Less Than Jake will be playing a string of US dates in April. Check out the routing below after the jump.
A Black In Blumh Less Than Jake session of “Good Enough” has been released. Watch the video below after the jump.
Less Than Jake have released album commentary for See The Light. Listen to what the band had to share below after the jump.
by Brandon Allin, edited by Erik van Rheenen
It isn’t quite fair to say they’re running on fumes just yet, but at this point in their career, after more than 20 years in the game, Less Than Jake are by all accounts a band whose best days are waving at them in the rear view mirror. Nonetheless, following a laundry list of releases, multitudes of headlining treks spanning the globe, and enough brass-laden anthems to satisfy even the most stubborn rude boy, the veteran five-piece outfit have returned with See The Light, their ninth studio LP and proper successor (Greetings and Salutations, I’m giving you the cold shoulder) to 2008’s criminally overlooked GNV FLA.
In the vein of recent predecessors, See The Light proves another satisfying but ultimately unmemorable collection of tracks from the long-running quintet. In true Less Than Jake fashion, See The Light’s 13 offerings are split nearly down the middle between bouncy ska cuts disguised as punk songs, and frantic punk rock numbers littered with glossy brass sections. The opener, “Good Enough,” utilizes saxophonist JR Wasilewski and trombone player Buddy Schaub in its opening seconds, a sequence eerily familiar to something from the band’s back catalogue. Brash frontman Chris Demakes takes the reigns first, his vocals as raw and unpolished as ever, followed almost predictably by his wingman, the more finely-tuned Roger Manganelli, on See The Light’s second helping.
The album’s third track, “Jump,” is a crunchy punk rock number, while “Do The Math,” See The Light’s most memorable cut, feels like a follow-up to fan favorite “The Science of Selling Yourself Short” from 2003’s Anthem. The latter is light and airy, packing all the boyish charm Less Than Jake are capable of, the track’s chorus making use of sturdy gang vocals culminating in the song’s high point. “American Idle” shows potential, but ultimately comes up short, lacking any kind of knockout punch, while “Give Me Something To Believe In, Inc” is a ska number that, outside of some impressive brass work, unfortunately feels like a watered down version of its counterparts.
This year on POZ, we’ve sounded the ceremonial trumpets for plenty of accomplished bands and records that have hit the holy-shit age of ten years old. But while all those bands were still playing their Fisher-Price xylophones in the early 90s, Less Than Jake were already formed, writing music, and touring the hell out of the United States without the use of a smartphone by their side. LTJ has been showrunning the ska/punk scene with impeccable consistency ever since their start in 1992, and today, PropertyOfZack is here to help the band celebrate its 21st year of existence. That’s right, Less Than Jake is finally of drinking age – and we’re quite certain that they’ve been obedient, law-abiding citizens when it comes to the consumption of spirits.
We’ve got commentary from the guys in LTJ themselves on their career, past and present, as well as some thoughts and anecdotes from friends and fans of the band alike. So raise your glass and enjoy the read – and be sure to pick up LTJ’s newest record, See the Light, out now on Fat Wreck Chords!
POZ Decade: Less Than Jake - Anthem
From the band:
If there’s one thing you wanted people to know about your band that they may not already know, what would you tell them?
LTJ is more than a band now; it’s family. It’s the chemistry among 5 guys and the extended family of fans we see year in and year out. When I see people that literally grew up seeing the band, it truly drives the point home that there’s more than words and music that bind us, and it feels like family at this point. – Vinnie Fiorello
If you’ve glossed over our band because we have horns and have ska elements in our music, you’re missing out. We have many layers to our song writing and have much more depth in music and lyrics than someone may catch on to on a ﬁrst listen. Dig in. – Roger Manganelli
Some bands have business meetings in their back lounge on tour, some have prayer sessions, while others party down till dawn with babes and dudes alike, but we like to have very rigorous twerking contests with each other in the back of the bus each night after the show. It’s kept our buns in the Adonis-like shape they’re in to this day. – Buddy Schaub
I force everyone to watch sports. Constantly. – JR Wasilewski
That we are one of the hardest working bands of the last two decades. In all of our 21 years as a band, we have never missed a show due to illness, band fighting, subspenance abuse, etc. etc. We will always show up and do what we do. If you paid to see us, we do our part to bring you a great show. No excuses. Period. – Chris Demakes
If you could change something about your career, what would it be?
I honestly don’t think I’d change a thing. The things that you look back on in your career as mistakes are the things that make you what you are today. You have to live and learn from your own experiences. Without all the downs, there can be no ups. That’s what makes the ride so fun. – Buddy Schaub
Less Port O’ Potties. More NOFX tours. – JR Wasilewski
Demanded more from our managers and labels in the early days. We were content with our success and were basking in the joy of a career making music. We could have been bigger dicks and made those around us contribute more to our vision. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and early on, we weren’t making enough noise. – Roger Manganelli
I wouldn’t change one thing. The ups and down make the foundation of bands strong, it creates character and commitment. Sure, there are regrets but that’s life at its best and worst. – Vinnie Fiorello
Not much. If anything, I wouldn’t have sweated the small stuff as much as I did when I was younger. Took the fun out of things sometimes. – Chris Demakes
What’s your band’s biggest accomplishment from the last 21 years?
Surviving. Being true to ourselves, writing honest music from the heart that we are happy to play night after night. There are bands out there that play songs their fans want to hear while they’re no longer feeling it themselves. Luckily, we don’t have that problem. And we really give it our ALL when we play live. We never phone in a performance and try to make each show special and fun for all involved. – Roger Manganelli
Less Than Jake’s Anthem turned 10 this year, and PropertyOfZack is launching our next Decade feature in celebration of the record today! We have commentary on the album from POZ team members Brandon Allin, Erik van Rheenen, Adrienne Fisher, and Zac Lomas, as well as the guys in Less Than Jake themselves! So enjoy the read and reblog to let us know your thoughts on Anthem ten years later!
How Anthem holds up in 2013
I feel pretty well. Still really proud of those songs and back then, we were writing quickly and organically. It felt natural to record that album the way we did, and the live energy of the band didn’t get lost in translation into a recorded medium. – Roger Manganelli
In 2013, the record is the band at its best production. The feel in the studio led the record to sound “natural.” It was LTJ at its biggest and most energetic sound as well, and it feels modern, even in 2013. – Vinnie Fiorello
When we realized at some point last year that Anthem was turning ten this year, I really couldn’t believe it. And if you put it on and crank it up, it still holds up to music that you hear today. I really think the guitar tones on Anthem are its highlight. – Buddy Schaub
Listening back, I think it holds up. It’s hard to remove myself far enough to give as true of an assessment as a fan could, but we all specifically point back to that album as the one we felt we wrote some of the coolest songs for. – JR Wasilewski
As far as memories go, nothing but great memories about recording that record. I feel as a band, that we really hit our stride with Anthem. The songs hold up amazingly well to me after ten years. The production is top notch and sonically it sounds as good to me as it did the day we released it. - Chris Demakes
Unlike a handful of songs from Less Than Jake’s earlier material, Anthem fortunately did not fall victim to the test of time. It feels as crisp today as it did in 2003, and the song themselves remain fresh and full of the band’s trademark youthful exuberance. Where most records production feels raw and outdated a decade after their release, Anthem’s passes with flying colors, effortlessly blending the band’s blazing horn section with the record’s crunchy guitars. Anthem is a record that, against all odds and by all accounts, feels like it was released just yesterday, a real noteworthy achievement amongst its peers. – Brandon Allin
Most important song on Anthem
"Science" is a really important song for us. I feel like the leadoff track, "Welcome to the New South," does kind of squash any expectations of what kind of record Anthem is. It’s got some different elements and was just left of center from the “ska” band image we were sort of branded with before that record came out. So that track is pretty important. It set a tone for the whole album, in a way, by being its own thing. – Roger Manganelli
For me, I think “Science of Selling Yourself Short” and “Escape from the A-Bomb House” rise to the top. “Science” has led us to explore the less hyper-kinetic ska punk genre while “A-Bomb” took us down the path of dark pop punk with overly honest personal lyric content. Both songs set the blueprint for the departure of the traditional ska punk sound. – Vinnie Fiorello
I’m not really sure how to answer this without answering with more questions. Important as far as radio play? Important as far as groundbreaking video? Important as far as getting the crowd riled up? They’re all important to me. How’s that for dodging a bullet? – Buddy Schaub
The logical choices would be “Science” or “Ghosts,” but for me, it’s “That’s Why They Call It a Union,” because my parents were going through a divorce at that time. It was therapy to hear that song. Still is. – JR Wasilewski
Tough question. Songs are like children. To single one out over another is like playing favorites with your kids. Difficult for me to do. If I had to pick just one, I would say “Science of Selling Yourself Short.” A fan favorite to this day and a defining song for the record. Up to that point, we have never recorded a song with as much depth as “Science.” Depth as in production, musicianship, lyrics and feel. Came out amazing. – Chris Demakes
Amidst a legion of excellent cuts, Anthem's third track “Look What Happened” remains both a fan favorite and a live staple today. Despite its inclusion on Anthem's predecessor, 2000's Borders and Boundaries, the track once again reared its head, this time finding the Gainesville quintet refocused and reenergized. Sure, it lacked the iconic brass section in the original’s opening moments, but the void was filled with improved production, tighter musicianship, and a breakneck pace. To this day, “Look What Happened” defines the boisterous five-piece’s approach, a raucous, uplifting amalgamation of ska trademarks and traditional punk rock. – Brandon Allin
Was the band successful in following up Anthem?
Out Crowd has some great moments, but I personally was at odds with the producer, who was pushing for a softer vibe. I think we wrote great songs, but the recording was a little less intense than I had wanted at the time. We tried to play nice with a major label (and I swear, it’s the last time), for better or worse. We got back on track with GNV FLA. – Roger Manganelli
Less Than Jake have posted the first part of their making of See The Light documentary. Watch it below after the jump.
PropertyOfZack had the chance to talk with Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake a few weeks ago for a great interview. We spoke with Vinnie about the band’s first album in five years, signing back with a label, the evolution of their band within the music scene, and much more. Read the full interview below!
So this is Less Than Jake’s first album in five years. But what I think is more interesting is the in between time since the last record. You released two EP’s and a TV covers EP. There’s a time there where you guys were writing shorter material instead of going for the full record. Was there a reason for that?
I think that is more so talking about a bigger picture of how people digest music. It’s just that over the last decade, people are trained to digest smaller amounts of music and not a full record. You know? Most definitely, in pop music, people are trained to digest a single and ignore pretty much everything else until the next single comes along. I think that it’s kind of caught up with us. After doing GNV FLA, it was like we put so much time and so much energy into that and it wound up with people saying “This song’s good, and this song isn’t.” It just felt that it was time that we needed a break after following the format of the full-length for that nineteen years, or eighteen at the time that “Yeah we’re writing for a full length.” We just kind of decided to go along with the times and just do short bursts of creative energy and go for EPs. And we got to do some stuff that’s fun, like the TV EP was a fun thing to do and just really a breath of fresh air comparatively speaking to going to the studio to record a full length. Between now and then, we just wanted to do – to be short bursts of creative energy, of songwriting, and kind of flesh it out. On top of that, Roger was getting his studio tweaked out. For lack of a better word, he was learning as well. So we were just wanting to do some stuff that was easy and fun to do and we did it with Roger to kind of flesh out some future plans and flash forward now to the full length.
You put those first two EPs together for the first release on Fat [Wreck Chords] for that kind of full length thing. But for that time in the middle where you were sort of playing around with grabbing attention, not just with the full length, was that a worthwhile thing for you guys to do? Looking back?
Yeah I think so. I mean, TV/EP was definitely worthwhile because it was something that was fun man. I think that there’s some people where the fun of that project was sort of missed. Some of the reviews of it were like, “Oh, well the production value on it was not up to what it was before, it’s over in 11 minutes,” or whatever it was. They didn’t talk about, “Hey we just did the theme songs from ‘this’ and it was something fun for the band to do and you could be embracing that sort of buoyancy of it and not this sort of deadpanning about what the release wasn’t compared to what it was.” I think it was important for the band to do it. Just because we wanted something to do and be clean writing a record and writing songs. We’re pleased with it as well because it just keeps the band in people’s minds while you’re writing a full length. So that would be the key thing, TV/EP a different head state about it, but it’s still the same. It’s something fun to do but also kept people talking about the band. When you don’t have that scheme or craft of marketing behind you, that keeps on sort of plunging, you need something else. You need content to be generated. We’ve never been generating content like The Electric Tumblr or something like that. So I think that for us, the only way to generate content would be to play shows and go on tour or do these quick releases and sort of generate news. I think it worked.
I would agree that when you guys finally announced that you were recording this record and that it was coming out, there seems to be more of a general excitement. Not that Less Than Jake had been away for years, but that there was more anticipation now for a record even after two EPs.
It’s just that people picked up on how excited we are on the release. You know? That goes a long way. When a band’s generally excited about something that they’re going to do, that excitement become infectious. That’s a cool thing. Not to say that TV/EP didn’t have that excitement but not really as much as, I think, this record is generating at least in our camp. But people pick up on that. Not only that but I think that people were not having that for once and not having that one thing to grab onto since 2008, I think people are genuinely excited to have that now. I think that if we kept on doing that format for a full length, I don’t know if we’d have the same excitement.
Like you said, you guys recorded with Roger in his new-ish studio. Was it nice to do it yourselves and on your own available schedule?
Of course. Myself and Roger being new dads. It’s definitely great to have your own schedule that we can sort of pull in to and not get crazy. Besides that, this is the first record that we’ve done since Anthem that it’s been a very cool and natural recording process as well as songwriting process. I think that shows on the record, I think it shows on the recording, and I think it shows on the enthusiasm coming from the band. It wasn’t forced in any way, it was just kind of showing up and sitting at this round table and “here’s this idea,” and “maybe if we did it this way? Maybe if we did it that way? What if we changed this and flipped this over?” It was a constant creative process. And it was a constant working process. Then it naturally went into the studio and it was still the same people that were sitting around the table. Then it just kept on forming and kept on forming. And even going for Fat Wreck Chords, it was just a cool and natural progression to continue working with Fat Wreck Chords after the Greetings… and it wasn’t this big sort of business, you know? Like, “What’s Fat Wreck Chords going to bring to the table?” It was like, “Hey this was extended family and this is what we’re doing and here’s what it is.” I think when you combine all of that, it makes for a really sort of exciting and a really energetic record.