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Interview conducted November 23 2019
Interview published January 18 2020

"As the world pushes forward we have to find our place as citizens and understand that we are the majority."

Fever 333 played at Hus 7 in Stockholm and Metal Covenant met the guys just before showtime. The interview started with vocalist Jason Aalon Butler only, but after a while guitar player Steve Harrison joined, and then pretty much at the end of our time together drummer Aric Improta had finished his soundcheck and came in for a few words.

Tobbe: You guys just put out a new single, Kingdom. Tell me about it.

Jason: Yeah, it's essentially: in a world globally that seems quite turbulent every time you turn on your television, look at your phone, look at the internet and pop the newsfeed on, it looks like something is, you know, kind of crumbling around us, or becoming destructed or dismantled or destabilized.

And with all that we're just trying to create a space where people can still feel empowered, as if "While things are falling apart around us we can still build our own communities.". Things that are filled with, I guess, a fortitude of hope, if you will. I guess it's kind of like whatever cliché, but. So yeah, that song's about that. It's about creating a space where people can feel empowered even if things feel like they're falling apart around you.

Tobbe: And musically. I think the chorus is a little bit speedier than most of what you have done before.

Jason: Yeah. It's just skate punk. We kind of grew up listening to various types of punk rock and that was for sure, for me and Aric, living on the West Coast, extremely, extremely influential, like anything from Pennywise to Millencolin.

Tobbe: And at the time you release a standalone single, is it very tempting to also have this song eventually on a forthcoming record?

Jason: No, we'll leave it as it is. We're gonna probably do another one of those. I think we're in an era right now where you can just release music and it works. You know, I think it's fine. As long as you feel like you can write more good stuff, then, sure.

Tobbe: Releasing singles is becoming more and more, like, the standard way for a lot of bands, and in what way do you look at the fact that people, and especially young people, seem to care less and less about the album format?

Jason: I mean, I don't know. I can't really argue with the facts, you know. I can't really argue with the evolution. But instead of, like, being upset about it, I think we just have to adapt and find our place within it. But also make sure that we can create a body of work that does cut through the noise and makes people wanna listen to an entire album. So it's almost like a mission for us to try to do that.

Tobbe: In regards to having that new song out. Have you guys already collected a lot of ideas for a new album? Where are you album-wise at this point?

Jason: Yeah, we're already writing. And we have a lot of stuff left over, like Kingdom. That's a song from, like, 2018. We have so much stuff. We were writing so much when we started this project and then as it started moving we kept writing, and we kept doing more, being as creative as possible. So we have a lot of stuff and we have started already on an album. Everything from aesthetic to the actual sound to the presentation of both of those things and the project itself, so.

Steve joins the interview.

Tobbe: In what way are you guys trying to build a reputation over here in Europe? I watched Spotify and the numbers there were pretty impressive, I think.

Steve: It's our third time here in a year basically. We were over here in November 2018, and then over here in the summer, and then back over here again. I just feel like the support over here has been pretty insane, and because of that we just wanna sort of keep pouring it to people as they poured it to us. The shows are great. The festivals were amazing as well. I would do these festivals every year, forever, 'til I die, if I could, 'cause they're just so insane.

We don't really do it like that in America. We're learning how to do it in the States, but you guys have been doing festivals right for so long. It's night and day playing over here, so. You know, I feel like people appreciate seeing people give 100 percent on stage over here, and they do the same in the crowd, so we wanna just keep doing that, you know.

Tobbe: Tell me about your recent health issues, Jason.

Jason: I had an abnormality in one of my lungs and basically what they deduced was that it was for me kind of foregoing. Apparently I kept getting sick the last couple of years and I just kept going and then I would think that I was okay, and I wasn't, so I would never get back to 100 percent and then it started to catch up with me, and then it did, and it started to restrict my breathing.

And then when it restricted my breathing it was not oxygenating blood properly and that was creating problems with my heart. So we had to kind of reverse engineer all of my problems and figure out that it was just from some elements that I had to deal with. 'Cause if I would have continued I wouldn't have been here and on this tour. I wouldn't have been able to do it, so.

Tobbe: Isn't that just one big scare for you other guys?

Steve: At first we were obviously concerned, but I mean, once he told us it was fine, we were cool. You know, doctors usually know what they're talking about.

Tobbe: But don't these kinds of situations tell you that life could be fragile, right?

Jason: Absolutely. I think all 3 of us look at it that way and I think that's why, not only on stage, but in our lives, whatever we do, we're very understanding of the finite nature of life. So with that being the case, we try to make sure that we enjoy and represent ourselves in our art to the fullest, every moment we get, 'cause you just really never know.

Tobbe: Strength in Numb333rs was out in January [2019] and specifically in what way have that record been able to get the band closer to the bigger stages?

Steve: I mean, it's the first we've put out that's sort of like a full, like, interpretation of where we are as a band and as people. Like, the EP [Made An America, 2018] was cool, but it wasn't a full picture, you know. So the album I think allowed us to paint, like, a full picture lyrically, sonically, aesthetically. It was like the first real taste of who we were. I think people really grabbed onto it.

And as far as playing some of those songs live: it kind of showed more of our spectrum of different sounds and stuff like that. I don't think we could have really gotten as far on the EP, but with the full-length out I think people could find something that they can appreciate from it.

Tobbe: It's definitely hard to come out unique today. All kinds of rock music have been done for, like, 60 years now, so whatever you do it's kind of repeating what other people have done. So what goes through your head when you write and record a record?

Jason: You can only be authentic, right? It's funny, because it's only 3 of us really. Well, there's 5 of us 'cause we write and produce with Travis [Barker] and John [Feldmann]. But, literally, between us all, we genuinely listen and authentically invest in different types of music. Everything. Trip hop, hip hop, rap music, gangster rap, rock 'n' roll, punk rock, metal, hardcore, folk music, ambient music. We actually listen to those types of music and not just say "Oh, I heard this one song, that I wanna try to sample.".

We genuinely invest in all these types of music. So when we're doing it we try to honor them and if we're going to amalgamate anything, it has to be in a respectful and tasteful way, so that's what we do. Actually Aric can speak to that as well. Aric loves, like, trip hop. Steve and I are really big on rap music, as well as punk rock and hip hop. Aric loves punk rock as well. So it's all kind of a genuine investment and making sure we represent it properly.

Tobbe: You guys are definitely not afraid of telling people a message. Tell me about your lyrics in general.

Jason: If there is one word that I like to use to describe it, it's essence of power, understanding that we possess power inherently just being here. I think that there's a huge dynamic that's been leveraged against us throughout almost all systems and constructs. As the world pushes forward we have to find our place as citizens and understand that we are the majority.

You know, those that are outside the one percent, outside the political systems, outside of those systems and constructs. We're actually the majority and once we start realizing how powerful we really are, then we can start making drastic and radical changes that need to happen.

Tobbe: Why is it important to have this strong standpoint?

Jason: 'Cause we'll completely fuck ourselves if we don't. Like, as people we will completely explode. If you were to observe from the outside. If I was an alien watching us as a television show, I would think that this TV show is gonna end with a self-destruction, for sure. If you're just looking at it like that. But living within it, as people, as humans, being sentient, being understanding, being hopeful, is the only way that we can really change it. It's like any relationship, right? This just happens to be a relationship between over 7 billion people.

But if it was a relationship between you and I, or the 3 of us, we have to be open. Like, as a band we have to be open with each other, we have to have discussions, especially when it's uncomfortable, because otherwise it's gonna fester and it's gonna germinate into something very negative. The reason we do it is because I feel if we don't, and we feel if we don't, that we are gonna completely fuck ourselves.

Tobbe: Do these types of lyrics come from your background or are they more contemporary, you would say?

Jason: Definitely based on experience, 'cause I think that's the only way that we can actually attest to anything and explain it in a way that is 100 percent fact, because it's based on experience. We try to work within statistics. That's usually what we do. You can't argue numbers and you can't argue with experience, and that's been our strongest baffle.

Steve joins the interview.

Tobbe: Many musicians claim that music saved their life. It's different for everyone, but where do you see yourselves in this situation?

Jason: I think music just gave me a place to put all the things that could have destroyed me. So I guess it did, in a way. Yeah, I guess it saved my life. But I got to tribute that shit to, like, a lot of things, like the community that I was able to grow up in. It was very music oriented, but also people giving a fuck about people.

And that was pretty huge. People actually giving a fuck about me, in a way where they would go out of their way to offer and extend, you know, their charity or their virtues to me to help me. But music gave me a space to put everything that would destroy me internally. I was able to put that into music and then positively maneuver it. But it could be different for everybody.

(Steve:) I mean, I wouldn't really say music, but I guess I would say, like, aggressive music. I suffered a lot from, like, social anxiety, and just sort of feeling outcast and alone in my beliefs. But I found really great community. Just like a place to be at a young age, doing like hardcore and straight edge.

And I think without that I don't know what kind of person I would have turned into to, to be honest. Like, if you go your whole sort of like 8th through 12th grade life and not feeling like the real you… So, I'm very thankful for hardcore. For the community, you know.

(Aric:) I think that it just helped me not wonder what I could have done. And I think a lot of career paths that my friends took, if I had gone that route, I would have wondered what it's like to travel, what it's like to work alongside friends, what it's like to make art for a living.

So fortunately I think it kind of gave me a clear perspective on what I wanna do with my life, because it lent itself to so many opportunities that it was a little easier to navigate than, you know, just going to college and say "Now what?". Because it was driven through passion, obviously. So you're working a lot, but you're working on something you love. Yeah, I think for me, just getting the opportunities kept me from having any, like, deep regrets from, like, decisions I may have made otherwise along the way.

Tobbe: About touring: Is it still hard being out on the road or is it getting easier for you guys?

Jason: It's actually getting harder for me. It was easy as fuck in the beginning. Like, it was, like, all I wanted to do, so my perspective was just like "Go! All you need to be is out here.". Whereas now I have things at home that I enjoy and I love and I miss. Yeah, it's hard for me personally. Leaving my kid and my wife gets harder and harder every time.

But luckily I've got these dudes, and I mean, they really understand, it and me, and that really is very comforting. 'Cause it can be very lonely, like in my last project [Letlive] I felt really, really lonely. I'd be in a bus full of people and feel extremely lonely. So it's gotten better, but at the same time it's gotten harder in that way for me.

Tobbe: It takes kind of a special person to be out touring. How do you survive, guys?

Aric: I guess we like each other and like the music we're playing, I think. (Jason:) Yeah, it's got to be one or the other really, right? You can have both, which is sick, and which I think we do. But you have to have at least one of those things. You understand, like, if the music wasn't carrying you through you'd have to love hanging out with the people you're with. And vice versa, if you don't love hanging out with the people you're with, the music got to carry you through. But I think I'm a testament to that you've got to have both. I think you've got to have both, to be honest.

(Aric:) We've been doing it for so long too. Like, I know it doesn't seem like it 'cause of this project, but we've all been doing this for 10-15 years. So at a certain point you're, like, "Okay, my 20th time to this country, what is the purpose?" and fortunately with this project it's reaching new fans and all of the audience is growing and it's becoming more and more diverse.

I think, if anything, the diversity is probably the most exciting part, because it's one of the first projects that we've all been involved in that can connect with so many different types of people. So in that aspect it feels like it's a really mutual, beneficial experience getting to play these shows for so many different types of people. And that to me is one of the most rewarding things about this project and touring right now and kind of what makes it easier for us to continuously go out this past couple of years.

Tobbe: Where do you see the band going in the next couple of years?

Jason: Straight to the top, baby! [Laughs] No, I mean, I think the most important piece of this project would for it to be able to stand alone when we're not there. Even if we're not doing a demonstration or we're not right in front of the people, I would like the idea of this project to be autonomous and to stand alone on its own sort of platform. That would be the most ideal situation.

What we know ahead of us is we're doing an album and we'll be coming back hopefully in the middle of 2020. And I'm really trying to create, again, a space where people feel like they can fully invest in it as their own. That's kind of what we're seeing.

(Steve:) We are seeing that. It's happening like that. People are coming to the shows and they're meeting up with people they've never met before, solely because they like the music and they like the message. And they're doing things on their own, just after meeting each other at shows.

We have, like, pages, like Movement and like 333 Gang and they do charitable things, you know. On their own terms. You know, from their own hearts. But sort of like through the band. Like, we don't have anything to do with it. It's purely on them. I see that every night. People who are just like "We just met and we're gonna start cleaning our neighborhood up.". Like that kind of thing.

People come to shows, like making it theirs, you know what I mean? It's like it's more than just the hour we play. So it's happening, you know. Which is cool. So in a couple of years, like Jason said, if it could stand alone, like, regardless if that we're playing the show or not in a certain city like this, that would be just sick.

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