July 4th, 2017. American Independence Day, and the day The Fever first began to spread. A rented U-Haul truck pulled into the parking lot of the iconic Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood, California. A few hundred people who had followed cryptic Instagram posts featuring a date, coordinates and a panther logo gathered in anticipation. From the back of the truck burst ex-letlive. frontman Jason Aalon Butler, Night Verses drummer Aric Improta and former The Chariot guitarist Stephen Harrison, for The Fever 333’s first ‘demonstration’.
This short, sharp three song guerrilla performance, though completely unauthorised, had taken some precise military-style planning. Luckily, it paid off – not only did the trio complete their demonstration before the police arrived, but the first seed of The Fever 333’s revolution had been sown.
“I just wanted to put my money where my mouth was,” states Jason. “I wanted to show people that the constraints we observe and the cumbersome ideas of what we can and can’t do in society, a lot of them are just words on paper or constructs we harbour in our minds. They don’t necessarily have to hold us back, we shouldn’t be afraid to speak our minds, and show up and talk some shit about issues we feel strongly about, especially when these issues are affecting communities, cities, states and the world. I wanted to be like, ‘Look, it might take a little elbow grease, but you can do these things on your own… and sometimes without permission’.”
When letlive. disbanded, Jason, the outspoken, charismatic frontman was never going to retire from the role he was built for. The Fever 333 was born from his desire to put what he wanted to see in music and culture into a project that focused on community and change. “I wanted to see a collection of people putting efforts forward to make something beyond themselves. By no means am I saying there aren’t other people doing that, I just wanted to deliberately distil the message that I was sort of already carrying through my other endeavours and projects.”
“I feel like letlive. had a very particular purpose for myself as an artist and as a person, and that purpose was shared with so many people, beyond anything I’d ever fathomed. I was 16 when I started letlive., it was a place for me to express a lot of the inward struggles I was experiencing, and I wanted to open it up to anyone else who wanted to exorcise those same demons.”
“When I felt that I had fulfilled my purpose with that project, I didn’t want to bring it to a point where it was exhausted. I can’t ask everyone involved in all of my endeavours to believe in everything I believe in, so instead of trying to impose my beliefs on others, I thought it was time for me to move on to a more distilled project where I could highlight these issues.”
It was a conversation with legendary producer and Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann and Blink 182’s Travis Barker on Super Bowl Sunday 2017 that truly sparked the fire. “We were talking about how we wanted to see a new people of colour punk rock band. That mixed with both my love and Travis’ love of hip-hop and John’s production prowess, led us to putting this thing together to see where it took us.”
It was almost inevitable that Aric and Stephen would join Jason on this new revolutionary path. Aric and Jason had always shared an artistic connection, often writing together late at night when Jason had an idea he needed to get out. He met Stephen through touring, and they always said it would only be a matter of time before they made music together. And vitally, all three share the same headspace when it comes to the issues they want to tackle: The Fever 333 are on a mission.
“The 333 at the end of our moniker represents the three Cs,” explains Jason. “C is the third letter of the alphabet, and the three Cs at the end of our name represent community, charity and change. That is the mission, to make sure everything we do holds true to those three Cs. We create a community, every cent we make we find a way to push towards a charity, and hopefully, at the end of this we are able to affect some sort of change that will be positive beyond our own timeline.”
“The movement is already happening, and it’s here, we want to create a safe space for people to be who they are or who they want to be, to use their minds and use their voices. I encourage discourse, even the uncomfortable conversations, because that’s the only way we’re going to move forward. I’m willing to have conversations with people who hold diametrically opposing views to my own, because both sides need to be discussed to get to the end game that is the most positive for everybody. And then, of course, there’s the sonic mission – I’d like to be able to write the soundtrack to the revolution.”
The first part of that soundtrack dropped unannounced on 23rd March in the form of the ‘Made An America’ EP, seven explosive tracks of hip-hop-tinged punk rock that burn with passion and fury. Uncompromising and unabated, the EP takes no prisoners. ‘We’re Coming In’, the first taste we were given of the EP, is a big, brash police-baiting statement of intent, reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine at their hard-hitting best.
Whereas with letlive. the themes were tangled in metaphors; The Fever 333 affords Jason the opportunity to be more direct. There is no lyrical ambiguity. “These are the facts man; I’m just spitting facts! I may be emotional when singing the material, but I am literally addressing the FACTS. I’m addressing dead bodies; I’m addressing money or lack thereof, I’m addressing sexuality, patriarchy, misogyny, policy. Whether it be policies that are made to subjugate women or people of colour or people not from this country.”
“We shine that beautiful bright light from the Statue of Liberty and tell people to come here and make something of themselves, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become American, yet we’re closing borders and making it harder for them to become an American. We should be able to speak about all this in an educated and acknowledged way so that we can stay safe and share an understanding.”
In true revolutionary fashion, it was largely through word of mouth that The Fever spread. “We didn’t need to pay for a big rollout or giant marketing plan, sometimes that stuff surrounding a release just feels like fodder, and we didn’t want to dilute what we were trying to say or accomplish – we created our own buzz. When I say ‘we’ I don’t just mean the project, I mean everyone. People saw it and shared it; then the radio people had no choice but to listen to people yelling at them to play it.”
It’s this sense of community and inclusion that sets The Fever 333 apart; the message and the music are a means to an end, and that end is to effect actual ground level, grassroots change. The evidence for this is their commitment to charity by donating a percentage of their demonstrations and the formation of the Walking In My Shoes Foundation. Actions speak louder than words, and The Fever 333 are certainly following through on their promises.
“When you try to mobilise a movement, starting on a local level is very important. We do a little research, find out what charities are in the area and what informs the project, and pick a local cause. We’re currently working with a non-profit that is helping us to facilitate the foundation. My ambition is to host tri-yearly events where we highlight current events and offer a space for people to understand and interact.”
In less than a year, The Fever 333 have already evolved way beyond that first demonstration in the parking lot of Randy’s Donuts, taking their message further and wider. Does Jason worry that graduating to more corporate, larger venues runs the risk of being contrary to the band’s core message?
“I think that it’s an echo chamber, if you keep shouting at the same people every day with the same views, in small places, I think that would be counterintuitive to what it is I’m trying to accomplish. With the bigger venue thing, that’s an effort to get into a larger forum, that is paramount to achieving any sort of real change. You have to talk to everyone, not just the choir that you’re preaching to. I want to play to more people in bigger venues; I want to shock the shit out of people, shake them up, have the conversation and be uncomfortable, I like that.”
Taken from the June issue of Upset, out now. The Fever 333’s EP ‘Made An America’ is out now.