letter kills

Hailed by Alternative Press as “the greatest screamo band you’ve never heard of,” LETTER KILLS rose from the Temecula, California, desert in the early aughts with a riff-heavy collection of hard-charged alternative rock, ’80s hair-metal swagger and punk rock ethos. The band’s 2004 Island Def Jam debut, The Bridge, introduced Letter Kills with a bang: on Fuse and MTV2 with the single “Don’t Believe,” on the Nintendo Fusion Tour alongside My Chemical Romance and in the pages of Rolling Stone.

Then, seemingly as quickly as they appeared, Letter Kills were gone.

“When we went to write a second record, we’d all gone so far in different directions musically that I think it was hard for us to make a record that satisfied everyone,” admits bassist Kyle Duckworth. “Life took over after that. We had a little meeting at our drummer’s kitchen table and agreed we all needed to tend to things.”

Now, nearly 20 years later, Duckworth, vocalist Matt Shelton and guitarist Tim Cordova are ready for a long-overdue reawakening with their new single, “Right Where You Belong.” Co-produced by the band and The Used guitarist Joey Bradford, “Right Where You Belong” marks Letter Kills’ first new music since The Bridge with the same propulsive energy, devil-may-care attitude and airtight rhythm section that made the album a cult favorite in the underground, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart.

“Writing this song was really reminiscent of how The Bridge came together,” Cordova explains. “I don’t really remember writing that album – it just happened. In a lot of ways, this song feels like whatever the follow-up would have been. It simultaneously feels like 2006 but also new and exciting.”

Most importantly, “Right Where You Belong” is a self-referential salvo about the trio itself, about mended friendships, the passage of time and the thrill of second chances. In many ways, it’s the most authentically honest Letter Kills song ever, the perfect reintroduction for one of the scene’s biggest what-if stories as they mount a comeback that’s been years in the making.

“I feel like it took us 20 years to grow into our sound,” adds Shelton. “We were too young at the time to manage the sound we were creating, and we have such a great respect for each other and the sound of Letter Kills that we were able to enter back into it and know what to do. But what really struck me about the chance to come back together was the opportunity for redemption, reconciliation and restoration. Stepping back into it with Kyle and Tim, it feels like we have a chance to honor the work we’ve done. Not everyone gets that chance to do that.”

After Letter Kills called it quits, Shelton joined Tooth & Nail act The Wedding, eventually settling in Fort Worth, Texas, where he now works as a pastor. Duckworth became a firefighter paramedic (and a father) in Orange County, California, and Cordova took up teaching middle school in Salt Lake City. And while these new chapters of their lives have the trio juggling a lot more than they ever did when Letter Kills was active, the sheer excitement of the unfinished business that lies ahead is enough to power them through any exhaustion that may come their way.

“We all have full-time jobs and other stuff going on, but my philosophy is when you have a full plate, just get a bigger plate,” Duckworth says, noting the band has a handful of plans for the near future. “It would be a success if we can release more music, play a handful of festivals, do a few runs of three to four shows, and get something for the 20th anniversary of The Bridge.”