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Letter Kills: Right Back Where They Belong

Letter Kills: Right Back Where They Belong

Photo Credit: Dean Aguirre

Letter Kills: Right Back Where They Belong

Nearly 20 years after their debut full length album The Bridge, Letter Kills are bursting back onto the scene with their new single Right Where We Belong, available now via Zodhiac Records. Co-produced by the band and The Used guitarist Joey Bradford, Right Where We Belong is destined to leave a lasting impression on longtime fans as well as those just discovering the California-based band.

Letter Kills will be performing their first show since 2005 in Santa Ana, CA on July 28 at The Observatory, joined by special guests Dead American and Bullets and Octane. Tickets are on sale now at

Highwire Daze recently caught up with the Letter Kills membership for an interview.  Now scattered all across the country, Letter Kills is ready to come together for their next epic chapter of music!  Read on…

Introduce yourself. Tell me what you do in Letter Kills, and tell me what you’ve been up to prior to when the band broke up, and when the band got back together, and we’ll start with you, Timothy.
Timothy Cordova: All right. Yes, this is Tim. I play guitar in Letter Kills. And since Letter Kills kind of went our separate ways back in 2006, I have been working as a public school teacher in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Gene Louis: Yes, hey there. It’s Gene Louis. I play drums and I am adorable in Letter Kills.

Timothy: Absolutely adorable.

Gene: Yes. I’m the new guy. I’ve just been a fan of the band ever since the beginning, 20 years ago or plus or whatever it’s been. And I’m just so grateful to be here.

Gene, aren’t you in another band too?
Gene: Yes. We all make mistakes. It’s called Bullets and Octane.

I’ve seen your band before, Gene.
Gene: Oh, okay. Sorry about that. (Much laughter)

And we’ll move on to you, Kyle.
Kyle Duckworth: Since we kind of parted ways or took a hiatus back in, what, 2006, I have been working as a firefighter paramedic. I’ve been doing that for about the past 13 years or so. I’m also married with a few kids. Everything goes along with that. I stayed involved somewhat with music. Nothing to the extent of what my counterparts have been involved with, but still been playing and, yeah, looking forward to being back.

Nice. And Matt, let’s hear from you.
Matt Shelton: I have been off the road after Letter Kills. I toured for about 6 years in a band called The Wedding. And about 10 years ago, I took a job as a pastor of music and arts here in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, and started another band called Panther City Riots that I’ve been playing with the past couple years. And here we are, back with LK.

What made you guys decide that now was the time to bring back Letter Kills, almost 19 years later?
Matt: We got together earlier this year after checking in on each other about once a year, every year, just kind of seeing where everybody’s at, and me and Kyle and Tim have just naturally carried that conversation, and the beginning of this year, we decided that if we were going to do it, now is the time, for a few different reasons, but really because we just really wanted to, we were finally in the same place to be able to jump back in and have the same level of excitement in terms of wanting to play live shows, and wanting to potentially write some new music.

In January we basically gave ourselves a month to decide if we were going to do it or not, and what kind of options we had, so Kyle reached out to a few people, we reached out to a venue about a potential show, doing a reunion show, and then that kind of snowballed from there. Once we started that conversation, it opened up the whole can of worms so to speak, and for us just getting back together and making new music and playing some more live shows.

Kyle: To add to that. Big part of Tim, Matt, and I, we had talked about this casually prior last 3 to 5 years, and Tim and Matt probably more than me, but as we started to think about the reality of this coming back and playing shows and recording and stuff, we knew that our drummer was not on board, and that was a big hole to fill, and when we kind of we’re brainstorming on who we could get to play drums, Gene’s name, I mean, we played with Bullets and Octane, when Letter Kills was active we toured, we have a good relationship with Gene.

Kind of just through a few different events, just coincidence, I was able to connect with them, and Gene and I got together because just we’re all in various parts of the country, but Gene and I lived close by, so we set up little rehearsal and I was blown away what he could do, not only on the microphone, we all knew that, but it’s the first time I’d seen him play drums and it was like it lit a fire, so that was a big component of that also for me.

Bullets and Octane are going to be one of the opening bands at the show, at the Observatory as well, so Gene what’s that going to be like doing double duty there?
Gene: Oh, yeah, it’s super exciting, but I also realized that I’m not 22 years old anymore, and so…

Matt: Wait, how old are you?

Gene: 23. I’m 23 years old.  (Laughter)  Yeah so, it’s a lot of just building your stamina back up. I mean, the adrenaline and the excitement. Like I said earlier, I was always besides putting aside being friends with everybody and always appreciating how kind, and great these guys have always been to me over the years and the craziness back then. When I got the call, we had a mutual friend by the name of John Oaks who reached out to me and said, hey, man, Letter Kills is thinking about doing this thing, there might be a possibility they might need a drummer.

Like I said, besides the friendship thing, I’ve always loved The Bridge. I thought that album was fantastic, and I’m like, My God, I get to play the songs that I get to listen to and enjoy. Of course, and the company of them, they’re always just, like I said, been so kind and great to be around. I just jumped right at it thinking this could be really cool, and to actually watch it come together was something else, and as soon as we all got together in a room, it was wow, this could really be something special. And every day it gets a little bit better and a little bit more kind of wow, no one really gets to ever get to play with the guys who write certain songs that you really enjoy as a fan.

It’s really neat, so yeah, a lot of jogging, a lot of running, and just getting myself prepared for a long night, and the good thing is there’s a paramedic in the band, so if I collapse, there’s kind of…

Kyle: That’s what I’m banking on.

Tim: Gene was the only drummer other than our original drummer who’s ever played drums for us. He jumped in when we covered Tom Petty’s Running Down a Dream, at one of our shows. I want to say it was in Denver, but I could be wrong.

Gene: Man. Completely forgot about that. Mr. Tim.

Tim: That was wild.

Matt: The Lamar Lounge.

Kyle: Gene I’m with you on that one. I have no recollection of that ever happening.

Tim: That was when we knew that Gene would be in the band.  That was the moment.

Gene: Let’s stick with that story. That’s a good one.

Okay. That’s your story and you’re sticking you in.  So let’s talk about the new song, Right Where We Belong. Is there any overall story or concept behind the lyrics to that song?
Matt: Yeah, so what a great question. Thank you for asking that, so with this song in particular, because this was a new writing process for us writing, we were in different states at the time when we were writing it, and so we’re passing back and forth ideas. I’m not in the context that I’m used to in terms of like just being surrounded by the band and loud music and kind of being able to feel the vibe of the song, so when we started kind of piecing together these ideas, I’m just in a room, my house I have a little music room with a record player and piano, and it’s got some cool vibes, but they’re like super chill, so trying to channel Letter Kills and just the energy that it requires and the energy it calls for, was difficult.

I typically, just start shouting out random words and things like that, talking gibberish, just trying to find the right feel of the song. What is this song asking for? What is it wanting me to say? What does it feel I want to sing when I’m singing to this song, and so the first things that came out of my mouth ended up being 90% of the lyrics.

So the first things that kind of came out were, “when the conversation kills and there’s nothing left to feel, and I’m barely hanging on, that’s right where we belong.” And it was mostly just cadence and rhythm and just trying to find the pocket for the chorus, and I really liked how it sounded, and the more I kept trying to knock those lyrics out and replace them with something else, the more and more they felt, right.

Especially like the play on words, because the conversation kills in light of the fact that we’re Letter Kills, I think that was completely unintentional and it’s just really cool how that kind of communicated a totally different, concept of our name, but just “the conversation kills, there’s nothing left to feel,” and this idea of these guys that are returning 20 years after we kind of disappeared from the rock and roll world, around age 40 and our 40’s, and just kind of saying, man, this is really hard.

It’s hard to kind of, we don’t have the energy we have before, we don’t have the stamina. We haven’t been playing at this level in so long, and it’s stretching us and it’s really pushing us, and in many ways really challenging us to be better. And so, the whole idea of this song is just being pushed to your limits, and how sometimes when you’re at that edge, that kind of the edge of your seat type of growth and as a person and as a musician songwriter, when you’re at that edge, that’s actually, the perfect place to be.

It’s a song that kind of hopefully encourages people when they’re going through hard things, that sometimes the hard things are actually what we need, and it’s actually right where we belong, is right on the edge of our growth and what we’re going through, and what we’re growing into. And so it turned out to be this really meaningful song, and they typically do, but it’s just this one in particular just means a lot to me because of where we’re at as a band. I just feel like it speaks on, multiple layers.

In terms of us returning, we’re right back where we belong. It’s kind of a statement piece for us as a band to kind of reintroduce ourselves to the public, and to rock and roll, but at the same time, it’s also means a lot to me, as a 40-year-old man just fighting through life. I’m a dad, I have a full-time job and stretched to the limit. But like the second verse says, I’m maxed out, but at least I’m in it. So, that’s kind of how we feel and where we’re at entering back into Letter Kills.

What was it like working with Joey Bradford of The Used, and what did he bring to the production of the song?
Tim: I would dare say it was like the fifth Beatle kind of situation. Joey was able to take the bones of the song and the structure and just the collaborative vibe that we had going on in the room. It was really quick and really easy to get our ideas across and to absolutely feel like we could relinquish all of the production, and all of the engineering, and all of the different skill sets that Joey brings into the process as well. And just kind of allow him to take his liberties and allow him to be able to shape the direction of the song.

It truly became completely collaborative, and he’s very, very talented as an engineer and a producer, and also a songwriter and musician, so it was very helpful. He helped really expedite the recording process and enable us to get our ideas out and take them to the next level and then beyond, so it’s been fantastic. I really, really enjoyed, working with Joey on the song. I know the other guys did too, and honestly looking forward to next time we get to do that, hopefully real soon here.

Let’s talk about a possible next time. Would you guys like to do a Letter Kills EP, or even an album number 2?
Kyle: Yeah, I mean, somebody touched on a little earlier, we’re constantly sending whether it be a riff song idea, lyric idea we’re sending that and we’re constantly working together, writing together best we can. And our plan is to get back in the studio with Joey. We’re hoping to put out another single before the end of this year, and then write and record a full-length, hopefully, release that by the end of next year.

What goes through your mind knowing that The Bridge is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary next year?
Kyle: That’s pretty wild.

Matt: Yeah, it’s crazy to think about, especially, with us coming back, because recently with the new song, I feel we are thinking about reintroducing ourselves. We’re thinking about new fans, potentially and all of that, and so, the idea of getting to celebrate 20 years of an album that meant so much to us and played such a important role in our lives, and especially at that time in our life, but then also what it’s meant to us, for the past 20 years and what it’s meant to so many people.

Getting a chance to celebrate it and honor it, and really enjoy it. I think when you’re 20 years removed from an album, it’s way easier to enter in as a fan, and actually kind of receive what was created from a different perspective.

Do you have any messages for Letter Kills fans who have been waiting for this moment for a good long time? And let’s start with Timothy.
Tim: Yeah, I would say to any fans out there who have been waiting, thank you so much for taking interest in listening to our music, and we sincerely appreciate that and we are so excited to be able to return and hopefully not let you down. I know that if you’ve been a Letter Kills fan and waited for this long, then you really stuck with us, and so we are very appreciative of that and we hope that we can make that wait worth the while.

Gene being the new member, do you have any messages for the fans?
Gene: Yeah to the fans out there, I wish I could be in the crowd standing shoulder to shoulder with you because I am just as much as a fan as the rest of you Letter Kills fans are, but fortunately for me, I have the best seat in the house sitting behind these guys, and I know that we’re going to be having a lot moments smiling ear to ear going, wow, well, look at this, we’re up here, and I am just once again so fortunate to be on the stage playing these songs that I love, and have been a fan of for I guess decades you could say now.

I’m just really grateful and I cannot wait to meet everybody and to just all of us share that room of that energy, of it being such a glorious thing that we’re all still here, we’re all still alive, and we’re all capable of making this music and celebrating life, and this is just great.

Kyle, your message to everybody.
Kyle: Yeah, to add on a little bit to what they said, we’re excited to be back. I am thrilled to be not only spending time with these guys, but making music we’re excited about, and we’re going to keep this thing rolling.

And the last word from Matt?
Matt: Yeah, to me I’m just really looking forward to having that connection with our fans, and kind of what Gene said, just everyone in that room will have been through 20 years of life for the most part, and except for any new fans that are popping up, but we’ve been through a lot in these past 20 years, and so just getting to sing these songs again and how much they mean to all of us, getting to share that experience is going to be incredible, and so I’m really looking forward to it.

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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