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Letter Kills – Contortion Artists

Matt Shelton – vocals
Timothy Cordova – guitars
Dustin Lovelis – guitars
Kyle Duckworth – bass
Paul Remund – drums

Since forming in 2002, Letter Kills has managed to sign onto Island Records and swing two straight years performing in the Van’s Warped Tour—all without even releasing an album. They do have one, however, entitled The Bridge which is slated for release on July 27th. The powerhouse quintet from Temecula, CA powers solid trampoline rock sound with bullet drums, swift guitar crunches, and burly bass beats that can indicate only one thing: these boys are on their way up, one show at a time.

Kaffeine Buzz was able to shoot the shit with vocalist Matt Shelton as they prepped for their Warped performance in Boise, Idaho. Which happens to be, oddly enough, my hometown. Weird.

Despite the fame and fortune one might afford from hopping onto the Warped bandwagon, Matt seemed cool as a cucumber: completely chilled and oblivious to any of the mayhem surrounding him. When asked about the accomplishment of playing two Warped Tours with no album, he simply replied, “We were definitely fortunate as far as that goes.”

What comes to my mind immediately is, their reason for such success seems to be their ability to form as one collective chameleon, changin’ color when they need to and otherwise chillin’ on a sunny tree branch and enjoying everything going on around them. According to the press, the band has mostly played smaller, club-sized venues. Regarding the difference of scene change from small club to a majorly ginormous national tour, Matt said, “the only difference at Warped is that there are so many bands playing at the same time that it’s very scatterbrained, so it’s hard to really focus in on one show. But other than that it’s a blast. We love being out here and it’s cool because there are a lot of kids that see you that wouldn’t normally see you at a club.”

The origin of the band’s name is from a scripture in the New Testament. A few of the lads in the band all went to the same church and heard their pastor reading a line with the words “letter kills” in it. The boys had never heard those words put together and simply yoinked it for their band name. While the members of the band are practicing Christians, they only depend on their religion for personal guidance as opposed to a driving style or agenda in their music. Shelton said they use their spirituality as, “a guiding role…for each one of us to create energy… and we each guide ourselves with that.”

The band formed in August of 2002, and has since come leaps and bounds to maintain a cohesive and solid sound. Their influences are many and diverse, “anywhere from the Beatles to Nirvana. Tom Petty to Depeche Mode and AC/DC, and I like a lot of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.” But individual influences will only get you so far with a group effort, especially once inside the studio. Shelton says of the band’s evolution that, “at first we were all coming from different styles of bands and we were all the predominant songwriters, so it was really hard at first to find ourselves because we had never written together before. But once we got together and started playing over time, we realized that the best way for us to write was to let everyone just do their own thing, and create something new instead of leaning towards one individual preference of music.”

There is one word that, while tongue-in-cheek and very new age, describes the dynamic between Letter Kills and their audience: energy. Physically, the band puts on an animated, entertaining, and dynamic performance. Mentally, tomfoolery is the key: “Usually that’s what makes a good show for us, if the kids are having as much fun as we are, and even if they don’t even know us it’s cool to see them smile or jumping up and down…anything you know…clapping just so they’re having a good time. A lot of it is that you just have to throw yourself out there. You just have to learn to create an energy within yourself, just within the music, and just remind yourself how fun rock and roll really is…it’s fun, you know?! Once the kids start feeling it, then you can feed off of them. It’s definitely a powerful thing.”

Apparently this strategy is working, as Letter Kills is becoming more and more well known. But the verve doesn’t stop there. The group realizes that they can only come up with half of what they need to nurture a loving and harmonious musical lifestyle. The other half is crucial: the fans. Shelton acknowledges this importance: “We are really appreciative of people’s support and it really does mean the world to us that people get behind our music and like it. This music we create is something we believe everyone can be a part of. It’s something for people to escape to, something for people to enjoy.”

While Letter Kills is tearing up the Warped stages, anything is possible for future tours. They have already toured with Thrice and The Used. When I asked Matt whom he would tour with if he could pick absolutely anyone, he replied “Well I have to speak for myself here because of different opinions, but I definitely would go with the Dixie Chicks!” Jigga what?!

Letter Kills will be performing at the Vans Warped Tour in Denver on July 18.


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