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vol 6 - issue 12 (aug 2004) :: interviews
LIT'S JEREMY POPOFF
Interview by D.J. Kirkbride

LIT'S BEEN DOING THAT ROCK 'N' ROLL THING FOR 15 YEARS NOW. THEY FIRST HIT IT BIG IN 1999 WITH A PLACE IN THE SUN, AND HAVENíT STOPPED SINCE. THEIR LEAD GUITARIST, JEREMY POPOFF, HAS A CHAT WITH TLC'S THIRD CHAIR TUBA BLOWER, D.J. KIRKBRIDE, ABOUT BEING A ROCK STAR TYPE WITH A NEW ALBUM, A KID, A YOUNGER BROTHER FOR A LEAD SINGER, AND BEING ON MTVíS CRIBS.

D.J. Kirkbride: When did the new album come out?

Jeremy Popoff: It just came out about three weeks ago.

DK: Congratulations on that.

JP: Thank you.

DK: I reviewed it, and itís gonna be in our next print issue. I really enjoyed it. Are you guys excited about it, or do you get nervous when a new album comes out?

JP: A little bit of all that. Itís kinda like the first day of school. Like when youíre a little kid. Youíre kinda stoked. Youíre kinda nervous. Once you get the first day over with, youíre fine. Weíre nervous a little because we feel this album is the most personal record weíve ever written. We touched on some personal shit on this record, and opened ourselves up a little bit, too. On top of that, we feel like itís our best record yet. We feel itís our best songwriting. So when you throw it out there, youíre kinda looking around, waiting to see what the reaction is gonna be. Because we feel like if people donít like this one then they donít like Lit, or they donít get us, you know?

DK: Right.

JP: So itís a little bit scary, but, so far, the reactionís been awesome. We felt like it was our best record yet, and thatís what weíve been hearing from our fans, so thatís very rewarding. It makes us feel like we were right, you know? That people say, "Dude, this is your best record yet." So itís like, "Right on. Thanks."

DK: Thatís terrific. Iíve heard A Place In The Sun-- I own it-- but somehow I missed Atomic. I apologize. I donít know what I was doing.

JP: (laughs)

DK: And then I got the new disc from tastes like chicken, and I agree. It definitely seems like, artistically, the album is a little more grown-up. But the songs still sound fun; itís not a downer or anything.

JP: Right.

DK: But it does seem like you guys are all grown-up.

JP: Yeah. Well, hopefully that happens after a while, you know?

DK: Hopefully. If it doesnít, youíre in trouble.

JP: (laughs) Yeah. In the five years since A Place In The Sun, a couple guys had kids; everyone bought houses and whatnot. Plus, seeing the world a few times over and going through what weíve gone through. The ups and downs. And just the travel and the craziness that weíve done in the last five years, youíre gonna change a little bit. Youíre going to grow up a lot. Youíre gonna go through some stuff, you know?

DK: Absolutely. You mentioned that a couple of the guys had kids. You had a son named Jake, right?

JP: Yeah.

DK: How old is he?

JP: He is almost three. He was actually born the day Atomic came out.

DK: Holy crap.

JP: Thatís how I know how long itís been between records.

DK: I have a friend who has a son and he just turned two. Kids are hilarious.

JP: Yeah. Heís a handful, man.

DK: How has it affected the rock star lifestyle?

JP: It doesnít really change it too much. I mean, Iím a little bit more... having a kid is very humbling, you know?

DK: Right.

JP: Like, we played Sacramento last weekend. We flew in for the show, so, just for kicks, I brought him with me, which (laughs) was probably not a great idea. I was like, "Yeah! Iím gonna take him with me on the plane!" Itís sort of humbling because here I am rolling through the airport. I got my bag with me, and Iím holding a diaper bag on top of that. And a kid. We go through a checkpoint, and someone comes up, like, "Hey, man! Youíre the guy from Lit!" And Iím like, "Right on!" And then I gotta go to the bathroom and change a dirty diaper, you know?

DK: (laughs)

JP: So itís very cool like that. It helps ground you; keeps your perspective in things.

DK: That probably happens to the Rolling Stones, too. Mick Jagger has to change Keith Richards' diaper, and--

JP: (laughs)

DK: --I donít know why I said that. Because they're old! Now, speaking about family, your brother, A.J., is the lead singer for the band.

JP: Right.

DK: Is he your younger brother?

JP: Heís two years younger than me.

DK: He's your kid brother. So what's it like rockin' out with your little bro? Is it an Oasis-type thing, or do you guys get along?

JP: No, itís cool. Thereís not really a competition. I mean, there is a competition thing because weíre brothers, but thereís never been a competition with the band. Weíve been together for 14 years, and weíve been friends with Al [Shellenberger, drums] and Kev [Baldes, bass] since before we were even a band, so it feels like weíre all brothers. Weíve known each other for so long that thereís just no bullshit. Weíve grown up together. We know what buttons to push and what not to push. But I think we probably donít realize we could leave if we wanted to, you know? We donít realize that a guy might quit. No oneís gonna get fired from Lit because itíd be like trying to fire your mom.

DK: (laughs) Itís hard to do. You can do it, though. I think Drew Barrymore did it. So, going back to the new album, itís self-titled, right?

JP: Yep.

DK: Is that because you look at it like a new beginning? Or you just couldnít think of anything? You guys are lazy! Iím kidding!

JP: Actually, we felt like this one. We wrote it, recorded it, and produced it. Everything was done in Orange County, right where we live. We knew we wanted a photo of the band on the cover this time. We knew we didnít want it to be graphics and stuff. Just a very simple, Back In Black kind of packaging, you know?

DK: Right.

JP: Our approach to recording... we didnít rent and borrow a bunch of crap. We used our live touring gear. In the past, weíd have to rent the snare drum that Dave Grohl used on Nevermind. We had to rent all these different things that bands do when you have these enormous budgets and are in these crazy recording studios, you know? One day it made sense to have a masseuse come and massage everybody. And weíre like, "What the fuck are we doing? Weíre supposed to be making a rock 'n' roll record, and we've got people running all over town trying to rent weird pieces of gear. And weíre spending all kinds of ridiculous money." So this time around we were very much like, "This is what my amp sounds like when I play it live, so make it sound like that on the fuckin' record." Or, "Why donít you find a microphone that sounds better or put it where it sounds real?" So thatís what we did. Everything was about the four of us doing what we do, capturing it on tape. So we just felt calling the album Lit was appropriate because itís more stripped-down, you know?

DK: Right.

JP: Giving it a title would give it a theme, you know? So--

DK: So no body massages during this one.

JP: (laughs) No.

DK: Because you're too relaxed to rock after that.

JP: (laughs) Well, we did find a pretty good massage parlor.

DK: Did you? So, I was trying to look your site up while I was visiting my parents, but they have dial-up. Itís hard to load your website on crappy dial-up. But thatís not your fault.

JP: (laughs) Yeah. I wouldnít even bother going on the Internet with dial-up.

DK: I know! Iím like, "Iíll research the band." But after five minutes, Iím like, "Forget it!"

JP: (laughs)

DK: But anyway, I read that you were on MTVís Cribs back in 2000. How was that? Was that fun?

JP: That was cool! It was my first house. I had a big party. All my friends were there. We had it catered. MTV came and filmed it, but I was pretty drunk the whole time they were there.

DK: (laughs) So they were there during a party, or was it just you walking around?

JP: Well, the party was out in the backyard. I had about 40 friends over. I walked around the house and showed them all the stuff, and when we went out to the backyard everyone was hanging out. But, yeah, it was fun, you know? Kinda weird.

DK: Yeah. I havenít seen the show very often, but a lot of people have clearly just moved in. Had you decorated at all?

JP: I hadnít been in there very long because Iíd just come off the road and had just bought the house. But Iím a big collector of mid-Century modern furniture and art. Actually, all of us are kind of into it, but I used to buy and sell stuff like that before the band took off, so I already had a big collection of spacey-looking furniture and crazy shit on the walls.

DK: And once the band took off you had more money.

JP: I bought a few pieces once I had some money; a few pieces that Iíd been eyeballing for a while. (laughs)

DK: Right on.

JP: But I had a whole apartment full of it, too. But it was cool. It was very real. On my Cribs, people comment on it. They go, "You know what I liked about yours? It seemed more real." Like, you know, I was just cruisin' around with a beer in my hand, like, "Hereís my stuff." So many of those Cribs houses are rented, and it looks like a furniture rental place and an interior decorator came in and threw it together real quick.

DK: Yeah. Thatís the thing I was wondering.

JP: I didnít temper the fridge with Cristal and that kinda shit.

Both: (laugh)

DK: So, you guys opened for KISS at one point?

JP: New Year's Eve 1999.

DK: Holy crap. What was that like? Did you meet them?

JP: We did. All I wanted was to able to say that I opened up for KISS and to have a 8"x10" hanging in my house with all of us and all of KISS with their makeup on, and I got that. But the show itself was fucking probably one of the worst shows ever!

Both: (laugh)

JP: We flew some of our friends and family up there, and Gene Simmons slashed our rider. We have our normal rider we get backstage, but because it was New Yearís Eve we requested a couple extra cases of beer and bottles of champagne because we had friends coming up. He whittled it down to a bag of chips, a twelve pack of beer, and a bottle of champagne.

DK: Heís all about the bottom line, that Gene Simmons.

JP: Yeah. So we had to spend $500 of our own money and send our own guy out for stuff.

DK: (laughs)

JP: And the worst part of it was, it was a technical nightmare from hell of a show. Nickelback was the opening band, and we were after them. Because the show was in Vancouver, we didnít bring all our gear up. Nickelback let us use their equipment. But this was before they had any hits, so their equipment was the shittiest.

Both: (laugh)

JP: So we were playing on their crappy stuff, and then stuff wasn't working right. It was a nightmare.

DK: Thanks a lot, Nickelback!

JP: (laughs) Iím sure they have pretty nice stuff now.

DK: Youíd think so. So are you guys out on tour now? Or are you heading out soon to support the new album?

JP: Well, technically weíre on tour. Weíre gone all the time and weíre playing shows. But weíre not on the bus because weíve been flying everywhere.

DK: Oh, really?

JP: Like, Iím in Rochester, New York right now, but we play here tomorrow. Last night we played in Providence. A few days before that we were in Orange County, then Sacramento, and New York a week before that. It seems like weíre just ping-ponging back and forth across the country. Next week weíre gonna be in Reno, then Honolulu, and then Dallas.

DK: Jesus!

JP: Weíre doing a lot of the radio station festivals and TV stuff.

DK: Right.

JP: Itís kinda cool. Iíd much rather be on the bus, going from town to town, getting in that mode and playing. We donít really like to have nights off. If weíre out, we just like to keep going.

DK: Yeah. All business.

JP: When youíre flying around, it just sucks. Like today: we were traveling all day to get here, and now weíre just sitting around in a hotel waiting for tomorrow to come.

DK: So you guys prefer the tour bus. You ever had an Almost Famous experience? You ever seen that movie?

JP: (laughs) Yeah.

DK: Where itís gonna crash and everybody confesses everything? I donít mean to scare you from flying.

JP: Weíve gotten to do a couple charter flights where itís pretty cool, but nothing like Almost Famous, where itís about to crash.

DK: You could lie.

JP: You know, rock stars donít go down on commercial flights, so it hasnít happened yet. I said that to someone once. We were going through massive turbulence and this fucking plane was dipping, it felt like you were on a roller coaster. The guy sitting next to me was flipping out, and Iím all, "Dude, relax, man. Youíre onboard with a rock band, and rock bands never go down on commercial flights." He just sort of looked at me like I was fuckin' nuts.

DK: (laughs) Next time I fly Iím gonna make sure thereís a rock band on the flight. I donít care who it is. It could be Cinderella. I just want them on the flight just to make sure Iím safe.

JP: Back from England one time Brian Wilson was on the plane, Sean Connery was on the plane, and we were on the plane. I was like, "Fuck, man! If this one goes down, no oneís even gonna give a shit that Lit crashed with Brian Wilson and Sean Connery on the plane!"

Both: (laugh)

DK: I donít mean to be crass, but itís like when Johnny Cash and John Ritter died on the same day. I was like, "Poor John Ritter."

JP: (laughs) Yeah.

DK: Any other day and heíd be number one. Getting back to the new album, one of the songs that really surprised me was your Cure cover. Are you all Cure fans? Because youíre from the sunny OC, and theyíre sad little English guys.

JP: I was a big fan of Disintegration when it came out, and "Pictures Of You"... we learned it ten years ago, and we did it at some acoustic show, but then we never played it again. It always stuck out, though. Through the years I've thought, "Man, itíd be cool to do a rock version of that." We were having fun in the studio, and were like, "Why donít each of us bring in a cover idea, and then weíll pick one collectively. And then weíll also have five covers we can throw on an EP or play at shows or whatever, just for fun." And "Pictures Of You" was one of the ones I brought in, so we started recording it because no one else brought any fucking songs in.

Both: (laugh)

JP: As it started coming together, everyone was really stoked about it, so it wound up being on the record.

DK: Besides The Cure, what bands do you listen to?

JP: On the plane here, on my iPod I was listening to Foo Fighters and Elvis Costello. I like the new Sugarcult record.

DK: Who is Sugarcult? I havenít heard of them.

JP: Theyíre another California band. Theyíre doing well. And I still canít wait for the new Used to come out. I loved that last record, so I still listen to that. I like AFI as far as new stuff goes. I listen to a little bit of everything. Butch Walker... you know who that is?

DK: No.

JP: He used to be in a band called Marvelous 3.

DK: Oh, okay. Iíve heard of them.

JP: Heís had a couple solo records out. Now heís mostly known for producing. He produced the new Avril Lavigne. Heís more of a songwriter/producer, but heís ridiculously talented. Heís a good friend of mine. So heís got a new record coming out, Iíve been listening to that, and itís fucking awesome. But I listen to so much stuff. Iím not into this whole alternative thing thatís out now. Iím not a Franz Ferdinand fan. Iím not a Modest Mouse fan. I wasnít a fan of that stuff when it was around in the Eighties.

DK: Yeah. Thereís definitely an Eighties new wave boom coming out suddenly.

JP: Yeah. Whatever. Iím more of a rock fan. Recently, it seemed like alternative was more rock, but now itís starting to get more alternative again, which is cool, I guess. But Iím just more into... you know, I love Jet, actually.

DK: Thatís what I was about to say. Bands like Jet or The Darkness. There is some rock 'n' roll coming out that's doing pretty well.

JP: To me, Jet is the best rock to come out in a long time. Their album just blew me away. I grew up a big fan of rock, and I think itís cool when bands donít look like you ran into them in the hallway of your high school. The bands I grew up listening to, they were still rock stars, you know? I like the idea of bands getting a little bit drunk and crazy from time to time and breaking shit.

Both: (laugh)

JP: If Iím reading an interview with some new band and theyíre hanging out in a Borders buying poetry books and drinking coffee, Iím like, "Dude! Donít fuckin' tell me about that!"

DK: Itís not rock 'n' roll!

JP: Iím not interested in that.

DK: Have you seen or read about that new Metallica movie? If you were ever even into Metallica?

JP: I was a huge Metallica fan.

DK: Their whole movie is them in therapy and getting in touch with their feelings. Does that destroy the image for you? Kinda like, "I donít wanna know!"

JP: Nah. Theyíre old now. (laughs)

DK: So they can do it now?

JP: Itís part of the process. I saw Metallica open for Ozzy. So they've already proven themselves to me.

DK: So, ninety million records later, they can do it.

JP: They can get some therapy, I guess.

DK: Yeah. Itíd be good for them. So, you guys are into the Rat Pack image, right?

JP: Yeah. Iím a huge Sinatra fan. I have a Sinatra tattoo on my arm. A.J. and I grew up around that kind of music because our grandfather, who was one of our big influences, was a musician during that era. But we didnít really appreciate it when we were punk teenagers listening to Maiden.

Both: (laugh)

JP: But as we got older we started to really appreciate it. I think it was around the mid-Nineties when rock was starting to get so... I donít know if it was the whole grunge thing or what, but it was so boring and depressing and stripped-down. The music was still cool, but itíd lost its entertainment value.

DK: Yeah. It was a bunch of navel gazing and holding your arm.

JP: We started looking elsewhere for our entertainment, and started hanging out in Vegas and getting into the Rat Pack. It seemed a little bit more fun.

DK: So you have a tattoo of Sinatra?

JP: Yeah. I have a portrait of him on my arm.

DK: I have this theory, and I donít know what you believe, but whether he went to Heaven or Hell, heís in charge.

JP: (laughs)

DK: So heís doing fine, regardless. So, I have one more question I have to ask, and you can think about it if you want. Do dogs have lips?

JP: Do dogs have lips? (laughs)

DK: Yes. On their mouths. Like, all dogs.

JP: Yes.

DK: They do?

JP: Yeah.

DK: Do you have a dog?

JP: I do have a dog.

DK: And have you seen his lips? Is it a he or a she?

JP: Itís a he. Iíve seen his lips. Iíve folded them down before to look at his teeth.

DK: I donít even know why we ask that, because most of the time people say dogs do have lips. Sometimes we get an answer that they donít have lips. I had one guy say they were just meat flaps, but not lips. If I ever start a band, Iím gonna call it Meat Flaps.

JP: There you go.

DK: Iím sorry. Litís a good name, too. Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it.

JP: Hey, no problem, man.

DK: Good luck on the tour, and the album is great, so congrats on all your success.

JP: Thanks, bro.

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