Lit head to Duluth for Summerland Tour amidst a cavalcade of nineties nostalgia

Categories: Q&A
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If anyone in Minnesota needed further proof that their expanse of '90s memories are being appropriately distilled to microcosmic parameters of Americana bedrock, all lingering uncertainties can be resolved Saturday at Duluth's Bayfront Festival Park. Boasting a lineup worthy of it's own "Pop Up Video" episode, the "Summerland Tour" offers performances by Sugar Ray, Everclear, Gin Blossoms, Lit and the Twin Cities' own, Marcy Playground.

Gimme Noise had the opportunity to check in with Lit frontman A. Jay Popoff on what's happened since 1999 became "back in the day."

Gimme Noise: So what's the crowd looking like these days compared to your shows back in 1999?

A. Jay Popoff: The crowds have been awesome. A little bit different of a demographic than I expected, which was a bit of an older crowd just because some of these bands had the peaks of their success in the later nineties. But a lot of young folks have been coming out, so it's been kind of cool to see the mix.

Do you guys have a history with any of these other bands as far as touring or performing is concerned?

We haven't done any extensive touring with any of the bands. We've done definitely a lot of radio shows with some of the bands. We've all crossed paths a lot- mostly with Everclear and occasionally Marcy Playground. We've done a handful of radio shows with them. For the most part, this is a new thing for us. We're friends with Art [Alexakis] from Everclear, and we know the Sugar Ray guys. We've all become definitely tighter on this tour though.

Are you guys putting any nineties restrictions on the tour? Do you guys only have AOL 3.0 on the buses?

If anyone's doing that it's Mark [McGrath] and Art. They're the one's having the most fun with it. I wouldn't be surprised if they are using AOL. 

So how are these dates comparing with your past nineties experiences like Woodstock '99?

That was a whole different drill. We were just there for the one day. It felt more like a European festival, I guess, where it's just chaos everywhere you go. You're being tugged in all different directions because there's just so much press and media there. You're running into ton's of different bands, so it's just sort of a high for that short period of time.

With this tour though, it's a bit like a travelling circus. You wake up, and some days it feels like "Groundhog Day." You'll wake up and always see the same five tour buses. And you're nowhere near real civilization. It's just this world of touring. 

Lit's peak on the charts was with "My Own Worst Enemy" in 1999. It doesn't seem terribly long ago, but the Summerland Tour seems proof alone that you guys are all being approached with a nostalgic attitude already. Is that an odd thing to process?

It's really a hard thing to wrap my head around. I don't fully get it when it's mentioned that we're nostalgia. I grew up in an extremely musical family. All my friends were so into music. And when I was a kid, bands like Aerosmith and even Elvis Costello, those guys all came out before my time. But I never looked at it like "here are the seventies records and here are my eighties records." If I found a band that I liked and they put out music that I liked, I'd buy the record. I think it's kind of silly people have to encapsulate certain bands into a decade and lock them up. 

Coming from the last great reign of major labels before the internet came along, were there points in the last ten years when you realized that things were changing?

I think it's still spinning everyone's heads. Whether you work at a major label, whether your in a band, whether you're a publicist, everyone's going through this constant spin where you're trying to figure out what everyone's doing. The cool thing about being on tour right now though is that it's shifted our focus to live shows and connecting with fans both during the show and after the show.

And that seriously brings me back to the reason of why we're doing it. It's just really nice to not even think about all that other crap. Sure, we still go on Twitter and try to keep up with the feed. But it's kind of nice to back to the old school way of marketing your band and getting your hand's dirty.

Speaking of that old school way, you guys had Pamela Anderson in the "Miserable" music video, which is probably one of the coolest things a band in the nineties could do. Do you ever miss those bigger, more lavish means of promoting yourselves?

We're trying to stay as old school as possible. That thing with Pam was a lot of being in the right place at the right time. Pam was a fan of the band, and they wanted to write an episode of her show, "VIP," involving the band. It was pretty ridiculous, but it was fun. At the end, we were getting ready to shoot the video for "Miserable"... So she kind of did that as a friend.

We were lucky to be a part of the MTV generation where we made these cool videos and saw them on MTV. That's part of the dream of becoming a rockstar. That's something that, I guess now, kids that want to be rockstars I don't know what that "dream" is for those guys. Is it putting a video on Youtube? There's nothing on that large scale anymore. 

Something else I miss about the kind radio rock that you and the other bands on this tour all played was the humor or at least playfulness in a lot of your songs. You don't hear as many popular bands thumbing their noses anymore. Why do you think that's been lost?

I don't want to point fingers, but maybe it was bands like Blink 182 going a little over the top with it for a little while. The other thing too is the climate of the country right now. I think a lot of people are a little more serious than they were back then. On that note, I don't think a bit of comic relief would hurt. 

The new record's title, "View from the Bottom," initially struck me as another one of those playful lines we were just talking about. But after reading a bit more it seems like all of you guys were going through some hard years leading up to these songs. How did that darker space change the writing and recording process for you guys?

I think that's probably one of the reasons it took as long as it did to put out that record. We like to write songs naturally as they come to us, and it just didn't feel right. Once we decided that we were gonna regroup and start playing shows again, the fire came back. It wasn't too hard to write these songs. We all had a lot on our minds and a lot on our chest that we wanted to get off. 

So being a band for two decades now, how have the ways that you guys measure your success changed?

I guess we just kind of go by whether or not we're able to play music for a living. When we look at it that way, it's been a successful career and it continues to be one. This industry is constantly up and down, so you base a lot of it off your fans. 

Summerland Tour. 6 p.m. Saturday, August 4 at Duluth's Bayfront Festival Park. Tickets here.



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