Gun Violence, Catharsis & Corporations With THE FEVER 333

Troubling times call for desperate measures, and in this hyper digitalised modern society desperate measures often make for even more troubling times. It’s a vicious, social media-centric cycle which adopts new forms on the daily. This much is evident by merely shifting your gaze towards the current state of American politics and the growing issues surrounding police brutality, sexual assault and gun violence. These issues lie unsurprisingly close to the heart of The Fever 333‘s Jason Butler. The former letlive. main man has never shied away from maintaining an incredibly outspoken identity, pouring his frustrations into visceral lyrics and rampant onstage behaviour which have made The Fever 333 one of this summer’s hottest festival bands. They (Butler, guitarist Stephen Harrison and drummer Aric Improta) have a voice, and they aren’t afraid to use it as a means of soundtracking the ever-changing world we live in. All Things Loud sat down with the band following a sweaty set at Lowlands Festival last month to discuss gun violence, catharsis, Who Is America? and the irony of pushing a DIY ethos under the watchful eye of a major label.

Hey guys, let’s dive straight in. There’s an unrivalled energy about your live shows which is really quite mesmerising. How do you maintain this show after show after show?
Jason: Just giving a fuck, right? I guess it’s a physical representation of how we feel and what we think. We feel and think very strongly about all of these issues, and also just art and live performance in general. It’s a privilege to be up there, really.

Aric: There’s this kind of mutual support that, for me, makes it feels kind of unconditional. It’s to the point where I’m not looking up and seeing someone give less than 100%. It’s nice to have that and it’s something we all want, also in other aspects of our lives.

It’s now been little more than a year since The Fever 333 was born out of a U-Haul in California. Just outline how the last 14 months have been for you as a band and as people, especially on the back of what’s going on in the world today.
Jason: It’s just been crazy, and we can still see that people fucking care. Not just caring about us, but also caring about their communities and other humans. You know, there’s this sense of empathy that I feared was lacking in a lot of the decisions we made as people, but I see that it still exists somewhere. It wasn’t getting the recognition or representation that it deserved for whatever reason. I’m not saying that we are that representation, but we want to be. The way that people have received, believed and invested in us has been absolutely crazy. The way that these people also propagate and speak about The Fever, it’s unreal. The movement was already happening, but now we’re writing a soundtrack to it. We’re putting into music what those feelings and ideas are, and it’s been fucking crazy.

Stephen: It’s even been crazy with bookers, agents and that kind of stuff. They’ll say to us, “We’d love to have you guys here to perform and talk about these things”. It’s a whole new territory for me musically, as I’m just used to playing shows and maybe talking about it a little bit afterwards. With this band, the lyrics are so upfront that it incites a feeling no matter who you are or where you are. It’s cool to be a part of that. The conversations we have are like those which most bands have, but then we’ll say, “Look at what’s happening in Russia” or “Check this shit out in Italy“. It adds a whole new element of importance that I’m excited to explore and be a part of.

I want to talk about your recent single, Trigger. It bears the tagline: is now a good time to talk? Gun violence has always been a key talking point, but all too often one which certain segments of American politics are afraid to touch upon for fear of backlash. If you look at past incidents, shootings and attacks you notice that, still, nothing has changed.  Why is that? What needs to happen to really get this conversation going?
Jason: I think that we have this really deeply ingrained fascination and strange romanticisation with guns. When we had our American Revolution and freed ourselves from the grips of the British, we used guns, militia and an army. As we found a place of our own during the descent from that, we became patriots. We found ourselves in this really interesting place after, like I said, freeing ourselves from British grip. To continue that, we had to protect our interests as a country: collective freedom and sovereignty. In our manifesto, which is our constitution, we allow ourselves to bear arms. At the time it made sense, both relatively and contextually, to defend ourselves from a looming tyrannical government. Muskets were being used, and these things take a fucking minute to load. Now we have accessibility to semi and fully automatic weapons which are military grade yet still end up in the hands of civilians. Anyone can surpass, elude or evade mental or criminal background checks to get their hands on them, and we even have state lines which you can easily cross. You can buy bump stocks, you can buy AK-47’s, everything. We currently have a policy being made in congress which is solely in the interests of gun propagating businesses. We say we do this in the name of freedom and the American ideal, but I feel like we do this in the name of capitalism while foregoing the safety of our everyone. Every single day – I’m not exaggerating – I look through my various news feeds and see that somebody has been killed by guns. It’s insane. I’m not badmouthing my country, I’m just asking those in my country to truly, truly look at what they’re doing. The government has technology that we can’t even fucking fathom. We can’t even begin to imagine the technology that they have.

Stephen: If it really comes down to that, then it’s like, “Yo, that AK-47 you have in your closet is real fucking irrelevant right now.

Jason: It’s not going to do shit in a drone strike! And that’s just on the forefront of what they have. I’m talking about real artillery and technology that they have. We have a fascination with guns and this John Wayne culture which is insane. What I’m essentially trying to say is that it wasn’t necessary to aid our descent from the grips of tyranny. I really do love that we believe so much in the idea of freedom, but you know there’s a real problem when there are more guns in our country than there are people. There’s just no reason for someone to have a semi-automatic weapon! There’s no reason for people to have the ability to 3D print a fucking weapon! That also eludes all these policies that were in fucking place, because now anybody can 3D print their own weapons. “Guns in America get into the hands of bad people” is what people always say to me. They tell me that these people need to be combatted or that there needs to be some sort of counterpoint, aka “good people with guns”. I don’t think that we should remove guns, but that’s also because I don’t feel as though people are mentally ready to come to terms with the thought of that ever happening.

Aric: We need to grow and adjust, not eradicate. It’s like, why do you need an automatic weapon? You don’t. You just don’t. I don’t necessarily think that disarming everyone is the answer.

Jason: I’d say that it’s about assessing all the problems we have and finding a way to move forward which doesn’t equal getting rid of all weapons. You pinpoint the exact qualifications people would need to own guns, and implement them; the acquisition of guns is way too fucking easy. I have a friend in Florida who told us that there’s a law to do with private sale which allows you to get any gun you want under the right circumstances and without any background checks. If that’s there, then it isn’t a surprise that people own guns. People who do own guns and feel strongly about it should also push for these implementations in a way which represents their group accurately. At the end of the day, the means by which we acquire firearms in America is fucked. That’s it! No question. If children can get guns and shoot up their schools with clear mental health red flags, there is a very grave and dangerous problem. For us to ignore that is negligent and very irresponsible, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re ignoring it. This feeds through into mental health, but yeah. You get what I mean. It’s a romantic relationship.

From-left-to-right: Stephen Harrison, Jason Butler & Aric Improta. (c) Jack Parker
From-left-to-right: Stephen Harrison, Jason Butler & Aric Improta. (c) Jack Parker

I do indeed, but let’s move on to lyricism. Do you see The Fever 333’s music as a device for catharsis and an outlet of frustration against the current political situation in the US, or do you see it as a means of informing the rest of the world and people who may not be as aware? Like, “hello, this shit is happening right now”?
Jason: I think it’s both, man. Ultimately what we’re trying to do is offer representation for people out there who feel the way we do and look the way we do. We try to create allegiances and alliances with these people, and it’s truly opening up a safe space for people to be who they are and who they may want to be. Yes, onstage and in the studio there are certain frustrations and things we feel as people, but that’s just what all people do. That doesn’t make us particularly unique as people or as artists. What does make us unique, though, is that we’re taking a stance right now which could be seen less than desirable for lots of other acts for various reasons. We’re taking this stance because it’s what we believe in, and we feel that there are so many people out there right now who feel this way and are underrepresented. We ultimately offer representation and a safe space for these people to operate in, and we allow them to represent or feel represented by their feelings towards certain issues. These affairs, these feelings, these modes of intellect. I also feel like it’s a perspective from varied experiences, because we do talk about these things before they make it into songs. I don’t feel like it’s a bias. Stephen’s from another part of the country and we’ve all grown up in very different ways. This is just what we’ve collectively discussed and agreed upon. Also, put this in your interview: I’m from gun culture, I’m from the hoodMy father owned guns, my friends owned guns. I understand why people feel the need to own guns in certain scenarios.

Have you ever owned a gun, Jason?
Jason: No, I’ve never owned a gun! But that’s a good point, right? I don’t own a gun, I don’t plan on owning one and I don’t believe in them. However, I do see why people would own guns in order to feel safe. It revolves around this idea of safety in our society, but we are fucking unsafe! Stephen’s unsafe. He is very, very unsafe simply because of the melanin in his skin. I feel like I’m safer than Stephen simply because of my skin colour, but I also think that the questions which arise and contempt that people hold for me for speaking the way I do – simply because I know who I am while they don’t – is also dangerous. We are living in dangerous fucking times where people feel empowered to speak out against us for just trying to create a safe balance. That’s fucking crazy! It just shouldn’t be like that.

Right. There’s an exponential increase in artists using their art to express views on American politics, something we’ve obviously come to expect in 2018. This doesn’t just apply to music, but also to TV and film. Who Is America? – the new Showtime series – is a good example of this. What’s your take on this form of – so to say – “catharsis” across all types of art?
Jason: That’s the show with Sasha Baron Cohen right? I fucking love it! You should be able to have a discussion and at least listen to both sides. The spectrum is fucking crazy! Radicalism on both sides can be misinterpreted and cause effects which are less than ideal, and a lot of times they can be the wrong result. Straight up, I’m gonna be 100: If Antifa are gonna go and knock out a Nazi then I’m not gonna be mad. I’m not! At the same time, there are so many reckless elements to certain factions and sects of Antifa that I don’t believe in. Both fundamentally and ideologically there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. We need to stop creating more division and making things so binary. We need to stop polarising things, and we really need to start having a discussion. I love exposing all of it, like fanaticism or the zealous nature of both sides of the spectrum. There needs to be more discussion, end of.

There’s very clearly a sense of “woke” awareness to your music, which occasionally also takes aim at big corporations: at the same, time, though, you’re signed to a subsidiary of Warner Music. Was there ever the desire to take this on wholly independently, or has the double-edged sword of a big corporation played well in your advantage? I understand this may be a difficult question.
Jason: Oh no, please do, I love it! We are living in a world led by capitalism, and I understand that. I never discuss capitalism in our songs to an explicit extent, because then it would come back and look as though I’m trying to exploit an anarchistic idea that I believed in when I was younger. Now that I’m older I know how the world works, and I don’t know if it would be as appealing for me to fully reject and unplug. For us to just say “fuck it” and not come to any festivals because there are corporate sponsors is not appealing. We’re living within our relative means, but to be completely and totally 100 with you: Rage Against the Machine did it and still spoke to people. For all the jocks out there who were headbanging to Bulls on Parade, ten out of every hundred listened to the lyrics. They wouldn’t have done that, had Rage been on the same fucking label as some random crust punk band. They wouldn’t have gotten the same reach had they not used the vessel and the vehicle of a major label. This is a vehicle, and we’re fully aware of that. And to be 100 100? Roadrunner, our subsidiary, really do believe. They’re taking capital and injecting it into this band so that we can come out here. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to. They’re giving us capital which we would not have had otherwise. We live in a world where, if we had to try really hard for these jobs, it would not be effective and we would not get there as fast as we do now. I get it, one hundred percent. We know that we’re playing the game, but we’re definitely playing it to our advantage. We’re very honest with Roadrunner, very honest; you should see what we say!

So what’s next?
Stephen: Keep it moving, more shows, more music.

Aric: A full-length album for sure.

Jason: Trying to do things that are effective by being deliberate in our approach, and trying not to make the same mistakes that we think other people do. Then we can remain as effective as possible. Made An America is out now.