Less Than Jake is back! Yes, the legendary Florida ska band has returned to blister our ears with brand new tracks from the latest CD, GNV FLA and explode our eyeballs with the Shout It Loud Tour, now in its second, fantastic year.
A few days before the Shout It Loud 2 Tour rumbled into our fair city, Campus Philly chatted with saxophone player Peter JR Wasilewski about life on tour, the new album and Less Than Jake’s evolution to veterans of the punk ska scene.
Campus Philly: I ask everybody this: what do you think of Philadelphia? How do the LTJ fans here compare to the rest of the world?
Peter JR Wasilewski: Philly rules! The cheese steaks are great, the fans are better than the cheese steaks and the shows always go off. I’d say it makes top 10 favorite places for Less Than Jake to play.
CP: I started listening to LTJ when The Science Of Selling Myself Short came out. That was my anthem back in the day. How has the band evolved since that time?
JR: Well, we wrote another record that a lot of our fans didn’t like (In With The Out Crowd) but we liked it. And we’ve now released another record, GNV FLA and that is more like our older stuff. We’ve also done about 600 shows on five continents. What’s amazing is that was five years ago. Imagine all the stuff that happened in the 10 years prior to that in our history! It scares me to think about it actually, so let’s not, okay? Ha!
CP: I don’t know how many people know this, but you guys were kind of the pioneers for Fueled By Ramen Records, with your drummer, Vinnie Fiorello having started it. What was that like, both being on the label and running it? What do you think of the bands that are associated with FBR now like The Cab, Paramore, Cobra Starship?
JR: Vinnie worked very hard on the label and we were all a little sad to see him let it go. But he felt that it was time for him to go and we back him on that decision. As far as the bands, I liked the earlier signings like Fall Out Boy, The AKA’S, The Academy Is., Gym Class Heroes, The Stereo. As far as the newer artists, I’m not as familiar with them musically speaking, but respect the fact that they tour and hope they treat their fans right.
CP: Tell me about Sleep It Off Records. Why create a label out of thin air especially when you were still contracted to your current label for one more album?
JR: Warners let us out of our contract, actually. And why not start our own label? We know our band better than anyone who works at a label and we will for SURE work harder for our band than any person at a label. It makes sense for us at this point to have all the control over what we do. And honestly, it [expletive] rules!
CP: Why did you decide to start re-releasing your catalog?
JR: We needed to put something out. Why not start with, well, the start?
CP: LTJ hails from Gainesville, Fla. As far as I know, you guys have always represented your hometown fiercely. Why did it take so long to give it world-wide public recognition, for example, naming the new album after the airport code for your native city?
JR: Not sure actually, but it just seemed like the right time to name the record after The ‘Ville. We had a song (Gainesville Rock City), but it seemed like we were starting this new label and we are kind of coming full circle and the circle ends right back in Gainesville, where the record was written. Again, made perfect sense.
CP: GNV FLA has been out for almost a week now. What’s the feedback been like so far? Are people enjoying the new album?
JR: I think so. I’ve only seen one bad review and it seems like the guy listened to it when he was getting his colon cleansed. His points made no sense at all and he must have no musical sense at all. He was from Australia, but that shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Mostly all positive though, thanks for asking.
CP: How did you find yourselves on the Shout It Loud 2 Tour?
JR: It’s our tour. We named it and are taking out for the second year. It’s fun so far!
CP: How has it been playing with Dropkick Murphys, Goldfinger, Suburban Legends, Westbound Train?
JR: One word: radical!
CP: I heard that even though you’ve had the songs from GNV FLA recorded and squared away, you haven’t been playing them, wanting to hold off until this summer tour. Why is that?
JR: Because it makes more sense to play the songs when people actually hear them once or twice on CD, MP3. No real other reason than that. Also, we have eight other records to choose songs from. The kids could wait. But we’re playing new songs now on the tour.
CP: You guys are touring veterans by now. Was there ever one performance over the years that stood out from all the rest?
JR: I think the one performance that stood out was our first time playing the main stage at Reading Festival [in England]. It was amazing to play in front of 80,000 people. We were all nervous, played like [expletive], and didn’t know what hit us after it was over. But what an experience! Once in a lifetime type-stuff. And we’ve gotten to do it twice more since! I love my life.
After JR’s riveting responses I couldn’t wait to see what Less Than Jake was going to cook up in Philadelphia at Festival Pier. Needless to say, I was anything but disappointed.
After waiting through the sun and a bunch of awesome performances from Suburban Legends, Westbound Train and Goldfinger, the stage blew up with a mass a fluorescent color and cartoons. Confetti shooters adorned both sides of the stage, but this being a band that likes to think outside the box, I wondered if confetti would be what was coming out of there.
Less Than Jake didn’t just take the stage. They took over the Philly audience.
With guest roadie Brian Klemm (Suburban Legends) offstage, Less Than Jake entered to the theme from The A-Team. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t even hazard a guess except to say that it is purely characteristic of this band.
The energetic ska band padded the majority of the approximately 75-minute set with songs from their new album GNV FLA, songs they were saving especially for this tour.
They opened with their new single, Does The Lion City Still Roar. I felt like I was back in high school when I would listen to this band daily. Apparently, that was the opinion of almost every person in the crowd because almost on cue everyone lost their minds (in a good way). Philadelphia loves Less Than Jake…intensely.
The veteran band took no prisoners. They played so loud I could swear I heard one of the stage right speakers pop.
For me, Less Than Jake has always had the talent of melting together Irish jigs and old country ragtime. Sounds like a risky combination, but these guys make it work. Theirs is the kind of music that just makes you happy and unable to stand still.
The night wasn’t completely devoted to the band’s 8th album. Classic The Science Of Selling Yourself Short and the venerable Liquor Store were among the favorites played.
To my surprise (or relief) confetti did indeed shoot out of the canisters…and also to my horror, stuck to every inch of every sweaty body part in that pit.
Bassist and singer Roger Manganelli is like a five-year-old with how energetic and silly he still is after all these years. It truly is endearing to watch. In addition, Buddy Schaub on trombone and Wasilewski on sax are pure brilliance when they combine their brass.
st time we were here, you guys sang this louder than us, Demakes thundered introducing I Swear It’s The Last Time. He then donned some old wig and proudly proclaimed, Now I’m an emo kid. I feel special.
Summon Monsters, a song Demakes claimed is the fastest song we’ve ever written inspired a massive circle pit around the sound tower. Prove to Buddy’s family that he’s not a loser! Demakes bellowed, and the crowd obeyed.
Buddy Schaub is anything but a loser. When he wasn’t playing his trombone, Schaub was the resident mental patient on stage. He danced and sang like any one of the fans in the crowd and even made a makeshift superhero outfit out of a fan flag and some random Americana hat.
Less Than Jake brings very little chit chat and very much rock and energy, just the way I like it. They are definitely the best match to have play with Dropkick Murphys. They have similar fans with similar loves and similar beliefs which include hard mosh dancing.
Believe it or not, I remained untouched even though I was up against the barricade and surrounded by trees masquerading as tall guys. I was in love with the energy that surrounded me.
Less Than Jake took their leave with Plastic Cup Politics and the Philly fans waved their goodbye with a salute in the form of another massive circle pit. A fitting send-off for a band that has meant so much to so many for so long.
You can contact Cara Donaldson at firstname.lastname@example.org