March 29, 2017

Less Than Jake – Past, Present, and Future

LTJCasual Punk Fan was recently given the honor of interviewing legendary ska-band Less Than Jake on their latest tour throughout the mid-west. Our guest writer, Sean McGrath, has been a Less Than Jake fan for over 15 years. He hopped on the phone with vocalist Chris DeMakes to talk about their new EP, Sound The Alarm.

Casual Punk Fan: You guys have been at it for about 25 years. A lot of bands in the scene don’t make it nearly this long, especially considering you’ve had the same lineup almost this whole time. How do you pull off this kind of longevity as a band?

Chris DeMakes: Just learning how to tour smarter (laughs). We’re not doing the things now that we were doing in our 20s. It makes it a little bit easier to pace yourself on the road and it’s actually easier to tour now than it was 20 years ago when we were young and stupid. So if anything its easier now.

Obviously you guys just released a new EP, Sound The Alarm, just a few weeks ago. Personally my only complaint is that it wasn’t a full album. With it being 3 years or so since your last album, what went into the decision to release an EP and not another full length?

Well, it was going to be a full length, but we just ran out of time to record it. We were on the road a good portion of last year and came home and wanted to initially record 8 songs, but decided to narrow it down to 7, and decided we wanted to have some music out at the top of this year to promote. We wanted it to be a full length, but we wound up with an EP. The true answer is that we just ran out of time (laughs).

Would you say that this EP is part of something similar to what you guys did with Greetings and Salutations or is this a standalone project?

That wasn’t the idea at the time. It could end up being that way, who knows. We are writing for a full length album now, but have no idea when we are going to record. Hopefully later this year.

I feel like I hear elements of various albums in Less Than Jake’s history in the sound of these new songs. Was there a specific sound you were going for or were you setting out to make something completely different?

Not really. We just wrote some songs and ran them through the filter of all 5 band members. They all came out sounding like Less Than Jake songs. I think the one thing I like the most about this EP is the production of it. The mix is great. It’s probably our best recording.

Right. I know Roger (Lima) was doing the production on this, and he also did See the Light.

Yeah, well actually Roger’s been doing our records for about 16-17 years. We’ve had different producers over that time, but we’ve been recording with him forever. People will ask “How is it working with Rog?” and I understand what they mean by that cause it’s kinda funny, but we’ve been doing this for so long with him so it’s not weird at all. It’s just kinda natural. We go in and write some songs, and he did a good job engineering and producing it, and then Jason Livermore out at the Blasting Room Studios mixed it and it came out great. Like I said, I think it’s one of our best recordings.

How was your experience with Pure Noise Records for recording this EP? Did they let you guys do exactly what you wanted to do? Or was there any outside pressure to do things a certain way?

No, they didn’t hear any music until we sent it to them. Luckily for us, they loved it, so that was cool. We didn’t do any demos of the record and send them out, we just wrote the songs and went and recorded them. So they didn’t hear anything ahead of time. They’ve been great to work with. They’ve been marketing and promoting the record and have been awesome. I mean, the feedback’s been great, and overall everybody’s pretty stoked.

Speaking of record labels, your single album with a major label was In With The Out Crowd, which came out over 10 years ago. A lot of fans weren’t very happy with it at the time, but 10 years later, do you look back on that album fondly? I feel that it sparked a change in your direction leading to where we are now.

I love that record. I’ve talked shit about it in the press before and people say, “Oh that’s the record the band hates,” and if you ever came to a Less Than Jake live show or met us then you’d know we’re goofballs and always joke around. If that’s the record people were bagging on then I was bagging on it with them. Honestly I love that album. I knew at the time we wrote it that we were typically about 10 years older than a lot of our fans. We were older when they were teenagers and they grew up, just at different ages than us. The things you’re going through at 25 are not the same through 35 and 45 and so on. You go through different things through your life. You have to get to a certain place. I was thinking, “this record is gonna hit people in 10 years,” and now people want to hear songs from that album. So it’s funny how things happen that way.

When I saw you at Warped Tour in 2014, I think I was most excited when you played “Landmines and Landslides” from that album. Mostly because I did not expect it at all since I had thought outside of a song or two, you mostly denounced that album. So I’m glad to hear you guys like it.

At the end of the day if you don’t like the album, but you like the band, then fucking get over it. It’s 10 songs or whatever. We have 380 other songs to go listen to. So that’s my other thing when people start bitching about that record or anything. It’s just like, “well that’s 10 songs out of the whole thing so go listen to something else.” It’s never made me dislike a band. They might put out a record I don’t like, but I still love all the other songs they’ve done.

Right before your current tour with Pepper, you toured small clubs and bars for a celebration of Losing Streak and Hello Rockview. I was at your Detroit show at The Shelter and it may be the coolest show I’ve ever been to. How well did that tour go over and would you consider doing something like that again?

Oh cool! Possibly, yeah. I don’t know if we’ll do Hello Rockview or Losing Streak anytime soon since we just did it and played it out. But yeah, maybe other ones at some point in the future. I definitely wouldn’t rule it out.

What’s the future hold for Less Than Jake?

In March we go on a cruise with Flogging Molly and NOFX. Then we go to Japan in late March, then England in May. After that, it’s kind of a blur but we are looking busy until November. It’s another good year.

Thank you for your time!

You can check out Less Than Jake’s new EP, Sound The Alarm on Bandcamp and see our review of it here!

Written by: Sean McGrath

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