When a band has been together for 25 years, it’s easy to get complacent and rally behind your classic material. Less Than Jake doesn’t function like that. While they haven’t had time to put out records as prolifically as they did in their earlier years, the band continues to tour with vigor at a time when they could easily be playing less strenuously.
“Whenever we’re out there, we try to put on the best show that we can,” singer Chris DeMakes says. “We’re multi-generational now. We have parents bringing their kids who are as young as five to our shows, and even bring kids that are teenagers or in college. Then, of course, there’s young kids who show up at the Warped Tour who have never even heard of us.”
Talking with fans who never heard of them after a long career would make some bands surly. Instead, Less Than Jake embraces them. During an autograph signing after a Warped Tour performance, eager new fans ran up to the band and asked them if they’re new. “The fact that we’re still getting that is pretty cool,” the singer says.
Having formed in 1992, the band would never suspected they’d last a few years, nevertheless 25. First forming the outfit as teens, the Gainesville natives would only think in a month-to-month manner, worrying about the immediate instead of the distant future. Their longevity in a notoriously fickle genre where bands flame out faster than they register is a testament into the long-range consistency Less Than Jake brings.
“There was no hope, I didn’t even think of things that far ahead,” DeMakes explains. “Hell, when I was 18, someone that was 25 was old to me. Then all of a sudden you’re in a band for five years, and I remember when we hit the 10 year mark, it was like ‘Holy shit, we’re actually still doing this!’ Here we are coming on 25 years, it’s a trip.”
Last year alone saw the band once again play the Warped Tour and maintain a grueling schedule, though not as heavy as their past. Now, with some band members having families and kids, individual schedules are tighter. But when Less Than Jake gets together for a run, they can hop back into that lifestyle fairly easily, albeit without the late nights and reliance on familiar locales in cities.
In a few weeks, the band’s Sound the Alarm EP will arrive in stores. The seven-song collection, which easily could have extended beyond, sees the band continuing to progress, even at this latter stage in career, even as they remain true to their core ethos. Themes of positivity and hope mark drummer Vinnie Fiorello’s lyrics, but retain the lyrical ambiguity that’s been generally associated with the band.
Overall, Less Than Jake loosely had between 16-to-18 ideas that could have been strung together for full tracks, which would have been enough for a record. Being together on the Warped Tour allowed the quintet to fully discuss and suss out what they wanted before deciding on the eight song that they’d record. Ultimately they decided to clip one.
“We were going to do a full length last year, but we were on the road so damn much that we had enough material for a full length but couldn't find any time to record,” DeMakes says of the band’s efforts. “What ended up doing was recording seven songs and here we are.”
Once again, Roger Lima served double duty as bassist/producer and Less Than Jake recorded at his studio in Florida. Keeping everything in-house allowed the band to keep expenses tight and to write and record in a fashion that’s to their financial and creative benefit.
Though they had put out their own material in recent years, the band decided to turn to Pure Noise Records — after a stint with Fat Wreck Chords — to serve as their label and “shared the band’s vision of where we want to be in 2017.” The band and label agreed that the EP was the best course of action to gauge potential interest with audiences. Judging by the early reaction to first single "Things Change,” the band’s carefully crafted brand of ska-punk continues to be resonate with audiences, even if they’re the oldest band on the label’s roster.
Now 43, DeMakes doesn’t harken back to the band’s more manic earlier years. Instead, he’s keenly aware of his band’s place within the music, and is proud of the continuing legacy Less Than Jake continues to grow and foster amongst their fans.
Less Than Jake celebrated their 20th anniversary in grand fashion with reissues and a new album along. But for 25, DeMakes says there could be some things planned for later year, but there’s nothing imminent to celebrate the milestone. Instead, the band are focused on promoting Sound the Alarm and focusing on touring behind it.
“What do you do when you’re a punk band in your 25th year?” he asks esoterically. “None of the forefathers of punk stayed together for more than two-to-three years. We’re always trying to figure out how to keep the longevity and career of the band going and moving forward.”
DeMakes isn’t ruling out a quick return to the studio following their upcoming live dates.
“It’s funny, in the early days it was record then go on tour for a year,” he recalls. “Then it would be go home then record and go on tour for another year. We’re still touring, though not as insane as we were in our twenties, but we’re still going out a lot for a band our age. We all have different projects and different obligations, so recording music has been tougher for us.”
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Above all, Less Than Jake can rely on their back catalog of catchy songs and lyrics that resonated with a larger audience without having to be saddled with the burden of nostalgia that plagues bands who have been around for the same period of time.
“I think for the most part, the biggest and best part about being in this band is that I found the same like minded guys that have the same drive and passion,” the singer says. “We don’t have halfass anything. If you stay true to yourself, people who follow your band are going to like what you put out. We appreciate it more now than we ever have because when I look out into a crowd on a random Tuesday night and over two thousand people came to see our band, I think to myself ‘I’m over 40 years old and I’m still playing ska punk music,’ what the hell is happening?! And it’s awesome.”:
St. Pauli Rock'n'Roll Football presents Less Than Jake performing with Pepper, Red City Radio and Kash'd Out at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd. Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600, www.observatoryoc.com, Thurs. Jan. 26, Fri. Jan. 27, $30, 7 p.m., all ages.