letlive.: “The intent is a lot more ostensible this time.”

letlive.: “The intent is a lot more ostensible this time.”

By Lais

Jun 14, 2016 12:25

letlive.'s fourth full-length album, ‘If I’m The Devil…’ is absolutely the best thing they’ve ever done. They’ve managed to retain the raw energy and passion that people love about them, while also showcasing a brand new sound, which is slightly more accessible than some of their previous work. We spoke to frontman Jason Aalon Butler while they were here playing some UK shows ahead of Groezrock.

Butler is an extremely likeable character: charming, eloquent and funny, along with being refreshingly open about his past, the things that have shaped him and the themes of the new album, as well as what’s changed for the band in terms of making music.

So, how would he describe the album to someone who hasn’t heard it yet? “We’re just trying to write music that could possibly reach even further in the spectrum, not necessarily because we want to sell more units or be on the radio, but just because we would like to bring a message to more people,” replies Butler. “Also, personally, I think this is the best music I have ever written. As a band, we were able to put together something that spoke to the different genres that we all really wanted to do.”

‘If I’m The Devil…’ is definitely an album that will appeal to a wider audience, and in no way is their new, slightly catchier sound a sign of them ‘selling out’. If anything, it sounds like they’ve honed their sound even more, and the songs are glorious. “I would like for my mom to be able to listen to the record as well as the kids I advise at high school in the youth program,” says Butler. “My mom likes it, so we’ll just have to see what the kids think.”

Jason Aalon Butler is now a definite positive influence on many people’s lives – both fans of the band’s music and the kids he advises at the youth program – but he wasn’t always so clean cut. Letlive.’s recent single ‘Good Mourning America’ was actually influenced by the time he got arrested when he was younger, although he doesn’t regret his actions as he stood up for what he believed in and fought against some questionable police behaviour.

“From my experience, based on the demographic that I come from and was raised in, I got a very different perception of the system in which most of us in the Western world are plugged into, whether we like it or not,” says Butler. “Upon educating myself a little bit more, my disdain for that system grew and it got me in some positions where I guess legally you face a challenge. I got into an event where I truly, to this day, even as a grown man, still don’t think that my young self was really that wrong for doing what I did, and if my future son or daughter were to do it, I wouldn’t be upset with them.”

“I feel like the powers that be and those that were supposed to be there to protect us were actually antithetical to protecting us, and that being said, I got in trouble. I saw the system for a minute from the inside. I was put in jail for the weekend and I had an actual court case, me versus the state of California. It was pretty fucked up. And in a weird ironic turn of events, the DA who was assigned to prosecute me was actually the one that helped me in the end. I’m very thankful for that universal element that came in and said, ‘Alright, let me give you another chance’. It happened, and I never went to prison – I’m not that hard or that gangster – but I see it differently now ever since then. And how I see it is represented in the song.”

Aside from the themes on ‘Good Mourning America’, what would he say are the other themes explored on the album? Butler replies: “Essentially we’re just trying to expand on what we’ve done on the previous records, but we’re taking the idea of the emotive quality that we all share as human beings, and then trying to figure out how that’s affecting us socially, politically, emotionally, and even romantically. The intent is a lot more ostensible this time. It’s pretty clear what I’m trying to say and I’m still trying to find ways to say it by using poetic licence, but it’s certainly more obvious this time.”

This album really hits you hard, in the sense that it’s so different from the previous records, and because it’s undoubtedly an absolute blinder. Did the band do anything different in terms of recording, considering it’s such a different sound for them? “Yeah, we wrote a record as opposed to writing songs. I think for the first time ever we had a plan. We’ve never had a plan. We’ve always been like, ‘We’ll let it happen organically’. And I’m not trying to say anything bad about the organic process by any means, but this is just as organic and authentic as before, except we had a plan,” states Butler. “We worked with a producer [Justyn Pilbrow] that we appreciated and trusted and I think that’s a big part of it. If you’re gonna let someone have some sort of involvement in your music you gotta trust them, and we did.”

“On the last two records, ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ and ‘Fake History’, we worked with the same guy [Stephen George], but this time we knew that we wanted to be a bit more exploratory with the sonic space on our record, with the ambient elements and bigger sounds. I was listening to a record by The Neighbourhood, and I really liked the production on it. Then it turned out my wife knew someone who knew [Pilbrow], so we got in contact, and he really helped us hone in on the sounds we were hearing in our heads.”

The great thing about the record is it’s still undoubtedly letlive. but it’s different enough, which means it’s not boring for the band. Nobody wants to make the same album over and over. Butler agrees: “That’s absolutely correct. And I’d hope that’s what people would understand. In the end it’s gotta be exciting for all parties. Finding that balance between indulging yourself as an artist and serving the listener is a very fine art, and we were trying to figure that out.”

After the album release, the band have a headline tour in the States, and then they’ll be coming back to the UK in November as support for Pierce The Veil. It’s an exciting time for letlive., and they deserve it completely. With the sheer quality of ‘If I’m The Devil…’, it’s a dead cert that their fourth album will be the one to catapult them into the ears of a whole new audience, and if there’s any justice, it will be absolutely huge. Bravo.