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Letter Kills Make Believers

California rockers grow their congregation at Warped

July 27, 2004 12:00 AM ET
Southern California power-punk quintet Letter Kills, whose debut album The Bridge comes out today, are getting an unusually warm reception on this summer's Van's Warped Tour.

"A few days ago in Milwaukee I had somebody bring me a turkey," lead singer Matt Shelton says. "I mean, they just wanted to make me a turkey . . . and they did."

Shelton and his bandmates -- guitarists Timothy Cordova and Dustin Lovelis, bassist Kyle Duckworth and drummer Paul Remund -- formed the band two summers ago and were signed to Island Records just three months later. "We expected this to take a few years, you know, to groom and clean up," Shelton says. "But we were fortunate. We didn't expect anybody to jump on it so soon."

The Bridge, recorded over two months in a Santa Monica studio, incorporates each member's influences, from Johnny Cash to Motley Crue, into its orchestrated chaos. Riff-heavy songs like the single "Don't Believe," "Lights Out" and "Time Marches On" propel the album into overdrive, but the Letter Kills also downshift to melodic, romantic pieces like "Hold My Heart (Parts I and II)."

"When we formed, we all knew what we wanted," Shelton says. "We were all the dominating songwriters in all of our previous projects, so we decided that everybody was just going to write their own parts. We didn't want to lean too much in any one person's direction or end up sounding too much like anyone else. It's good because it challenges me to sing melodies I normally wouldn't sing."

For the band's live show, Shelton peppers' the band's high-octane songs with all the mike-tossing, water-spitting and rafter-swinging audiences can take. And if that means sacrificing safety, then so be it.

"When you're doing stupid stuff like that it always ends up taking somebody out," Shelton says. "I've only busted my head open once. It was the beginning of the last song, so I was kinda able to hold my head. It was messy, though. We finished the song and went to the hospital after that."

After the Warped Tour, the Letter Kills will join Story of the Year, My Chemical Romance and Lostprophets on a five-week jaunt before they hook up with rock supergroup Velvet Revolver.

Shelton is getting used to bigger gigs and increased attention. "Kids will come and say they have 800 pictures of me on their wall," he says. "It's odd. I don't remember having 800 pictures of anything on my walls. And recently we got a phone call from someone wanting permission to use one of our songs in their wedding. I mean, that's an honor."

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