Why We Don't Blame Lit For Going Country

Lit has a new album coming out in 2017 and we very much suggest you buy a copy.
Not because we want you to support them (meh), or fatten their pockets (hell naw) or force yourself to actually listen to it (fuck that!). But you should buy a physical copy of a Lit record in 2017 so that one day, when your band’s best years are more than a decade behind you, you’ll be able to study a perfect example of how to rise from the ashes like a honky-tonk phoenix.

These days, members A. Jay and Jeremy Popoff and Kevin Baldes are undeniably distancing themselves from their alt-rock archetype of old. They’ve traded their crunchy Fender riffs, chain wallets and braided beard hair for southern twang, slide guitar and flannel—lots of flannel. As with other artists who’ve used country as a way to crossover to a new audience, it seems to be working.

The video for their Keith Urban-esque new single, “Fast,” is gliding up charts, landing as high as No. 2 on the CMT 12-Pack Countdown. And they’re popping up on fliers for festivals such as Wisconsin’s Country Fest. For a band who've been the butt of every bad joke about OC music since 2005, their boot-scootin’ success on the country side may seem like a surprise, but we can assure you it makes total sense.

In case you’ve forgotten the cultural wasteland of the late 1990s or you’re a baby millennial who only uses the word lit to refer to public intoxication captured via Instagram, this Fullerton band once defined the KROQ alt-rock zeitgeist in OC. They caught a wave of popularity with their sophomore album, A Place in The Sun, thanks to the inescapability of their hits “My Own Worst Enemy,” “Miserable” and “Ziplock.” The sound which wasn’t quite happy enough to be pop punk or mad enough to be nü-metal, putting them in a sort of Everyman category that forced its way into general popularity.

But that was then, and now is a very shitty place for a ’90s Lit to be. Sure, you could take a run on the nostalgia circuit, as they have. But really, how many times can you open for Sugar Ray on midlevel tours before you decide to jump off a cliff?

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Naturally, the band had to figure out how to appeal to a new demographic in a way that didn't make them look as if they were pining to be young and hip again. In that case, the best one they could’ve hoped to catch was the mainstream country crowd.

OC has always been the largest bastion for cowboy hats and the electric slide this side of Norco. So acceptance among the locals is still doable. Plus, their crop of female fans who used to swoon over the site of A. Jay Popoff in a wifebeater has since aged into a box of fine red wine. Most of them have matured into late-thirtysomething cougars, soccer moms and Republican housewives who love pop country. And as Trump can tell you, those ladies know how to show up when called upon—whether it’s a presidential election or a once-a-year outing at the House of Blues.

But transitioning from their alt-rock past to their country future also puts Lit in a position to sell both of them to you at once. You come to see a country band and stay to hear songs that remind you of the time you got your first handjob from your middle school crush in the back of an AMC theater.

Recently, in an effort to crowdfund their forthcoming album, the band have been cannibalizing pieces of their history for something called the 12 Days of Litmas. Basically, it’s a digital garage sale at which everything from old posters to tattoo stencils of the band’s logo by their regular tattoo artist are being offered to the highest bidder. Selling off the memories of yesterday to hopefully fund their second run at relevancy seems like a solid plan.

Whether they’re playing pop punk or pop country, the struggle to stay pop-ular is obviously not lost on Lit. The only thing we ask these Johnny Cash-come-latelies is that when they are headlining Stage Coach one day, they maybe throw a gig to local country acts such as Daniel Bonte and the Bonafide, Alice Wallace and The Ponderosa Aces who’ve holding down the hee-haw in OC for years before y’all decided to try to make the country scene your bread and butter.

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