Straight out of Los Angeles, California, letlive is a post-hardcore band you are about to discover. Combining energetic performances with a trademark sound, the five-person outfit stormed a few stages during South By Southwest this year and simply put, took over. Before their (second) gig at Emo’s, the group chatted about signing to Epitaph Records and how they hope to shape a career for themselves.
A lot of people have yet to see you play but with it being SXSW, a few had the chance to see you at Emo’s. What was the crowd like?
JASON BUTLER: It was great. I’d say it was receptive on another level. We’re used to playing sets of familiarity, people who know what they’re about to see while this showcase idea at SXSW has people walking about and checking out different bands. I’d like to believe we presented something new to them.
You guys are a relatively new band but you have a really dedicated, almost cult-like following. Any clue as to why?
JEFF SAHYOUN: Well we’re gorgeous (laughs).
ANTHONY RIVERA: We’ve actually been doing this for a really long time. We might seem a bit new, but we’re not. After a few years of playing small gigs and touring around, we’ve built up some recognition and a stronger bond between at least a few of our fans. Slowly but surely it’s been picking up.
BUTLER: They call it the At The Drive-In syndrome.
RYAN JOHNSON: With that cult following thing, I think its kids who just get us. To have that kind of cult following is big and it comes from kids who genuinely believe in the music, understand it and connect with it. Some of them come from shows we’ve played in the past and some are from our more recent shows. It’s nice to see those kids talking about us online.
“When we play, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and that is something us human beings, especially in our Western society today, are taught not to do..”
For sure. There are tons of fans online who make comments saying your shows changed their lives or they can’t even go see other bands play.
BUTLER: Its funny you say that. Contrary to popular belief, we actually just remove their eyes after the show. It’s not that they don’t want to go to the show, it’s they just can’t. That’s just me being metaphorical. That’s a deep statement right there, hopefully it translates well (laughs). To be honest, we try our hardest and give it our all 30-40 minutes each night and anyone who wants to be a part of the experience is welcome.
When we play, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and that is something us human beings, especially in our Western society, are taught not to do. Vulnerability shows weakness, you don’t allow yourself to open up or else you will be picked apart. This is something we welcome and do on stage and hope fans can experience while watching the band.
Interesting philosophy. I don’t even know how I should respond to that.
BUTLER: That was a bit intense (laughs).
Do you guys have a specific live performer that motivates you to be energetic on stage?
RIVERA: I don’t think there’s anyone really who motivates us.
JOHNSON: There’s definitely those “live performers” out there like James Brown and Chuck Berry who actually put on a show and it’s hard to see people like that now because they follow each other. It’s almost become a formula.
JEFF SAHYOUN: But even those guys kind of mimicked each other too, right?
JOHNSON: Yeah. It more or less comes down to if I see these guys freaking out, then I’ll join them.
How long have you guys been together as a band?
BUTLER: It’s been about four years.
Enough time to form a group dynamic.
BUTLER: If anyone knew the name prior, it was basically people who knew the others who were involved during high school. We’re not trying to negate them or anything, they just knew us locally and that essence of a musical uprising was created and we all wanted to be a part of it.
Is there a significance to the name? We all know there isn’t a “space” so there won’t be a misprint from us but is there a deeper meaning?
RIVERA: (Laughs) It’s just cool.
BUTLER: I suppose there is a significance to it. letlive is what you would assume; it’s something you just let to be. It’s not something too big but it’s something that lives on its own.
RIVERA: You can’t fit it on a license plate with no spaces (laughs).
BUTLER: It’s generally an aesthetic thing.
You guys are set on making artistic and creative music. Why do you think bands are okay with releasing half-assed albums?
RIVERA: Girls with money.
JOHNSON: I think bands don’t necessarily have that goal anymore. They see other bands around them who make similar music and focus on things like that so they do the same.
RIVERA: They do it for the drugs and bitches.
BUTLER: It’s something that’s easy for people to latch onto. It helps them produce music and release albums. If it’s something a band wants to do, then that’s fine but I can assure you 95 per cent of these bands have no insurance on their longevity. They’re short-lived and that’s okay; if you want to spend two years having fun and being on a label that will support that, then have fun. We may pick you up when you’re on your way down.
So is this your solid word you’ll break up before you make a terrible album?
RIVERA: A terrible album is not going to happen (laughs).
BUTLER: You’ll have to wait a very long time before it does.
JOHNSON: If it is a terrible album, it’s because we’re on some pretty bad shit.
RIVERA: It will be artistic in a sense.
JOHNSON: Yeah, nobody will be able to get it.
Going back to records, you guys have a reputation as being a bit different. Do you have a major influence when it comes to the songwriting process?
SAHYOUN: Each other. Everybody has very specific influences when it comes to writing their music but we’re different. We don’t write individually, we write as a group. We help fix each other’s mistakes and respect everyone’s ideas.
BUTLER: The other night we were driving and Anthony said something which I heard and interpreted in a completely different way and it inspired a whole new set of lyrics. When you depend on each other, the accidental creation will happen. The best music you love and can feel comes from accidental things.
Congrats on being signed to Epitaph; as it’s a new label, what does this big step mean to you?
SAHYOUN: I think just the fact we’re signed to Epitaph Records shows we’re establishing our career and making it official. It is a record label, but it is starting a family and our lives as musicians.
JOHNSON: We all grew up listening to Epitaph bands as kids and now that we’re there, it’s kind of surreal.
RIVERA: It’s cool. The label kind of reminds us that all this and us are a family, not a business. With this label, it’s literally like having your Mom and Dad on tour and having them take care of you.
BUTLER: Epitaph has so many avenues they can take and for us to become a part of that Epitaph timeline, we’re eager to honor it.
How does the label contribute to your no-nonsense appeal to music?
SAHYOUN: They really get it. They understand we want to be us before we try to be anyone else.
RIVERA: I think the most attractive aspect of how the deal went down was their approach. Other companies came in and gave us an outline of their expectations while Epitaph sat us down and talked about what we were doing and said they wanted to jump on board.
SAHYOUN: They treated it as a very delicate situation. They don’t want to push us in a direction we don’t want to be in. We’re not strongly opinionated but we don’t want to belong to a certain image that doesn’t represent us.
RIVERA: I think it is a common misconception labels change musicians and enforce a style. Some do but this isn’t the case.
BUTLER: Exactly. People overlook the fact established labels are an artists label. Most of them are made up of individuals who use to be artists themselves and know how musicians think. They know what we need and what we want to do and they believe in it.
What should people expect next from you guys?
SAHYOUN: A bad album (laughs).
RIVERA: We are re-releasing our first album with a few other tracks that featured some production from us. There’s also plans to write new music this year and hopefully have another album out. We’re ready to have material out but there will be touring. It builds anticipation and we love to be out there playing in front of people who enjoy everything about us and the music we make. It’s what makes this worth it.
[Like our pick for Artist Of The Month? Do the right thing and follow us on Twitter]