It's a cold November night and I've met up early at Loppen to catch up with ska legends Less Than Jake, who are due to play a show a little bit later tonight. Last time they were in town I chatted with Vinnie, so this time I took a hold of vocalist Chris Demakes to ask him about the state of the band in 2012. Check out the interview below.
RF.net: How's it going? It's been a few years since the last time you were here in Denmark, so what's different from four years ago?
It's going very well. Well, I look way older and fatter. And I'm more miserable, but other than that, nothing's changed (laughs)
RF.net: Last time you were in Vega if I remember correct, and this time you're here in Christiania. Have you had a chance to look around a bit?
Chris: I did. You know, we played here back in I think...2000? 2000 or 2001 we played here in this same building, so we've been here before. It's a beautiful area.
RF.net: So you guys have a new album out called "Greetings & Salutations", what do you think about that?
Chris: I think it's good. It wasn't intended to be a record. We had done a couple of EPs, we put them together, and we had a few songs left over. As a record I think it's cool, I think that people who like the band are gonna like, and people who don't like the band aren't gonna like it anyways no matter what we do. So maybe the people who like our band are going to enjoy it.
RF.net: I remember that I read somewhere - I can't remember the source right now - that you guys disliked albums, or you said you wanted to write EPs only?
Chris: No no, we just did some EPs. We just didn't really have anything to say more than...just in terms of songs. When we put albums together, we try to make a statement, or try to make a theme or whatever, and we just kinda felt we wanted to step back from that a little bit. People don't really listen to albums anymore. They just buy certain songs, and listen to whatever they are listening to on YouTube at work. So the thought process was just to do a couple of EPs, and then we put it together and now we have an album.
RF.net: So because it was split up to two EPs, you recorded the first one last year, and now this new one...?
Yeah, the new one came out around February or March this year. So yeah, we did those about six months apart.
RF.net: So was it difficult to fit the songs together, or was it all part of the same process?
Chris: No, we just sat out to write seven or eight songs, and narrow it down to five, which we did with both records. We just picked five songs we wanted to record, and for the next EP, we picked another five songs. And we had a couple of left over that we ended up recording that we put on there as well.
RF.net: Obviously it's now packaged to an album, but if it were still the two EPs, do you have one that you prefer more than the other?
Chris: No, not really. About the same. There are moments on each that I like.
RF.net: I liked the previous album - GNV FLA - and I think the fans have also really taken a liking to it, and as far as I can tell, the press as well. So both of these new ones are a little bit different from "In With The Out Crowd" and before that "Anthem". It's a bit faster, bit more raw, way more ska now than on those two, so I guess you could call it more old school Less Than Jake, more like "Losing Streak" era. Was that something you went for consciously, or did it just come out that way?
Chris: No, we always have those songs around. It's just sometimes you write different stuff as a band. But the natural thing is what we've done on "GNV FLA", it's just very...I don't wanna say easy, but that's our sound. That's what we do. I call it typical Less Than Jake. You know what you're getting when you get it. I think that's what we kinda went back to. Trust me, there's still weird ideas and weird stuff, like piano songs that we have, where we're like "yeah I don't know if we'll release this but maybe some day".
RF.net: "In With The Out Crowd" and "Anthem" were major label records, and even before that I think. Would you say that those ones are actually more popular than this new stuff, in terms of how many people have heard the records?
Oh absolutely, just because more people knew about it just from the promotion standpoint of Warner Brothers. When you go independent, you don't have that machine behind you, not as many people are gonna know.
RF.net: Do you see that your fan base is changing at all? Because now that you're going back to the old sound, which you've been going for I guess last four years or so, and then you have the fans that came with the major label stuff. Do you notice any difference between shows that you play now vs shows that you played maybe seven-six years ago?
Chris: Nah, the only difference is that now when we play the early stuff like "Pezcore" and "Losing Streak" people kinda just sit there, because that's really old, and to them, they got into us around "Anthem". When we put out "Anthem", nobody wanted to hear that record. Our fans were like "blah, it's different", and two-three-four years later, everybody wants to hear that record. You're fucked if you do, you're fucked if you don't.
RF.net: I guess that's what happens to all the bands. Unless you do a Bad Religion and just write the same album over again.
RF.net: So what's your favorite song on the new record?
Chris: I don't know. I'll say "Life Led Out Loud", the last song. No particular reason.
RF.net: So the record's out with Rude Records here in Europe, and with Fat Wreck in the states. And you did I think "Borders & Boundaries" with Fat Wreck as well 12 years ago. How does it feel like being back with Fat Mike?
Chris: It's cool. We'd met up with him recently, and we'd given him all these songs, and we were like "Do you want to put this out? We don't have any other label. We're gonna do it ourselves, unless you wanna do it?". He was like, I'll take a listen to the songs, and I'll put it out if I like it. If Mike likes something, he'll put it out. If he thinks it's shit, he would've told us. He would've been like "I don't wanna release this". Because why does he want to release something that he doesn't believe in, if he doesn't think it's gonna sell or do anything?
RF.net: So the previous record "GNV FLA" came out on your own record label, Sleep It Off Records. So how come you decided to put it out on Fat and Rude instead of your own?
This one? Well, I don't know if it says Sleep It Off here, but the logo's gonna be there in conjunction with Fat. If it doesn't, I'd be surprise. But that's just our record label imprint, Sleep It Off. That really wasn't a label per se, it was just our imprint. It's just the five of us. We don't have people working for us, there's no-one answering phones. There's no other releases besides our band that we put out. So we really didn't have a label, we just had a distributor. So Mike wanted to do it, and since it had been out for a year almost in the form of EPs, so if he wants to do a physical release, then it'll be good, because we'll get Fat Wreck promotion behind it too, which is better than what we have, because we're not a real label.
RF.net: So have you heard anything about the sales, how's the album been doing?
Chris: I'm sure not great. Who the hell's buying records! (laughs). It's number one in America, we sold 70,000 copies last week. That shit doesn't happen anymore!
RF.net: So it's been a while now since you've been on a major label like we talked about before. So if we look back now at that experience, what are your thoughts on that, and how does it compare to today?
They were great times. We were on Capitol. Our first record, "Losing Streak", it sounds like a demo. It's surprising that a major label would release something that raw. That's a pretty punk rock album. So being on a label, we never really thought about it more in terms of what songs we wanna write, how do we wanna present our band. The label was never really a big deal for us, being on or off, we never really have a preference. It's better being off one now, we wouldn't wanna be on a major label now, there's no reason to be.
RF.net: Yeah, I heard that the deal died - they wanted to do a 360-deal and you guys weren't really up for that or something like that?
Chris: No, we've never been offered a 360-deal because nobody would offer us one, because they know we wouldn't take it.
RF.net: If we go back to the TV EP that you guys did two years ago or so. How did that come about?
Chris: Sheer boredom. It was fun! It was just something fun to do. Something to throw out there for our hardcore fans, and it wasn't meant to be taken seriously. It was just something to do. It sounds like Less Than Jake doing TV cover songs!
RF.net: There's a lot of people around who are saying that ska or ska punk is not really relevant anymore in 2012. What do you say to these people?
Chris: Well, I live about 6000 miles from Copenhagen Denmark. Or kilometers for you folks it would be like 9500km. There's gonna be 300 people here tonight to see my band. So to me, you tell me how popular it is? That's what I say to people. I don't judge popularity by record sales, because there aren't any these days. I don't judge popularity by being on the radio, none of that shit. If you're content with where you are at as a band... you know, the other night we played to 10,000 people at the Warped Tour in London, and the very next night we were in Amsterdam, and there was 250 or 300 people on a Sunday night. And last night it was a couple of hundred, tonight will be a few hundred, and we're playing in Belgium this Friday with Mad Caddies, there's probably gonna be like a 1000 people out there. So as long as there are people standing in front of us, I think that the genre is going well.
RF.net: Any bands on Vinnie's label that you particularly like?
I like Red City Radio. They're a great band, I like them. They recently did a cover of one of our songs.
RF.net: Any other bands you would recommend for our readers to check out?
Chris: Yeah, you ever heard The Dopamines? Not really too new, but I'd say those guys.
RF.net: That was actually my last question. Do you have anything to add?
Chris: No, thank you to people who are reading this, and people who're coming to see our band.