Less Than Jake ‘See The Light’ Album Commentary
Less Than Jake have released album commentary for See The Light. Listen to what the band had to share 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.
The 2013 Fat Wreck Chords Tour is here with Less Than Jake, Anti-Flag, Masked Intruder, and Get Dead, and we’re stoked to have all of the bands together for a new Playlist feature. Check out the Playlists below while listening to the songs on Spotify and reading everyone’s thoughts!
Summer is officially over here in Florida, The unbearable heat takes the backseat to “kinda hot” during the day and ” I almost can wear this hoodie” at night. This time of year people are less crazy, yelling less often and generally drunk later. This is my time to ratchet up the coffee consumption and it’s also the time to listen to less reggae but not quite the middle of winter when I listen to blast beat death metal. This time of year calls for music that’s like a jolt of the blackest coffee, it’s the time of year to look forward to next summer already. Summer is officially over in Florida and it’s ok by me. - Vinnie Fiorello
Bi**lly Bragg - Richard
Always open a mix with a tug on the heart strings. Billy is untouchable.
The Menzingers - Good Things
I never will not listen to this song. It’s stuck with me since I
saw them play it love months before “on the impossible…” came out.
Arcade Fire.- Reflektor
New jam. It’s too long. But I don’t care. The band is loved by many and I am one of them.
Dead Kennedys.- Straight A’s *Song is not on Spotify
This song connected with me so much at 15. It made me want to make songs that connected with people the same way.
The Clash - Jimmy Jazz
Most underrated track on London Calling. It was always my favorite. A controversial pick for sure.
The Marked Men - A Little Time
It’s turning fall. But this song sounds like Indian summer.
Muddy Waters - Mannish Boy
Everyone should listen to Muddy. If you don’t own some sort of collection of his, do yourself a favor and get one.
Tilly and The Wall - Chandelier Lake
I heard this song once the other day. I’ve always liked tilly and the wall, but I really loved this track.
The Flatliners - Drown In Blood
Chris’ voice on this record is amazing. He told me he wrote some of this song on our Australian tour last year which is rad.
Worlds Scariest Police Chases – Americunt *Song is not on Spotify
In the studio with these guys, numerous times they pushed my comfort level with their lyrics on the line of challenging and PC’ness or offensiveness. But they always came out on the side of hilarious and taking the piss out of ourselves. I can’t wait for this record to be released and see how the world reacts to their insanity. - Chris #2
It’s near Halloween so I’ve been listening to a lot of dark and creepy stuff lately.
Those Poor Bastards – Deep in the Mud
I’ve been listening to a lot of Those Poor Bastards lately. They are from Madison, Wisconsin and they actually wrote the song Pills I Took, that Hank Williams III covered on his album Straight to Hell. My favorite song by them is probably either Deep in the Mud or Drown in the River.
Nick Cave – The Curse of Millhaven
Another guy who’s real creepy and fun to listen to around this time is Nick Cave. One of my favorite songs of his is the Curse of Millhaven because it’s about a girl who seems… interesting.
Murder City Devils – Idle Hands
The Murder City Devils are always good creepy punk rock. It also seems like there’s always a rumor that they are back together and coming out with a new album soon. I really hope that’s not just a rumor. One of my favorites from them is Idle Hands.
Alkaline Trio – Private Eye
Private Eye by Alkaline Trio is another great tune. They are nice and creepy and that one actually has something to do with crime.
November is here, and there are a slew of great records coming out this month that PropertyOfZack team members couldn’t be more stoked to hear. In today’s new Discussion, we’re highlighting our personal Most Anticipated November Releases. Check out our list below and feel free to reblog with what you’re looking forward to as well
Punk Goes Christmas (11/05)
It’s kind of shocking that Punk Goes Christmas hasn’t happened until now; there’s a long tradition of punk bands doing Christmas tunes that goes as far back as the Ramones. Christmas tunes are usually some mix of goofy and sentimental, two moods that punk bands tend to excel at, and over the past decade, it seems like nearly every scene band of note has taken a crack at writing one (or covering a classic). We’ve even made it a yearly tradition here at POZ to review our favorites on Christmas Day.
The lineup contributing to Punk Goes Christmas’s tracklist nicely pulls together the ghosts of pop-punk past, present and future to join in the caroling gang chorus, from old guard favorites like New Found Glory and Yellowcard to young upstarts Real Friends. Notably, Fearless have pared back on the screamo /metalcore / heavy music acts that have dominated the last few Punk Goes… releases, and one of the few included here, Issues, has seen frontman Tyler Carter make a bit of a splash in the past few years with Christmas tracks under his own name. If the album proves anywhere near as solid as its track list (and let’s face it, Christmas songs really only come in two varieties, good and great), we’re in for some early holiday goodies. - Jesse Richman
A Wilhelm Scream - Partycrasher (11/05)
November is apparently a banner month for punk albums, possibly none quite as important as A Wilhelm Scream’s aptly named hiatus-shattering record, Partycrasher. Six years removed from a studio effort, the band proved its legacy in the genre on the new album with eleven searing, scathing, sneering new cuts. Still brash and angry like the best of A Wilhelm Scream’s back catalog, the band only adds polish since taking a leave of disappearance — not rust. - Erik van Rheenen
The Bouncing Souls, The Menzingers - Split
During a way-too-early conversation regarding AOTY candidates, I jokingly mentioned to a friend that my top spot was currently occupied by The Menzingers’ On the Impossible Past, since no album from 2013 captured my heart and headphones the way that bottle rocket of a record did a year ago. Having to wait for next year for a new full-length from the band verges on cruel-and-unusual punishment, but a split 7” between The Menzingers and punk elder statesmen The Bouncing Souls should be a firecracker in its own right. Featuring a new cut and a cover from each, a lighthearted Souls take on powerhouse “Burn After Reading” and The Menzingers’ spin on “Kate is Great” is the only punk-goes-something we need this year. - Erik van Rheenen
Anthony Green - Young Legs (11/12)
I’ll be the first to admit that I had no idea what the birth of Anthony Green’s children was going to mean for his musical productivity, be it through his solo work or his main act, Circa Survive. But here we are at just about two years since the birth of his second son, Luke, and Green is about to release Young Legs, his second solo album in as many years (which brings his release count to three since 2012 began, when you account for Circa’s Violent Waves).
Green’s solo work has always been much more mellow and light-hearted than the atmospheric, aggressive blend that Circa has become known for. Young Legs will bring about an interesting sound, as he is now identifying his solo work as Anthony Green and the Good Old Band, which will feature the entire trio that comprises Good Old War, along with a familiar face in Circa Survive guitarist Brendan Ekstrom. In terms of sound, it should be noted that Green recorded this album shortly after completing work on his last solo effort Beautiful Things, so it will be very interesting to see how the two records compare to one another. No matter what it sounds like, it’s a safe bet that plenty of people will be listening to the new songs from the scene’s favorite family man. - Donald Wagenblast
Matt Pryor - Wrist Slitter (11/12)
Matt Pryor has always been prolific — between the Get Up Kids, the New Amsterdams, albums released under his own name, his Terrible Twos children’s music project, and his newest band, Lasorda, Pryor’s been averaging better than an album a year for the last decade, most with the kind of hit-or-miss rate you might expect from someone cranking out songs as fast as he can go.
Punk Goes 8-Bit, a comp featuring 8-bit versions of punk songs, has been released. Stream it below after the jump.
Less Than Jake Announce New Record ‘See The Light’