Less Than Jake’s sound is so legendary that it’s nearly impossible compartmentalizing them into a designated genre — because LTJ are their own genre. The Florida natives — Chris DeMakes, Vinnie Fiorello, Roger Manganelli, JR Wasilewski and Buddy Schaub — have been around long enough with their energetic shows and unique music that one can only wonder what they credit their longevity to. The answer? Each other.
The band has a crazy few months ahead: a current tour with Four Year Strong, a jam-packed summer that includes supporting Sublime with Rome as well as hitting up Australia — yet somehow, Chris and Vinnie still found some time to do Q&A with me. Check out our interview to see what these OGs had to say!
In 2017, you released Sound the Alarm. What was the band’s process like while in the studio? And how did fans respond to it?
Chris DeMakes: Fans loved it. The songs are good ones that don’t stray from our “sound.” The process was quick. It was recorded in about 10 days because we had a tour to leave for.
Vinnie Fiorello: You want to think any creative output gets devoured by fans but 26 years in, fans get divided into different headspaces. Some take the songs in right away, some are looking for a classic LTJ sound, some just cherry-pick songs and add to playlists. The listening experience for music is different than it used to be but also when you have a 26-year timeline, fans are looking for specific sounds and songs. The studio process has always been the same for us in all these years: have a set of songs, push and pull them apart while in there and when the dust settles you have or — are supposed to have — a picture of the band, sonically, for the time period. I always believed that and still do.
How does Sound the Alarm differ from 2013’s See The Light, as far as themes and your experience recording them go?
C: It was an EP versus a full-length record. That is the main difference to me. See The Light was more of a full thought because it was 13 songs.
V: Like I mentioned, the experience recording is always similar for me, but you know lyrically, the themes are close with See The Light, coming out of a fog of bad times and cynicism and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Sound the Alarm is about weathering the storm of tough times and the waves that want to keep you spinning in one place.
You’ll be stopping in New Jersey while on tour with Four Year Strong, Direct Hit! and Bearings. What can fans expect when they come out and see you?
C: Non-stop energy, sweat and sing-alongs for 90 minutes. Oh, and occasionally I sing in key and in time.
V: If you know LTJ then you know that we try and bring energy and bring a party when we are out on tour. All shows are different and you never know what’s going to happen. Think of it as a car speeding down a mountain with no brakes but with a very good soundtrack.
This summer you have a wide array of concerts, including supporting Sublime with Rome, the Wake and Bake festival, and touring Australia. What are you looking forward to the most and why? Do you guys ever get tired of touring?
C: After 25 years in this band, I look forward to every show. They are all their own experience. Tired of touring? We just started this current tour yesterday. Ask me in about three weeks.
V: I never get tired of touring but I do get tired of being away from home. Personally, being a dad adds a complex thing on top of a very non-complex job.
You guys have been around forever — how has the scene and the music industry in general changed?
C: Two words: The Internet.
V: The biggest thing is how people digest music. From full albums in your room to massive catalogs of music streaming at your fingertips on your mobile phone.
How have YOU guys changed, professionally and personally?
C: Professionally, we are the same. As dedicated as we were when we started this journey as a band. Personally, I have more wrinkles but I still have all my own hair!
V: Of course we changed! Who doesn’t after 26 years of doing anything? The ebbs and flows change the whole way we do things and look at music. If you don’t change you get left behind, adapt or die kind of thing.
Out of all of the albums that Less Than Jake released, which is the most meaningful to you and why?
C: The one we haven’t written yet. The drive to create new music is what is always the most meaningful.
V: Every album is that album when you are writing and recording. For me personally, after all this time, it’s about favorite songs, not favorite records.
Tell us about Less Than Jake’s Jdubs beer — why should we crack one open? Is it available everywhere or just at Dub Fest?
V: We were asked to play the event and the owner wanted to work on an exclusive beer for the event and we decided to do an Orange Wheat beer. The beer is available at Dub Fest, but it’s also available in very limited stores in Northern Florida.
C: You should crack one open because it’ll make you more attractive when you look in the mirror.
What can fans expect from you in the future? Are you guys working on new music?
C: Touring and more touring! New music is always being written, we just need to stop touring so we can record it.
V: Always working, always trying to move forward. New music happens officially, individually, all the time, but we haven’t gotten to get all the ideas together and go through the LTJ filter with them.
And lastly, if you could share the same stage with one band or musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
C: Elvis. He liked to party and eat ham sandwiches with mayonnaise. My kind of guy.
V: We already have for me, Billy Bragg. Thankful for the music, thankful for LTJ, and always thankful for what Billy Bragg’s music got me through.
Make sure to check out Less Than Jake with Four Year Strong, Direct Hit! and Bearings at Starland Ballroom on Sunday, Feb. 18!