Letlive Vocalist Jason Butler Digs Deep Into Lyrical Inspiration, Forthcoming Material + More
Anyone who has ever experienced Letlive in concert knows that they are a force to be reckoned with. The music combines punk rock and soul but ultimately the band has a style all their own. We had the opportunity to sit down with Letlive frontman Jason Butler, who talked about being influenced by different genres of music and the abundance of culture around him, as well as how his experiences craft his commanding lyrics that tug at both the mind and the heartstrings. He also expresses enthusiasm for brand-new material that the band is working on. Check out our interview with Jason Butler of Letlive below:
When you’re onstage, it’s very primitive and raw – are you fully aware of everything you’re doing or is it almost subconscious or involuntary in a way?
I don’t know whether it’s healthy or not but it’s a balance of the two. I think the nexus of it all and the derivation is more of a subconscious thing. I think some of the actions are involuntary like when I got my hand f---ed up at a show, I don’t ever remember thinking to myself, “I’m going to put my hand through this window.” It just happened and the next thing I knew I was pulling it out of the window and there was glass through my arm which was so f---ing stupid.
I remember thinking in the hospital, I truly don’t know if it was adrenaline or my subconscious creating a veil so I wasn’t aware of what I was doing. I get lucid and sober moments in between songs when I hear people and it reminds me that others are there and it’s incredible because they’re still here as opposed to walking away from this crazy a—hole onstage.
For you as a writer is it difficult to just let everything out there? Do you ever feel like holding back the extra personal stuff when writing?
I would say in Fake History I was a little more apprehensive to say certain things but I challenged myself to say those things and I let them be recorded and I let them be released even colloquial terms. Whether people know it or not, 50 percent of my background is African American so I grew up in an area where certain terms were terms of endearment and attached themselves to my dialect. And certain things that I say people will question the validity of it based on my background.
So I said some words that you say in confidence when you’re close with your peers and I said it with a bunch of people listening. It was a very confronting moment with myself, this was how I felt, it’s what I said there’s not one bit of malice behind it or attached to it.
In the second record The Blackest Beautiful, it took me so long to write that stuff because I was so afraid to put myself in the first person perspective of all the things that I abort. I was really worried about it, whether it be my ego or it was the fearful nature of tackling those things and feelings but I did it. I don’t think I’ve ever gone “Uh oh” or ever looked back, never retrospectively have I gone “Maybe I never should have said that” but in the moment sometimes I’m like “Damn, this is really rough and it’s hard for me.”
I think the best way to relieve yourself of those anxieties is just to let it out and let it go. Writer to writer the way I feel is that it’s a shared burden and I feel that s—t so strong in my life and I was also made to feel like I was the only person that felt those things. As soon as I shared it I kind of got to share that burden with somebody. Being able to jettison some of that weight, so I guess it’s in a selfish manner, maybe it’s cathartic.
The topics of home, religion, health, race and so much more comes up a lot throughout Letlive’s lyrics. Growing up and being biracial did you have a certain push and pull when it came to the music you gravitated towards?
Absolutely, that push and pull intrinsically binded itself through everything I did. Growing up I didn’t have any knowledge of the biracial thing, my mom never said to me, “I’m white and you’re dad’s black and that’s not as common.” I didn’t really know that and I’m from Inglewood which is considered a disenfranchised and marginalized area, section 8 housing, I grew up in the hood. For me all of my homies were African American or Latino or Asian, we were all part of a minority so for me it was about class, like we were all from the dirt. We were all the same color, dirt poor.
Then I went to school outside of it, my mother used a friend’s family zip code and billing address to get me into a school that was outside of my school because the district was so bad. I went to school in a more affluent area so when I went there I got my first real friend of another race and ethnicity than what I was used to and what I was surrounded with environmentally when I was 10. To me it was no different because they just looked like my mother. I never applied the sense of race to anything until someone said something to me when I played soccer and this dude was like, “Why’s your mom white but your dad black?” And I was like “I don’t know.” Also my best friend growing up had a white mom and black dad.
At 10 years old it was the transitory moment of where it was like, society expects something of the melanin in their skin or the coarseness of their hair or the food we eat. I never knew the difference. I grew up listening to soul and hip-hop but then I started skateboarding because it was appealing to me, it wasn’t because white people were skateboarding or whatever. Dudes were being alternative and artistic and that was something that was engrained in me from the jump. I got skateboarding and punk rock at 10 or 11 and it was something subversive.
I truly believe we’re born with a nature and my nature was to subvert and it’s not to disestablish or destroy things, I really just want things to change so we can all live more harmoniously. I know it sounds so cliché but before I digress, the push and pull always has been a sense of identity for me until recently. I understand the social construct and what can be applied to me and what can be seen of me. I’m more conscious but back in the day I wasn’t conscious of that.
I know who I am now and with music, man I had to stop saying guilty pleasure or sneakily listening to Linkin Park or Tupac. Music helped me find myself, it really did because of the cultures that supported these types of music and also the integration of culture within music. I saw brothers in rock music just as music as I saw white people in rap, we all crossed over a long time ago and it’s going to keep happening and I’m with it. I have a white wife and I’m going to make sure my kids know where I come from, they’re going to look white but in their hearts they’re going to be culturally aware. To come full circle, music is the reason, that’s why I feel indebted to music because it showed me who I was.
What do you think it is about Letlive’s music that has fans gravitating towards it?
S—t man, I’ve been thinking about this. I’m constantly going to ask myself, what is it now that people enjoy all I know is that as a fan of music always gravitate towards transparent, candid and authentic people. Even as a kid I didn’t f—k with Smashmouth or Sugar Ray the way I was f---ing with Smashing Pumpkins or Biggie. I didn’t connect with that cheesy s—t, it was catchy and sonically I got it. I still listen to anything from Bush or Louis Logic to Cool and the Gang because I established a connection. The idea of them being untouchable or inaccessible was only because they were on the stage but they made their world very apparent for me.
I just try to be as transparent as possible and I think that creates a forum that’s a little more accessible and more relatable and I guess that’s where people find their place in Letlive. Man, Letlive isn’t even about us as a band and I truly mean that and I really appreciate everybody commending us but in the end I just want Letlive to be autonomous. I want that s—t to be a culture, a lifestyle, a thing that people talk about and they live it.
I am lucky in the sense that I get to speak on behalf of Letlive a lot of the time and maybe that’s because at 16 it was a name that I thought of in order to give a moniker or label to something bigger like an essence. We’re so similar to everyone that listens to us and the five of us are very different and I think you can find something in Letlive in the band or the idea. There’s something for a lot of people.
What does the rest of 2015 have in store for you and the rest of Letlive?
It’s cool man, we’re going to record a new record and then we go on tour with Rise Against and Killswitch Enagage. Then probably just touring and getting our feet wet again with another record and just pushing as far as we can with this thing that is Letlive. A lot of people have been asking about the member changes and in the end all people need to know about that is, if you’re in Letlive it’s because you believe in it and it’s because you give everything that you have and that you’re capable of giving to Letlive. When we play a show I feel like everyone is giving 110 percent and I feel like I have to match that. We’re just going to continue putting all of our selves into Letlive and we’ll see what happens.
How was it writing for this new album?
It was really crazy because it was a very different process this time. We tried out a new way of writing and it was very inundating and tumultuous and frustrating but it was good. I think when you frustrate yourself enough because you want something better especially as a unit of four or five people, if everyone is feeling appeased then you’ve probably created something that will translate. We went through a lot in about seven months and we were writing and I’m still living with the music. It was a lot of push and pull as we said earlier but if you want the same thing then you yield good results so I think we’re doing alright.
Our thanks to Letlive's Jason Butler for taking the time to speak with us. Catch Letlive on tour with Killswitch Engage and Rise Against this summer.