individuals. We are a unit; it really does work as one thing between five people. I think that’s our best bet with anything, whether it be writing or traveling or making merch or speaking with people or whatever.
Ryan: It’s like we create a single person with multiple personalities but they all kind of coincide to become something tangible in the music.
Jason: Poignancy! That’s what it is. We want to evoke any sort of emotive quality that we can.
Of the songs on Fake History, what would you say was the most difficult one to complete?
Ryan: “Muther” went through a few revisions, “Enemy” went through a few revisions.
Anthony Rivera: “Over Being Under.”
Jason: I was gonna say that! But that was like a concentrated era for that song.
Ryan: A few came right away, “Casino” came right away. “Renegade,” “James Brown” (“Homeless Jazz” on the album).
Which of the songs are you most proud of on the record?
Jason: the one called Fake History (laughs).
Ryan: I don’t know, the whole album has different emotions. I can’t say I particularly choose one. I’m proud of the record in general. It took a while to kind of hit me in the way that it has. The different dimensions we were able to portray were really nice. Literally every song was a new start. It worked together strangely enough, but everything was its own entity.
Jason: I think that album is an era. That is the era of letlive. Now we’re writing more and we continue to write for a very long time and it’s undoubtedly a new era for letlive. They’re all integral and without each other, I dont think it would stand properly. Taking any of those songs out, I don’t think they would be the same.
Who is the guest vocalist on “Muther?”
Jason: Chelsea Warwick..I believe(haha) I mean, her name is Chelsea, and it’s War-something. She’s a wonderful young lady we met in North Carlolina through friends of friends. The way that it happened was almost serendipitous; we wanted this part to exhibit a female voice. We met her at a party we played in the city we were recording put on by the producer and engineer that we were recording with. She’s a very wonderful spirit, a good girl with a great voice and she complemented that song better than anything I could have gotten.
Are we going to get any more videos from Fake History before we move to the next record?
Ryan: Yeah, I’m sure we get another video out of it. Not sure what it will be, we’re still throwing out ideas. It will definitely come in [2011, the] year should be very hectic.
Jason: Self-released, as well. We’re going to do some things on our own media-wise.
Anthony: I think we brainstormed “Muther,” maybe “Homeless Jazz.”
Ryan: We’ll wait before the day before we have a deadline and figure it out (laughs).
You’re one of those “genre-busting” bands, with influences coming from anywhere. What are some of your individual influences that show through in your music?
Jean: A lot of Earth, Wind, & Fire; a lot of Faith No More…it’s all around really.
Anthony: Jason and I were having a discussion earlier today about James Brown, and one song specifically plays homage to him. I’m all over the place; as a student of drums I learned picking up jazz and stuff like that. I don’t know if I still carry that on. I listen to salsa, and a bit of everything else.
Ryan: My genres always change, though I’m most infamous for listening to Radiohead within this band [Ed: “Every band has a Radiohead guy” to which Jason replied: “You have to if you’re going to be in a band! (laughs)]. I love a lot of Neil Young. Modern, I listen to Brand New, Flaming Lips. La Dispute is great.
Jeff: Definitely a hard question. I spend a lot of time with Nirvana, Brand New, Rage Against The Machine. More recently, Taylor Swift and Saves The Day.
Jason: To encompass most of it: the 90’s. I really, really, really enjoyed the 90’s. That was rock ‘n roll; it was like a retro-fitted idea of rock in the 80’s but so much more pure and raw. What I grew up with was music from my father; he played music very akin to soul, R&B and hip-hop. That’s the first taste of music I ever got. Then my Scottish uncle gave me Bush and Radiohead, and that’s what changed my whole perspective on rock and what white people listen to (laughs). I think [as a band] we find a very strong liking to groove; something that fits and goes to some sort of rhythm intrinsically within you. It’s gotta move you.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you to everyone. Every single person who reads this or sees this. Thank you to every single person who listens to our band and has anything to do with this at all. We’re so appreciative that I stumble my words, and I’m usually pretty eloquent.