This year marks a milestone for iconic punk/ska band Less Than Jake. They’ve been playing music together for 25 years. The Gainesville-based band has released eight full lengths, a host of singles and Eps, a couple live album and weathered many label changes, including going from an indie to a major and back again. To celebrate 25 years, Less Than Jake signed to Pure Noise Records and recorded seven new songs for their latest offering ‘Sound the Alarm.’
Carrying on that well-crafted ska/punk mixture Less Than Jake — Chris DeMakes (vocals, guitar), Roger Manganelli (vocals, bass), Peter “JR” Wasilewski (tenor saxophone), Buddy Schaub (trombone), and Vinnie Fiorello (drums) — started with on their 1995 debut full length ‘Pezcore,’ ‘Sound The Alarm’ is filled with hooks, bright horns and the upbeat fun-loving punk vibe.
We talked with lead singer and guitarist Chris DeMakes via email and asked him about making a good ska/punk song, the longevity of Less Than Jake, and though his answers were brief, it was fun.
Innocent Words: Congratulations on 25 years. I was working at a mom and pop record store when ‘Pezcore’ came out. I didn’t know who Less Than Jake was, I just loved the album title and art work (yes, I am dating myself). When the debut came out, did you have any expectations at all? Did you even think about having the band around for this long?
Chris DeMakes: Absolutely not. We were young and just living for the moment. It amazes me that we’ve been around for a quarter century!
Innocent Words: Over the years you’ve had minimal lineup changes, just horn players. What do you attribute to the band sticking together through thick and thin?
Chris DeMakes: We all shared a common goal and vision for the band from the onset. We still share the same passion and vision. Oh, and we all have great hygiene. That helps immensely with having to share close quarters all the time.
Innocent Words: You started on the indie label Dill Records, then went to the major label Capitol for a couple albums, and back to an indie with Fat Wreck Chords, and back on a major with Sire It’s been a rollercoaster ride for you guys. Was it discouraging to go through this? Were you just looking for anyone to put out your records?
Chris DeMakes: Discouraging? Absolutely not. It was great. We were able to reach different audiences with each respective label. We wouldn’t change a thing.
Innocent Words: How’d you hook up with Pure Noise, what made you want to sign with them?
Chris DeMakes: The owner is a big fan of the band and took us out for drinks in L.A. last time we toured here. We got really drunk and the next morning we were on Pure Noise.
Innocent Words: Congratulations on ‘Sound the Alarm.’ This is a spirited album and very tight. Was there any game plan going into the writing and recording process?
Chris DeMakes: Thanks. Initially, we were going to try and do a full-length record. We toured the better part of the year in 2016 and didn’t have time to do a full album. We wanted new music for 2017 and went with doing an EP.
Innocent Words: With the current state of the nation, does that fuel a fire to get back to work on another full length?
Chris DeMakes: We are always working on new tunes. The plan is to record later this year!
Innocent Words: What’s the state of ska/punk music right now? It was HUGE there for a good number of years, but there aren’t too many bands around like there were.
Chris DeMakes: It never went away for bands like us because we never stopped touring and writing and releasing new music. Things are better than ever. After 25 years we don’t have many complaints.
Innocent Words: Has your song writing changed over the years as you have aged and become more aware of what is going on?
Chris DeMakes: For sure. I don’t know how it couldn’t change. It would be difficult and awful to be stuck with the same feelings and outlook your whole life.
Innocent Words: In writing a memorable ska/punk song, is it key to have a great horn section?
Chris DeMakes: No, just one that plays in the right time, pitch, and key.
Innocent Words: You got 25 years down, how much longer do you think Less Than Jake will keep going?
Chris DeMakes: As long as people keep inventing bionic body parts, we will go on forever!!!
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