Sunday, November 27, 2022

‘Guns blazing’: ’90s rockers Lit fire onto the scene with new album, show at Burnt Mill Creek

Lit will perform at Burnt Mill Creek on Sunday. (Photo by Nick Fancher)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — With Lit’s new album, “Tastes Like Gold,” the band has proven that the old adage “you can’t go home again” doesn’t apply to music.

In the 20-plus years since Lit blasted into the rock mainstream with the iconic hit “My Own Worst Enemy,” the band has detoured from energetic pop-rock of their first three releases. 2012’s effort, “The View from the Bottom,” found Lit slowing their typical tempos for more of a mainstream rock sound.

An even bigger departure came with 2017’s “These Are The Days.” The band blended country with rock and crafted a set of songs that wouldn’t feel out of place on today’s country radio. 

Lit guitarist Jeremy Popoff is grateful the band’s audience seems to have tolerated the forays into other types of music.

“It’s always nice,” he said, “to push the envelope here or there, explore different genres. It allowed us to venture off into new territory, to then discover what home felt like. We kind of had to leave the nest to go, ‘Ah, you know what: Let’s go back to that [original sound].'”

“Tastes Like Gold,” Lit’s seventh album, does as much. It was created during the pandemic and harkens back to the early days of the band, when it broke through in 1999 with its sophomore album “A Place in the Sun.” Numerous hit singles — “Miserable” (no. 3) and “Zip-Lock” (no. 11) — rose among the ranks on the alternative rock charts.

“My Own Worst Enemy” spent 11 weeks atop the alternative rock chart upon its release. It’s grown into a signature song, not only for Lit but the alt-rock music scene of the late ’90s and early 2000s. It’s a regular selection in sets played by rock cover bands nationwide, at karaoke nights and even wedding receptions.

Having been featured in “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” video games, it’s now the subject of a new four-part podcast of the same name. “My Own Worst Enemy” brings in various musicians, radio professionals, musicologists and members of Lit to examine its phenomenon.

Popoff admits he can’t explain why “My Own Worst Enemy” has become such an enduring hit.

“Even after the documentary and the experts sort of tried to peel the onion, I think we’re all still scratching our heads,” he said.”It’s just one of those crazy, freak-of-nature kind of things. It’s not something we’ve ever taken for granted. We still love playing it — it’s still a huge blessing for us. It’s given us a career. Financially, it’s paid our bills for going on 25 years and it’s been pretty incredible.”

Lit’s new album opens with a suitably caffeinated and catchy anthem, “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” with continual energy and rock melodies carrying forth on tracks like “Mouth Shut,” “Get Out of My Song,” “Here’s To Another,” “Kicked Off A Plane” — the latter, a real-life tale of being bounced from a flight for having a verboten extra ingredient in the beverages certain band members brought aboard. A pair of ballads also pepper and balance the release, including “OK With That” and “Hold That Thought.”

“It was fun to do,” Popoff said about the creation of “Tastes Like Gold.” “We were able to put ourselves back in a headspace where we were able to write just simple, catchy party rock songs that weren’t about politics and viruses and things. I know a lot of bands did, a lot of bands went to a dark place, and rightfully so. Somehow we found something else out of all of that that allowed us to make what we thought was the right Lit record for the time.”

Popoff and his brother, Lit singer Ajay, wrote 10 of the 12 songs; joining them were a new pair of collaborators, Carlo Colasacco and Eric Paquette (a.k.a. Youthyear). Popoff credits Colasacco and Paquette with helping the brothers find their stride; it didn’t hurt they were also Lit fans two decades ago.

“Here are two guys a lot younger than us and they grew up listening to Lit,” Popoff said. “So we were able to sort of pose the question to them: ‘What does Lit mean to you and what do you feel like it would mean to you today? What kind of record would you want to hear as a Lit fan from 20 years ago?'”

The partnership started out organically, Popoff said. Calasacco had participated in a writing session a year or so earlier, contacted him to see about trying another session. That first get-together didn’t yield any songs, but they enjoyed working and hanging out together.

“He just hit me up and said, ‘Hey, man, I’d like to try getting together with you again. I’ve got maybe a couple of ideas. I know we didn’t get anything last time, but I think we could do something cool together,'” Popoff recalled.

This was right before Popoff was moving to Nashville full time. Upon settling, he made the call.

“The first day, he had this idea for a song that ended up being ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah,'” Popoff said.

Soon Paquette, a friend of Calasacco’s, joined in the process. The camaraderie and creative spirit gelled among the bunch.

“One song turned into two, then turned into four,” Popoff said. “It started out as a songwriting meeting and it turned into a full partnership. They ended up producing the record with us.”

Now Lit — also including bassist Kevin Baldes and drummer Taylor Carroll — is back on tour, co-headlining with Hoobastank (with Alien Ant Farm and Kristopher Roe of the Ataris playing opening sets). Lit’s hour-long set will feature new tracks from “Taste Of Gold” and fan favorites over an hour-long set.

Hoobastank will then take the stage and play for on hour.

“The idea was to keep it pretty lean and mean,” Popoff said, “not drag people through eight hours of live music. … The idea is, just from the second you walk in until the second you walk out, just all guns blazing.”

Lit and Hoobastank will perform at Burnt Mill Creek on Sunday, Oct. 23; gates open at 1 p.m. Tickets, $30-$50, are available here.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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