Less Than Jake is a band that spans a couple of generations and genres. They’ve been around since 1992 and, throughout the years and member changes, have remained a staple in the ska scene.
Less Than Jake is well-known for frequenting the Van’s Warped Tour, and that’s actually where I first saw them. But even though Warped Tour ended in 2019 and a pandemic has had a major effect on live music in 2020, the band is here to remind us to appreciate the silver linings.
Silver Linings is the band’s first new release since the EP, Sound the Alarm, in 2017 and the first full-length album since See the Light in 2013. I had the opportunity to talk with long-time member Chris DeMakes about the new record and what it’s like to be part of such an established group.
So you’re from Port Charlotte, which is crazy because that’s where I’m from. It’s kind of a small town. Did you find it easier to get into the music scene once you left?
Well I moved two weeks after I graduated high school. I enrolled at the University of Florida in a summer program there, and that’s where the band formed. So I never really did much in Port Charlotte music-wise.
So, Silver Linings will be Less Than Jake’s first full-length in seven years. Do you want to tell me about what led you guys to this album?
Well we put out new music in 2017, so that was about four years after the last full-length. And this record would have most likely come sooner, but we had a lot of false starts this year. The album has been recorded since December of last year, so it’s almost been recorded for a year. We were going to release it in April and it kept getting pushed back. So finally, now we have a concrete date of December 11th. We’ve been sitting on these songs for a while. We’ve wanted to put them out and finally, it’s come to fruition.
What specifically makes you excited about this one?
I’m excited about any time we record. The fact that we’ve been a band for 28 years and we still like creating music together and writing music — you know, that never changes. When we go to write or we get in the studio together, it feels exactly how it did back when we first started. The process, everything about it. It’s not like it’s any less fun or any more challenging; it’s the same exact vibe and I think that’s what keeps us wanting to do it.
So you guys must be pretty close.
Yeah, you can’t help but be, after being with guys for that long — especially living on the road in close quarters. It’s like anything else, it’s like a family, you know. You learn to adapt. As the years go by, either you break up because you can’t stand each other or you learn to, like I said, adapt to one another and learn how to deal with each other’s idiosyncrasies.
Do you have a favorite song off of Silver Linings?
Um, you know, I don’t think I have a favorite on the record. I like a number of them. I like the first track, “The High Cost of Low Living.” I like “Keep On Chasing.” I like the single, “Lie to Me.”
Yeah, Lie to Me is really good. I watched the video [on YouTube] and I was going through the comments, and it was so wholesome. Everyone was just super excited to hear new stuff.
Yeah, it was nice, you know? The hardcore fans are always very supportive.
Yeah, you have a very dedicated fanbase. So you were supposed to be on tour in May, and that didn’t happen, right?
So do you have any future plans to get back out there yet, or are you kind of waiting this all out for now?
As soon as they open up venues and let us go back into them, we’ll be the first ones back to playing.
Speaking of shows, you guys have played so many. Are there any that really stick out in your mind?
Tons of them, yeah. One in particular — I had my parents come over to England a number of years ago. We were on the mainstage at the Reading Festival, in front of 100,000 people. It was three or four in the afternoon and we absolutely killed it. Having my parents there to witness it was just insane. That’s a lot of people to play to.
And obviously you guys have been a band for a long time. What has changed and what has kind of stayed the same over the years?
Um, you know, the only thing that’s changed that we’ve adapted to is just the technology. It’s a different way to communicate with people than when we started out — no social media, no internet. So it’s a different ballgame. We actually had a map in the van to figure out where the hell we were going. It was a different time. But everything else feels exactly the same, from the recording, to the shows, to the interactions with people. That’s one thing that technology can’t change, is when you’re on stage and you’re feeding off the energy of the crowd. That feels exactly the same as it did when we first started out, and that’s pretty cool.
Yeah, that’s awesome. Are there any musical influences or even just artists you enjoy that you think people would be surprised by?
Oh, thousands. When I was a younger person, I studied heavy metal and punk-rock. Even then, I was pretty open; I listened to all kinds of stuff. I listen to literally everything. I was listening to Neil Diamond earlier today, so that might surprise people.
Have you ever been injured in a mosh pit?
No, I haven’t been in a mosh pit in… probably since before you were born [laughing]. Yeah, I probably got injured years ago, but injuries were different then, you know? Like, you’d get punched in the nose in the pit and you’d be bleeding and then you’d go to the bar and get another beer and forget about it.
Well, what should Less Than Jake fans be looking forward to after this? Do you know yet? Is there anything else you can tell us?
Yeah, I mean, we have the record coming out. Next year, we’re gonna try to release some other stuff. Along with the record, we recorded some other songs during the sessions that we’re gonna put out at some point. We’re just gonna plan accordingly and roll out a bunch of stuff that’s record-related through the first half of next year. And we’re already thinking about the next album. We’re writing songs and hopefully, at some point next year, we can A) be on the road, and B) record some more songs.
I’m sure everyone will be really excited to hear that.
I hope so!
Less Than Jake’s new album, Silver Linings, will be available on December 11th.