Community, charity, and change – that’s the mantra and three pillars of the ethos which binds Californian trio Fever 333 together, and drives the message they wish to broadcast beyond their music forward.
Earlier this year, the supergroup – composed of Jason Aalon Butler (ex-letlive./Pressure Cracks), Stephen Harrison (ex-The Chariot/ex-Written In Red), and Aric Improta (Night Verses) – released their debut album, ‘Strength In Numb333rs’, a 10-track affair that not only flexed their creative muscles, but also their views on the rocky political and social climate in the world today, which evidently they have no fear in confronting.
Ending off their year with a headline stint across the UK and Europe, we spoke to the band about the pitfalls of support slots and record labels, their desire to spark discussion and change, handling trolls, and looking back on the last two years since their inception.
DP!: How’s this tour been so far for you guys?
JB: Amazing. We haven’t really done all that much over here if you really think of it in the grand scheme of things; we did a tour in June, which was our first entry and doing our own thing over here, but before that we were just popping in and out for festivals and supporting Bring Me The Horizon. We weren’t doing our own thing, and in general we haven’t been doing our own thing for that long. So, to come back and for all of the shows to start off sold out is crazy. It’s really crazy, and we don’t take that for granted. We know that no one is entitled to anything like this and we’re very, very thankful.
DP!: You don’t have a support on this run either, which is a bold and rarely seen move. What was the idea behind doing that?
JB: We’re within an industry that tells you that you have to do things this way or else you can’t do them. They tell you that you have to bring out bands that they will suggest, and at that you have to question why. “Why would you suggest that band?”, and then you look and it’s like “Oh, that’s their band. Who gets that money?” Not only that but they’re making the rates, so they’re still making money, but the band themselves probably don’t make that much money because we’re not big. We’re not a huge band. We can’t even offer that much money. So, that’s one thing, first and foremost, in the complex that is the industry. We’re not with it, and we’re not here to do that.
We’re also not here to bring out a band and destroy them by giving them peanuts to travel around the fucking world with us. That’s fucked up too. That’s why you see all of these bands struggling with everything; from their physical health, their mental health, and being able to maintain and sustain as a band to begin with. I saw a couple of people online going “I thought you were supposed to support bands and new bands coming up.” That, to me, is not supporting them. How you do support them is you go out, you walk through the fucking fire on your own, you see what you’re worth so that you can leverage that in business, and then bring them on for fucking four times more when you come back next time. We’re just building right now so that we know exactly what we’re worth, and so that we know exactly what this means to the people.
Also, we need to make sure that we have time to do what we want to do. Stephen, Aric – the moment that we’re offstage they’re talking to people. I go back and call my family real quick and then I come out. We do this because we are able to curate every moment. Also, the people are now dictating essentially what is happening. They come, they talk, we converse. We encourage one and a half hours of just discussion. Everything that we do, there’s a bigger plan behind it, and this plan is so that we can offer a space for people to have discussion, offer people to experience music in a new way, and then when we do start bringing out bands, we pay them properly and we’re able to give them what they deserve, and the attention that they deserve too.
DP!: That is an insight into that portion of the industry of today. There’s also what’s happening with our consumption of music too. Sure, streaming platforms like Spotify give a greater reach of audience than ever before, but with the playlist culture that comes with it most people focus on just the singles and disregard the album experience.
JB: That is exactly right, and what the fuck? Like, the tier system on Spotify too? Think about it, because this is the thing – when we play music and when we started this whole thing, we had to walk and are still walking through the fucking trenches. People can think of whatever with how it seems from the outside, but this shit is not easy and it’s also not as fantastical or romanticised as we all like to believe or how the Internet makes it seem. Even on Spotify, we’re not raking in money because we’re not top tier. We’re not Taylor Swift. We’re not Cardi B. We’re not Migos. We’re not fucking Ed Sheeran. This industry is structured for a certain amount of people, and therefore, if you want to be able to maintain and sustain, you have to create your own lane, so that’s all we’re trying to do so that we can help others also come into this lane that we’re creating, and they can come and walk this path with us that we find to be alternative. It may not be the most popular, but it will help support what you do.
AI: If we can make that become a successful example then it gives a reference point for anybody else that wants to do it, whereas for us we suggest things like this and most of the time people just look at us like it’s a bad idea, because we don’t have the clear reference to say “Well, so and so did it.” We’re the ones that have to go through the push and pull of trying to just do something that seems pretty simple. The idea of being able to just go out by yourself shouldn’t be that much of a struggle.
SH: We also just want to be able to prove it to ourselves too.
JB: That’s right, totally.
DP!: Whilst we’re on the subject of the music industry, you also recently launched what you’re calling the alternative record label, 333 Wreckords Crew. With your accumulative years of experience in past projects as well as this one, what do you feel is the biggest hurdle that bands and artists face with labels and the misconception that new bands have when first signing to a label?
JB: That the label is going to do anything for you. Straight up, if you really think that fucking label is going to be the thing that pops you then you’re already losing. If you think that the label is going to be thing that turns you – unless, of course, you’re there to be moulded, which I’m not saying is the wrong way to go about it. You can do whatever you want with your art, it’s not for me to say. But, if you think that you’re going to go to a label and they’re going to be the reason that you succeed, you’ve already lost the battle. Those labels are waiting for you to pop. They’re waiting for you to succeed. A lot of them are just signing a fucking handful or a net full of bands and waiting for one of them to pop. That’s what this is because it’s a fucking business. You just have to be realistic about it, and, I’m not here to hate on labels, I’m just here to talk about the truth. The truth is that labels will pick up bands and wait for them to do what they were already destined to do, but they will find you.
Now, I won’t take that away from labels because labels will find the artists, but they’re going to give a little and ask for a lot. It’s what they do, and it’s structurally how it happens. So, with me and 333 Wreckords Crew, it’s just a way to enhance and catalyse the things that I think are already there with art and artists, and not bury them in debt, or bury them in wild contracts and contractual obligations where they’re not allowed to make art. It’s as we said before, I think that bands must understand their worth. I don’t think there’s any problem with going with a label necessarily, but I think that you have to know what you’re going into and understand what you want and what you want out of it, and how you’re going to get it. It’s not going be down to a label. There are very few people in the label world that are going to be more creative than you, straight up, and I don’t give a fuck who reads or hears that, because that’s real shit.
AI: If they were then they would never sign anybody that would be a dud. That’s the thing, if they had that formula then all of the bands that have signed with them would take off, but when you look at anybody’s roster you can find probably more bands than not that are still trying to find their footing. Jason told it right, and I think that’s something that we’ve all come to realise as we’ve been growing up and within our previous bands, and that’s kind of helped us with this one.
DP!: Earlier this year, you worked with Poppy on the song ‘Scary Mask’. She’s an artist who generally has quite a different sound to you guys. What was it like working with her on that track?
SH: It was pretty cool. I was a fan of Poppy back when she was just making YouTube videos, and then when us three started writing together there’s this guy I met called Zakk Cervini in LA – he’s a producer who was helping us out early on and still does sometimes – who knows Poppy personally. We were just showing each other songs, and shooting videos back in forth like “Take a look at this. Have you heard this?”, and one of the ones I sent to him was a Poppy song and he replied to me saying “Oh, dude, I know her”, and I was like “Dude, I have got to meet her.” Then he hit me up one day and asked if I wanted to do a session with Poppy, and so I did and it went from there.
DP!: That’s cool. Obviously she does the quite disparate far ends of pop and metal, in a kind of polar opposite way, which is a little bit different for you guys. I imagine that made it different or maybe even challenging for you to work with when it came to your contributions?
SH: Well, with Zakk being there it made it super easy because I think he’s into metal first, and they’re really into metal too but I think more so the idea of metal, so when it came to writing it was essentially “Cool, write a riff”, so I said “Alright” and that was the main riff. It wasn’t really difficult or anything, and they loved it too.
DP!: You guys have only been a band for around two years, but already you’ve achieved a lot; working with Travis Barker, a GRAMMY nomination, releasing an EP and album, touring across the world. Did you believe back in July 2017 when you were playing out of the back of a U-Haul truck in a car park that you’d have achieved all that you have?
SH: Well, not in two years, no.
JB: That’s the thing, right? I think you have to believe that you can do that, at least at some point anyway. You have to believe that it’s possible in order to sort of embrace it and to care for it in the right way so that you don’t lose your mind. I personally did believe that we would be able to do this as some point, but I don’t think that we’re entitled to anything, so everything that we get is an honour and it’s something that we have to make sure that we embrace and consider as a gift really, and a privilege. Because of that we just keep our heads down while also keeping them in the clouds if that makes any sense. We make sure that we do what we’re supposed to do and we do it in ways that we think are ethically and morally and artistically sound, and at the same time we think about what it would be like to be able to do this thing at whatever level – whether it be the U-Haul or a show like tonight in a sold out venue in Manchester – whatever level we’re at, we think about then what it would be like to take this and enhance it to the next level, but we’d never think that we’re entitled to anything. Like Stephen said, I don’t think that we ever really talked about doing this in two years.
SH: Well, yeah, we don’t specifically have things like GRAMMYs or whatever it may be on our minds, but I think that we all had and have a lot of confidence in what it is that we’re doing, and it doesn’t at all mix in with any sort of entitlement. It’s just a belief in a message and the people that are involved.
AI: I also think that us being able to look out to the bands that are on that level has helped us because, I mean, I’ll speak for myself, but when working on previous projects and looking at how other people do it on your level, it’s a very similar mindset and you kind of work within the same constraints and concepts of what you can do live or on a recording, and being able to reference some of those artists that have achieved that and then trying to find our own way to give the feelings that they give to us but with our budget and with what we’re working on has kind of made us have to problem solve on a way that we didn’t before. So, I think that ultimately being able to be open minded and look at people on that level and say “How can I do something that feels like this?” has made us do something different than we would’ve ever done it before because we weren’t just looking at the people around us.
DP!: Along with the work in your music, you’re also outspoken outside of it too in regards to social and political issues. Do you get quite a lot of friction and confrontation from those that oppose your views online, a place that is often a breeding ground for hate and trolling?
JB: I think that at any point when you put yourself out there publicly, no matter really what it is, someone is going to have an opinion and they’re going to want to share that opinion with you, but not really with you. Here’s the thing that we just had a conversation about earlier; what about the people that are supposed to be on our side? That say they’re on our side. That say they want the same thing, but then they want to find one thing about something that they may not even– it’s not even that they don’t like it, but that they don’t understand it. That to me has just become so fascinating with our culture as of recent. I remember when I was younger there were so many bands that there was a couple of things about that were not even questionable, just things that I didn’t really like or understand, but their greater purpose or their greater mission or the objective was what was most important to me, so I would fuck with them and I would support that thing about that band that I fucking love. Now it just seems as though this strange– you know back in the 90s when we had all of these really strange image complexes because of the magazines and TV, but now we have them on the Internet. It’s just another version of it.
SH: A lot of the people who have the most opinions aren’t out there. There are people who you can’t look into and their lives, and you can’t see where they’re making their mistakes, and not even their mistakes but just anything. It’s just a photo with nothing behind it, and a comment.
DP!: People do that. They won’t use their own photo, but they’ll just grab a cartoon image or someone that they like or admire for whatever reason, and hide behind that, and a handle, and a few words.
AI: Someone from Dunder Mifflin just starts an argument with us. Can you imagine having a crazy argument in real-life with someone who has a cartoon face? That’s what happens on the Internet.
JB: That’s what’s done.
SH: See, we don’t trip about that. We don’t trip about anything, but the things that will get us talking are the people that Jason mentioned. The people you see and we’re like “Man, you’re like… you should get it. You should understand what we’re doing.” We’re not perfect people, and at some point I would like to think that someone can respectfully tell us “Hey, I’ve got an issue with this.” At some point we might make some kind of misstep that might make someone feel a certain way, and we’d like to be able to have a normal conversation with them, but with trolls that’ll never happen. People that I respect and I feel like I understand I’d like to think that I can have that conversation with, but we get it onstage as well. It’s not just on the Internet. Everyone gets it on the Internet, but we sometimes can’t even get through our set without someone saying something, and I’d prefer that over some Internet shit any day. You can ignore the Internet stuff, but people listen to those people on the Internet. People see that comment and don’t know to ignore it, and they see enough of those and think it’s a general opinion. Some people who say those things don’t even mean what they’re saying, and they say it just for the clout, the likes, and the retweets. It’s a waste of time to respond to that, but at our shows it’s so much more productive when Jason can speak about it because you have a whole room seeing this real-life thing that won’t happen on the Internet.
AI: But, with those people at the shows, at least they’re open to being criticised whereas on the Internet you just leave your comment and then can disappear into the ether.
JB: Yeah, don’t get it twisted. People might expect me to trip on this, but I respect people that oppose me. Straight up. I’m not saying that I respect everything about you. You could be a racist fuck, but if you have the integrity in yourself to have a conversation straight up with me about what you don’t see as the truth in what I’m saying, I respect that part of you.
SH: Right, what’s not to respect about that?
JB: You know what I’m saying? I respect someone who is going to tell me that they are antithetical to what I believe. We can talk about it, and then by the end of that you’re already opening the gate to the bridge to see that maybe we’re not as fucking different, and we’re not as diametric as we think that we are. I respect that part of it, absolutely.
AI: I think from our end the reason that the conversation comes up is because we’re not lying or exaggerating about the things that we talk about. For me, if I see an artist on any medium, or somebody in a profession that goes through experiences that I haven’t been through, if I like their work I usually give them the benefit of the doubt knowing that I haven’t been through those experiences. We grew up respecting art first, and giving the artist that made that thing that’s inspired us the benefit of the doubt when they explain themselves, so it’s just kind of surprising to be in a culture now where there’s so many people that just don’t give a shit about any of those things. That’s fine, you can do whatever you want, but that’s just what sparks our conversation. It’s not the critique, it’s the mindset of wondering why you think you would know what it is.
JB: Correct. We think that everyone should have their own opinion that they can speak on, but when the ‘facts’ are not facts it’s just, like, how can we go along with that? So we just keep doing our thing, and eventually it just becomes apparent that what they’re saying is incoherent and ostensible.
DP!: Returning to the music, we kind of touched on your live shows earlier. You guys are all very energetic and sort of unpredictable with your shows. Have you guys sustained any injuries as a result?
JB: Yeah. I’ve had two, but that’s in my whole career, so that’s a long time. I tore some tendons in my knee whilst I was in letlive., but that really wasn’t even tight. I was literally just holding something heavy onstage and slipped, that was it. I bumped into my bass player and slipped, so I wasn’t doing anything crazy. Another thing I did was fucked my hand up because I did some dumb shit and put my hand through a window. It was stupid. But the actual ‘crazy’ stuff, it’s like skateboarding. We know how to get out of a hairy situation usually, but it’s the things you’re not paying attention to, like walking across the stage and rolling your ankle.
AI: It’s also just natural impulses. It’s not like we get out there and we’re like “What’s the thing that I might not be able to pull off?” It’s just how we’ve been playing since we were like 14-years-old.
DP!: So, it’s not like you come into a venue and scope it out and see if there’s anything you can climb?
JB: Well, sometimes we fuck around and do that. Sometimes we’ll take to each other and be like “Yo, what if?” Also, we all enjoy that. We love skateboarding, and we love wild shit. It’s basically just like skateboarding for us, like “You think that you can hit that rail tomorrow?” and “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll try.”
DP!: What else do you guys have planned for 2019 after this UK tour?
JB: Once we’re done here we head over to Europe and then they’re our last shows for the year. After that we’ll start working on some new music, maybe a new album, and preparing ourselves for 2020 really, and making sure that the momentum continues. We’ll be dropping a few more songs over the coming months, and I think we’re going to create a new facet or forum to experience Fever 333 as well. We might get some like cool residencies at home maybe, or some events with the Walking In My Shoes charity, and just creating a new space to experience Fever 333.
DP!: What about Christmas plans?
JB: I’ll be in New Zealand.
SH: I’ll be in Atlanta, just chilling with the fam bam.
AI: Yeah, I’ll probably be spending December catching up with all the people I haven’t seen in a while.
DP!: Any final words?
JB: To everyone that wants to know about this, everyone that does know about this, and everything in-between, just know that whether you know it or not we’re listening, and we really want to make sure that we open up a space for people. Whether it’s something that they would typically involve themselves in or not, this is for everyone in some capacity, and whether that’s the music, or it’s the message, or it’s the aesthetic, or whatever it is, come and see about us and maybe we can have a good time.
The band’s debut studio album, ‘Strength In Numb333rs’, is available now through 333 Wreckords Crew/Roadrunner Records.