Even after 15 years, Less Than Jake might just be having more fun than any other band. The Gainesville, Fla., quintet has been chugging along the pop-punk-ska circuit for more than a decade and a half, and is still playing to a mosh pit-loving fanbase of young and old. Now, they're just trying not to overthink it all.
"It's kind of a mind trip when you really think about it," admits saxophonist Peter "JR" Wasilewski. "We just keep moving forward. It's easier that way. If you think about it for too long, you go a little crazy."
The ska-punk veterans survived the mainstream growth of pop-punk during the early part of the last decade. After bands like blink-182 and Sum 41 rose and fell from major label success, Less Than Jake remains at the helm of its ship, steering it into another decade. The band founded its own label, Sleep It Off Records, to put out its 2008 homage to its hometown, GNV FLA, after breaking their recording contract with Warner Bros. Still, Wasilewski and his bandmates (singer/guitarist Chris Demakes, bassist Roger Manganelli, drummer Vinnie Fiorello and trombonist Buddy Schaub) aren't about to point the finger at major record labels for punk's mainstreaming.
"Who do you want to blame for the molestation of punk rock? Green Day? Good Charlotte? blink-182?" asks the saxophonist. "We took most of those bands out on tour, so I guess you can blame us, but everything has its moment in the sun."
Even though the band has made several albums under the auspices of major labels, they've always operated on their own terms, and never swayed under the pressure of a label. ("We've always made our own decisions," insists Wasilewski.) Most importantly, each of the five members still manages to keep up with his signature collection of Pez dispensers.
"Every time I turn around there's some kind of Pez thing. It's definitely part of our band," explains JR. "Roger has 893."
In 2010, the Florida natives put out a collection of television theme song and commercial jingle covers, titled TV/EP. Each track is meant to be a different channel broadcasting a different show or ad, from the Diff'rent Strokes theme song to a Big Mac commercial. It's the pop-punk interpretation of channel surfing.
"We tried to make it diverse age-wise," says Wasilewski. "There's something on it for each generation."
Even though many fans have grown up with Less Than Jake, younger punk-rock converts continue to embrace the band.
"The other night there were two 11-year-old kids who showed up and then some kid who was having his 10th birthday," says Wasilewski. "When kids and their parents show up, and you're closer to the parents' age, you start tripping out a little bit."
While the music blogosphere and major record labels could not care less about pop-punk now, Less Than Jake is still just having a good time, and every show might as well be a birthday.
"I don't know when the fun police rolled in and said you can't have fun with music any more, but fuck you. This is what I do with my band. You go do whatever you do with your band."
I miss you, Lenny! My family and I thank you for all the special times…
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