Jeff Sullivan has a Power Trip (interview)

  1. For those unfamiliar with Power Trip, how do you describe the band?  

I would describe Power Trip’s sound as crossover thrash. I’d say our goal as a band is to blur the lines between Metal, Hardcore and Punk into something that is entirely our own style and sound.

  1. If  I’m correct, Armageddon Blues was released while you were an undergraduate student studying writing at UNT. What were some of your inspirations for writing at that time?

I was heavily into post-modern theory/philosophy and social observations from all the big French names of that movement, most specifically just about anything from Foucault, Derrida, DeLeuze and Guattari. I found a professor I really enjoyed and took anything he taught that I could fit into my curriculum.

  1. Could you talk a little bit about the song “Lake of Fire”? What were you thinking at the time you wrote it? What were you trying to get across when you wrote that song?

I wrote Lake of Fire from a very mocking standpoint after I got a very bizarre tip on a job. I was a server at Chili’s, I was only about 19 and this person left a note instead of a tip and it said, “After you’ve done all you can you just stand in a lake of fire.” It confused me and really pissed me off. It was slow day and I didn’t screw up the tab, but still, just this weird note instead of a cash tip. I didn’t get it, but I kept the note as a reminder of how stupid and nonsensical the world can be and the note confirmed my belief in that. I thought about how I’d bet that whether they ever admit it or not, even people with the most deep religious faith still have doubts about the legitimacy of their beliefs. Like maybe they’re wasting their time. Some specific religious denominations believe no matter how well you behave, sometimes God was going to screw you and you were going to hell. You just weren’t meant to be saved; you weren’t one of the lucky ones. I didn’t get my tip, even thought: I was a perfectly good server. A dumb metaphor for life, but I hated that people live that way. So I wrote “Lake of Fire” as a middle finger to people who only act well towards others in hopes of some great reward in the afterlife. I think I could manage to instill a strong sense of doubt in just about anyone if they were naà¯ve enough to have true, blind faith. We have to be good to each other simply because we all occupy the same space, it’s as simple as that.

  1. What was the lyrical focus for Power Trip’s first full-length album Manifest Decimation?

If I had to boil all my lyrics down to a singular sentence I think it would be “damn, the world is a MESSED up place, but if you educate yourself and believe in yourself, you can do something about it.” I try to turn things on their heads for people, to try and get to see things a different way, that things are always changing and you have the power to influence, great or small. The album title is obviously a play on the concept of Manifest Destination, which in very simple terms was a European Christian religious excuse to pave our way through colonizing America with slavery and genocide. We’re supposed to feel lucky, as Americans, right? But everyone I know who I consider socially conscious feels a sense of despair or at least a little jaded or downtrodden. Now we live in an age where the incredibly rich and powerful are manifesting their destiny all over the common man and just oppressing the hell out of the lower class. I explore a bunch of different similar themes throughout the album but the song/album title specifically is about finding a sense of power in community. I think if everyone was able to drop their bias and clearly see our enemies in these high political power structures, together we’d be able to destroy some old ways of thought, ways of corruption, and at least take one small step in the right direction for a better civilization.

  1. Power Trip has been steadily releasing music since 2008, how have you changed as a lyricist since then?

I’d say the biggest difference is my vocabulary. I just try to read and read and use words that feel right to me, even if the song might come out convoluted to most, if it makes me happy then I’m satisified. My biggest goal right now for the next album is to probably try to find a middle ground between something catchy and something I find thought-provoking.

  1. Could you try to describe the feeling of performing? How does it feel to be able to express the thoughts you have on stage?

Performing’s great. All negative thoughts go out the window when I get to strut around and be a huge dork and have fun with strangers who just want to strut around and be huge dorks with me. Touring and playing every day for a month can take a huge toll on my body and mind, but I still enjoy it because it feels like an escape from every day things, and that’s the reason hardcore and punk first excited me. I’m good at finding the positive in things, and I think I try to let that come across on stage by not taking myself too seriously. I’m discovering more and more. That I want to actually sound good when I play. I’m taking a little more pride in how I deliver my lines live and make sure they sound nice and fierce. I suppose it ends up being another silly metaphor for life when I still want, expect and know I’m going to fall down on my ass every now and again and it reminds me that I’m not always going to get it right every night but it doesn’t mean you can stop trying.

  1. What can fans look forward to lyrically on the upcoming album? Are there any specific issues or topics that have particularly caught your attention since 2013?

Not much has changed but I think the next album may have more thoughts on the future of technology. We have to become conscious and responsible and aware that almost all new technology will be a double-edged sword. We should embrace it because it could make this world a better, sustainable place, but we have to start on the right foot. If we as a global society want to improve the world, we have to have some foresight and preparation for the future and certainly put a lot of thought into the risks and rewards and uses for new technology. There will still be more stuff about the dangers of wanting to be and associating with the power hungry, power mad people of the world (we’re called Power Trip for a reason). I’ll still have a song or two about unity and standing together against oppression and all those common tired tropes of most metal/punk bands, but it’s still an ethos that I believe in and need to express in many different ways to try and influence more people. I just want people to realize their decision smatter, and you should always be as educated as possible before making important decisions. Consider the variables and risks and rewards. If that seems broad it’s because it is meant to be.

  1. If you had to recommended three books for undergraduate students to read, what would they be?

That’s too tough a question for me to answer since I’m not an authority on education and also because being an undergraduate is such a broad term. But I think any major should have to take some kind of principles of rhetoric course to really understand how important and crucial language and reading is. We should understand how written language came to be, everyone should understand concepts like logical fallacies and strategies of debate and how they were created. Maybe now in the information and misinformation age everyone might need to take a course to understand and identify satire. So I guess maybe everyone should read “The Candide?” Foucault’s “Discipline & Punish” and Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” both had huge impacts on me and my personal perspective the I first read them. I don’t know, but anybody just doing the act of reading more often would make me happy.

Power Trip will be performing at FFF and FFF Nite shows this weekend and begins recording their new album on November 9.