With over 20 years of music under their belts, Less Than Jake are back with this week’s release of See The Light, their first full-length effort since 2008’s GNV FLA. I recently had the chance to talk with vocalist/bassist Roger Manganelli about the many things Less Than Jake have to be thankful for. With an ever-growing fanbase, a new tour and a back-to-basics approach on creating the new record, I think it’s safe to say they never left.
Roger, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me tonight.
Of course. Thanks for having me!
Less Than Jake are about to release their first full-length in over five years on Nov. 12, and we are all so excited about it. I read in a recent press release that you are embracing the “back to the basics approach” on this record. Can you explain to us what that means exactly?
Sure. Well, you know, it’s kind of like in a weird way that everything has come in full circle for the band. When it’s time to make a record, what goes on with all of that—what the attitude is and the whole process is—has basically come full circle. Back to the old days when we could record a record for $20 an hour, no one used to give us instruction.
I think what we meant by that statement is that there is very little outside input on this record, just like it was when we first started out. We’re back to that mindset that we are the “producers.”
Awesome, and I think that is great news. I see you guys are back working with Fat Wreck Chords again and you did the EPs with them. When it comes to labels and who to work with, how do you all decide what is best for the band?
You know, for us, it’s always been an open-door policy. They liked the songs, we like them, we want to release it, and so do they. It all vibed!
Well, I must admit that “My Money Is On The Long Shot” was a great choice for the first single and teaser for the rest of the album. Did you all know right off the bat that this would be the single?
It’s funny you ask that because the answer is actually absolutely not (laughs). That track is a thriller for us. We think that there are a lot of strong songs on the record—some that demonstrate a little older sound as well as new styles that a new generation of fans can grab on to.
To be honest, it was kind of a fluke song, for it was written later in the process. The arrangement underwent a bunch of changes. Then at the end of the day, the recording came out great. I think we may have gone with song number one on the record at first, but I think we made the perfect choice in the end.
Can we talk about the artwork for See The Light a little? The door, I created an image of in-depth meaning in my head. What I see is it’s inviting fans to come in and experience Less Than Jake, whether you’re a new fan or an old one. I am sure everyone will interpret it differently. What is the real meaning behind it, if there is any at all?
I like what you thought about it, and yeah, it definitely has that concept. We’re basically inviting everyone in to literally see the light—find the positivity in something, find your own path, enjoy the trip, and make something happen that’s worthwhile. That is basically the whole concept.
You know, I’m glad it’s a general thing and that fans can interpret it in their own individual way, just like you said. It’s great because this whole album is really a representation as a whole of where we are as a band right now, including all of the little detail, like the artwork.
So I was right (laughs). You are also embarking on a nice tour very soon with Anti-Flag and some other awesome bands. Every time I have seen you guys, it’s like a new show, on a professional and personal front. Will you be playing all of the hits or mainly supporting the new record?
Well, there are always certain songs that we have to play. I mean, we cannot really get out of there without playing some of our hits. However, we are going to try to shift it throughout the whole tour. It’s a long run—five weeks—so we can try to make the setlists different every night, and I think we will.
If I had to say now, we will most likely play like, two to three newer songs from See The Light. I feel like this may be that record that we will have a couple tours for, maybe even a couple of videos, who knows!
I will be in attendance at the Starland Ballroom on Nov. 9. That is a separate leg of the tour, yes?
Yeah, different bands on that one, but still come out. We are stoked to be back at that venue! We will be with Big D And The Kids Table on that one!
Speaking of live shows, Less Than Jake have always had such a diverse fanbase when it comes to age range. Being together for more than two decades, do you tend to notice more and more that younger people are still just experiencing Less Than Jake for the first time? Or maybe I should say, do you notice brothers, sons, and generations? That must be awesome.
Oh man, absolutely, it’s so cool. That’s one of the best things about it. We love to see like, some of our fans from day one bringing their kids out. It’s also great to know that some of our music is somewhat new to a lot of people and then they can experience what we are all about as well. We are very, very lucky in that department, and yes, to answer your question, have 100 percent seen the cycle of generations coming through to our shows.
If you had to pick one song from your catalogue to introduce your band to a new listener, which song would it be? Could you even pick?
(Laughs) I could pick like five, not one. That would be so tough! We have many songs that are like, straight-up punk rock, with good, fast, energetic horns. Then we have some songs that are more warm and mellow. If I really thought about it for a few days maybe I could pick one (laughs).
Being together for over 20 years and releasing multiple records, selling out tours and getting new fans, it seems as if your resumé as a band is pretty much full. Is there anything you can honestly say that you want to do more of as a musician?
Well, with all of the things you just mentioned, I’m very thankful and I’m really happy. I think as a musician, you’re always pushing for the next plateau, digging for another piece of inspiration that’s going to ignite the stuff in your mind.
You know, the most recent Less Than Jake record has been done in my musical brain since April. So I’m already onto another batch of thinking, as crazy as that may sound! I have other projects that I do that aren’t Less Than Jake, too. I love being in the studio, I love working on songs, and I love my band.
I guess I’d have to say that I would like to have some more work with talented bands, working together to make great records. When you’re in a band, you are personally attached to all of your work. If you work on someone else’s stuff, it’s easier not to get so emotional. I think I will just continue to try to do it all (laughs).
I hope you do. It’s been a pleasure, Roger. Best of luck on See The Light, the new tour, and of course, the career of Less Than Jake!
Thanks so much, that means a lot. I will see you at the show!
Less Than Jake will play at The Trocadero Nov. 8, the Starland Ballroom Nov. 9, and the HighLine Ballroom Nov. 10. Their new record, See The Light, will be released Nov. 12. For more information, visit lessthanjake.com.