Behind every transgressive artist is a teacher who instilled a seed of rebellion inside them. For Fever 333’s vocalist Jason Aalon Butler, it was Mr. Leath. Prior to teaching Butler history at Westchester High in Los Angeles, Leath taught at a juvenile hall. Leath was a hip–hop head who taught Butler about music culture. Most importantly, Leath taught Butler about rebellion.
“He was fired because he taught us the actual history of Blacks, Asians, Irish immigrants and Latinos,” Butler told the Weekly. “He knew he’d be admonished for that, and he did it anyway. He risked his livelihood for the truth!”
As the vocalist for the So–Cal based, politically conscious rap-rock band Fever 333, Butler replicates Mr. Leath’s example on an international stage. Last December, Fever 333’s song “Made An America” received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance. With references to mass incarceration of minorities, police brutality, gang violence and America’s inability to cope with these conditions, “Made An America” separated the band from the typically vanilla Grammy nominees. Fever 333, however, never planned on writing a typical, mainstream hit.
“It felt surreal, but not in a dream coming true way,” Butler says. “This project is so much about living outside yourself and being responsible for your actions.” Butler appreciates the recognition but is happier to have a larger platform to open a discussion about tough facts.
“I think it’s the most important thing we can do, offering a place to safely have uncomfortable conversations. Discourse is important. As it seems like we’re becoming less sensitive to these issues, we’re more sensitive to each other.” These uncomfortable conversations, Butler believes, will bring us closer. Aside from Butler’s gut-wrenching vocals, the band’s energy derives from the intensity of guitarist Stephen Harrison backed by electrifying drummer and Fullerton native Aric Improta.
Their high–voltage sound and politically charged message evokes the memory of predecessors like Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down (both of which have earned Grammys over the years). Yet, Fever 333’s ability to blend the same tough ideas as bands like Rage with very catchy melodies might make them more appealing to people who wouldn’t otherwise seek out such forceful music.
Fever 333 is currently on the North American leg of a world tour, and their debut album, “Strength in Numb333rs drops [today] on January 18.