July 30, 2018 Interview – Jeremy Popoff of Lit
Back in the ’90s, Alternative Rock dominated what was at the time a rather diverse music scene. An era when MTV was still playing music videos and the radio was a vital platform for new music, Southern California’s Lit would be one of the last successful Rock bands of this final frontier. Initially starting their journey a decade earlier, thanks to hardwork and believing in what they had, Lit made a massive splash in 1999 with their sophomore album, A Place in the Sun. Including the memorable hits “My Own Worst Enemy,” “Miserable,” and “Zip-Lock,” the album would go onto to reach platinum sales.
Since that time, Lit has continued to pour the same passion into their music, putting out a strong original tunes, touring heavily, and pushing their own creative boundaries. Proud of their longevity, founding Guitarist Jeremy Popoff recently sat down to talk the ride of Lit, their 2017 Country Rock album These Are the Days, the Gen X Summer Tour, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – The roots of Lit date back thirty years and the band would go on to commercial success during the late ’90s leading into the 2000s. Still going strong, touring, and writing music what has the ride been like for Lit?
Jeremy Popoff – It’s been pretty crazy. It’s kind of flown by, we are out right now touring. We have our kids out with us a few days before their summer vacations are up. It’s crazy to see my son is almost seventeen and it doesn’t seem that long ago when he was out here on the bus as a baby and toddler, to put that into perspective. It’s been great, we are very blessed to be able to still cruise around, a traveling circus, and playing Rock-n-Roll music.
I don’t think if you asked us thirty years ago that we thought we would be doing it this long. I don’t know if we had anything else to do. (Laughs) We never really saw ourselves doing anything else, but at the same time, it’s a trip to look back, have the core members in place, and still be doing it.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly is a great thing. The core of Lit has been strong for many years now, in fact, the core has been together since you were teeangers. How would you describe the bond between yourself and the rest of the guys in the band?
Jeremy Popoff – As far as AJ and I go, we are the only two kids in the family, and we are two years apart. Kevin, we have known since we are in high school. The three of us have really grown up together. We are all like brothers – we get along like brothers and we fight like brothers. This is what we know and what we have done. It’s really that and I think the core of our chemistry is the brotherhood. We were friends and hung out together before we were in a band. We still hang out together and do things together outside the band. We all live real close together, our kids are close, it’s a family.
CrypticRock.com – That is wonderful to hear. Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the 1999 album A Place in the Sun. Quite memorable, it is an album that went on to go platinum and feature three massive singles. Looking back, what was it like at that time when your videos were all on MTV and music was in heavy rotation on the radio?
Jeremy Popoff – On one hand it was a wild ride, it was a roller coaster and we were just trying to hang on and not fall off. On the other hand, it was also something we had dreamed about and kind of went over in our heads a million times. We believed it so much for the ten years leading up to that. We just struggled, but we were a popular band in Orange County and Hollywood. We felt like we were doing something that people would like and we felt we had something special. Record companies would pass on us, shoot us down, and tell us we didn’t have a single. A couple of record companies passed on “My Own Worst Enemy,” said it didn’t sound like a single to them. We just felt like they were wrong and we were right. When it happened, we felt, “Yea, see, we told you we weren’t crazy.” We saw the reaction it was getting from people.
As crazy as it was, it was also something we had been working toward. Once it was happening, there was really no time to reflect. We were just trying to keep up with it. We toured relentlessly. I think in 1999 and 2000, we did over five hundred shows in those two years. We were home maybe a grand total of two weeks during that time. It was amazing, crazy, insane, and your wildest dreams come true. It was hard work too, but awesome.
Again, we were fortunate to be kind of part of that last wave of MTV playing videos, massive radio success, etc. We come from a school of knowing what a thousand CDs look like when it comes in a bunch of boxes that fill up your living room. We know what that looks like, sell millions of them, and doing in-stores. That just doesn’t exist anymore, which is sad. We are lucky we got to experience that.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and it sounds like it was very vindicating to prove naysayers wrong. It’s inspiring and proves you should always believe in yourself. The band has released a lot of quality music through the years since that time. Most recently, in 2017, Lit changed directions with the album These Are The Days. What inspired the shift in your style?
Jeremy Popoff – It was a gradual shift. We had been writing music in Nashville for a lot of years. I started going out there around 2005 writing Country songs. Then AJ and Ryan started coming out with me a couple of years later. We just fell in love with Nashville and co-writing with a lot of the best of the best out there in terms of writers and musicians – it’s just an inspiring place to be. What happened was we came to a place where these were the songs we were writing and this is what we wanted to make. Then, rather than demoing them up and turning them into the publishing company to pitch to other artists, we decided, “Hey, let’s record these things and see what it sounds with Lit doing them.”
The View From The Bottom (2012) was awesome, we love that record! Butch Walker is one of our dear friends and an amazing producer. At the time we wanted to make a big Arena Rock sounding record. The reality is, Rock is kind of dead. Rock radio is sort of gone, there is just no real outlet for that type of Rock-n-Roll. There is no one who is really doing it that is inspiring us. We can go back and listen to the classics, or we can make new music. If it’s going to be real for us, it’s going to be the kind of music that we like and want to make. This is how it sounds now for Lit, this is what we’re doing twenty years later.
There was nothing inspiring or motivating us to go back into the laboratory and try to create something that we were doing 15-20 years. Even The View From The Bottom, there was no outlet for it. It didn’t really jive with what Rock radio was playing. Even if it did, what’s a Rock hit today? Are you going to get played on twenty stations? It seems like every few months you hear of another huge Rock station disappearing. It’s depressing.
CrypticRock.com – It’s true. That brings up another point. You look back years ago, Rock music broke through into Pop radio. Now everything is extremely segregated, you just do not see Rock music breaking through into the Pop mainstream anymore.
Jeremy Popoff – Totally. That’s another thing that we were kind of lucky enough to experience. We were one the ones knocking on the door of Rock radio in 1999 and 2000, we sort of helped kick the door open for bands like Blink-182 and Sum 41 – bands that went on to have huge Pop success. We were still getting the reaction of, “It’s too Rock for Pop.” It was an interesting time.
You are so right, it is so different now. It’s a different game with streaming. A platinum record is not really a platinum record anymore – they are calculating how many streams equal a sale, yet you’re are not really making any money on the streams. It’s a goofy business. (Laughs) The only thing that keeps bands sane I think is remembering that playing live and touring is where we make our money anyways. When you have big records and bit hits, the publishing was nice, but now, it’s pennies in terms to what it is. What people pay to consume music is nothing like before.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is very sad. You play because you love music, but we all need to make a living. If no one is buying the music, what is the incentive for a working musician to want to record an album? Why not just pump out singles?
Jeremy Popoff – That’s where it’s heading too, a lot of people aren’t making albums anymore, people are just putting singles out. That’s okay, and realistic, if the single does well and people come out to the show. It’s a trip, but at the same time, there are benefits to it. “Good Problem to Have” is now on Rock playlists and Country playlists, so we are being exposed to Country fans.
Also, I can’t tell you how many people have said, and the most common misconception from old school Rock fans is, “We heard Lit went Country.” Well, no, every record has always been different, we have been writing songs for a long time. Lit just decided to make a record in Nashville. Is it Country? Sure, it’s Country, Rock, and everything we’re into. It’s a typical Lit record which is a hybrid of all of our influences and what we’re doing at the time.
It’s pretty awesome to have fans say, “I don’t really like Country music, but I love your new record and it turned me onto another Country band.” Now they are being exposed to Country music and loving it, that’s awesome! We were turning our fans onto Elvis Costello back in ’99, so it’s fun to mess with the boundaries a little and turn people onto different stuff. When you see Lit live now, you won’t really know necessarily, other than maybe you won’t recognize one of the songs as one of our older songs. You are not going to stand there in the audience and go, “Oh, here is the Country song.” It’s still high energy and rockin’.
CrypticRock.com – It is good to diversify and push boundaries. Now you are out on the Gen X Summer Tour with POD, Alien Ant Farm, and Buckcherry. How is this run going?
Jeremy Popoff – It’s great! They are all good buddies of ours from over the years. Everyone is from Southern California, it’s a good vibe. All the band members and crew members get along. It’s very cool.
CrypticRock.com – Awesome. You are going to parts of the country you have not played a lot as well.
Jeremy Popoff – It’s been a good mix. Last night we played an amphitheater, today we are playing a theater. Each day is a little different. We are in some smaller towns. In Lit, we have been peeling off on days off and playing small clubs or a street festival. Recently, we had a show on day off in a town that the population was 81 people. (Laughs) Not only have we never been anywhere near that town, but it was insane to see a thousand people show up to a town with a population of 81 people. It’s pretty cool.
CrypticRock.com – That is wild!
Jeremy Popoff – Also, you can tour the major cities until the end of time and really not see America. You have to really drive through the flyover states and really meet the people in these small towns. The backbone of our country is the people in these small towns.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed, that is very true and overlooked. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock also covers Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of either genre, do you have any favorites?
Jeremy Popoff – If I can spare an hour and half at a theater, or in front of my TV, I generally like Comedies and things lighthearted that kind of takes me out of my mind for a minute. It’s funny, the movies I watched when I was a kid that scared the crap out of me then, my son will think are cheesy. Being on Long Island recently, we were talking about The Amityville Horror (1979) movie. When the remake of The Amityville Horror (2005) came out, we were actually in Amityville. We tried so hard to see the movie in that city and look at the house the same day, but there is no movie theater in Amityville.