Less Than Jake
Playing music is about moments. A collection of great moments defines
an amazing record. An avalanche of powerful moments tumbles into an
engaging live show. The moment when band and fan become one and the
same, the moment of interaction, is the type of moment that lasts
Twenty years into its pioneering journey, Gainesville, Fla., natives Less
Than Jake – comprised of lyricist/drummer Vinnie Fiorello, vocalist/
guitarist Chris DeMakes, vocalist/bassist Roger Manganelli, saxophonist
Peter "JR" Wasilewski, and trombonist Buddy Schaub – have had their fair
share of moments. For a band obsessed with interacting with its fans,
both online and after shows; for a band that is so concerned with making
sure the fan gets the perfect experience, with well-known hijinks in every
live performance; for a band with seemingly unlimited creativity in the
form of physical products, from custom-made cereal boxes to unique
vinyl packaging; and for a band that is so passionate when writing new
music, 20 years begins to seem like an even longer amount of time. A lot
of moments add up over two decades – teenagers grow into men over
two decades – dare we say, things change?
Ever-adapting to the constant change in an unsure music industry, Less
Than Jake is still making cannonball-sized splashes in the deep end while
many of its peers timidly eye shallow waters. With the release of Season's
Greetings From Less Than Jake this sentiment is as true as ever. A fivetrack
release recorded at The Moathouse in Gainesville and produced by
Less Than Jake's own Roger Lima, Season's Greetings is a wintertime
accompaniment to last summer's Greetings From Less Than Jake EP.
Don't let the title of the EP fool you, though. The five tracks on Season's
Greetings are barn-burners, more intended to get long-time fans and
first-time listeners warmed up and moshing in their living rooms than
meant to listen to while cuddling up to a warm fireplace. Keeping its
signature mix of punk roots and horn-driven melodies, songs like "A
Return To Headphones" and "Finer Points of Forgiveness" take the best of
old-school Less Than Jake and put on a fresh coat of point for an ampedup
"I think in today's music industry, people can digest smaller amounts of
music more so than large amounts," Fiorello says of writing two EPs
instead of a full-length. "On our end, creatively it's less of a daunting
task to try to put together five songs instead of 12 songs or so. We can
cut the fat, make sure each song is powerful and has its own feel, and
still retain a Less Than Jake sound to the whole release. At the same time
people can get into each song more."
The two EPs follow up 2010's TV/EP and the band's last full-length,
2008's GNV FLA. As the past few releases have been, Season's Greetings
is being released by the band-owned and operated Sleep It Off Records,
as Less Than Jake has spent the past few years completely independent
from the major-label ties it used to incur. With a year of worldwide
touring ahead, the group is still following through on its mission to
please the fan, wherever the fan may be. More so than many bands that
have been doing this for so long, Less Than Jake continues to provide
output that loyal fans love. From a 16-minute EP of TV theme show cover
songs to re-releases of their classic back catalog to live shows of genre
staples "Losing Streak" or "Hello Rockview" in their entirety, Less Than
Jake has done it all. Less Than Jake will continue to do it all.
"We're constantly pushing ourselves to come up with new ways to present
the band," says Schaub, "whether it be within the writing of our songs,
ideas for keeping our live shows fresh, coming up with crazy new merch
ideas, or just coming up with the best joke in the van. Keeping your band
new and innovative is the key to lasting around for more than a minute in
the minds of fans."
As the release of Season's Greetings proves, this isn't a band content to
rest on the laurels of past success. In fact, 2012 is more about pushing
forward and breaking new ground, rather than contemplatively reflecting
on the success of yesteryear. A constantly innovative force in the
industry, DeMakes says the band has managed to stay around so long by
staying true to themselves. "Twenty years of blood, sweat and beers,"
DeMakes says. "It's been a privilege and a pleasure. We have survived
more trends than we can count and have managed, so far, to leave a
legacy of music two decades long.
"If this counts as a job, sign me up for another 20 years!"
A Wilhelm Scream
How does one gauge the success of a band pushing the envelope of a genre that receives little to no credit by the mainstream media? In the case of A Wilhelm Scream, the answer is "Who cares?" – As a band playing punk rock for over a decade, members Trevor Reilly, Nuno Pereira, Nick Angelini, Brian Robinson and Mike Supina haven't focused on success, image or whatever bandwagon a group can jump on to get their music into the ears of listeners: It's the ideal of music from an honest place, playing to the kids who want to hear more than a simple love song, or want an opinion rammed down their throats.
Despite operating just below the radar A Wilhelm Scream have carved out a reputation as one of the best live bands around, bolstered by their staggeringly rich albums of ultra-technical melodic punk rock firestorms. Playing 250+ worldwide shows each year, the band posses a work ethic best described as 'heroic'.
Did you ever see that episode of the original Twilight Zone where the journalist had the haunted typewriter? It worked like this: He'd sit down, type a made up story and the next day that shit would really happen, giving him the ultimate scoop on all his dumb journalist friends. Pretty good episode, actually. Well, there's a band of kids from Ontario called Junior Battles who seem to have that sam...e kind of thing going on right now, minus the typewriter. It's almost like one of 'em has a genie crammed up their ass or something. Take the story of their success for example: One night, they're sitting around wildly dreaming about being able to put a record out on Paper and Plastick and the very next day they get an email from P&P overlord, Vinnie, out of the blue, asking if they want to do a record. Next, they asked for the best bio in the world and hey! What do you know? Anyhoo…these canucks are more than just Kreskin-like predictors of the future, they're also ushering in the bold new era of what can only be referred to as post-beard rock, playing heartfelt, angular pop punk that reminds you of your favorite bands without being derivative, and they're bringing it to you people with Idle Ages, their full length debut, coming out on P&P on June 28. You heard it here folks!
Hey! What else? Well, for one thing, Idle Ages boasts an amazing cadre of guest musicians, including Damian from Fucked Up, Franz Nicolay of Hold Steady and Against Me! fame and Matt from Bomb the Music Industry. The album title, I'm told comes from the notion of being stuck in a mid 20's malaise, and living paycheck to paycheck (they spell it cheque, which, let's be frank, is adorable) and the results are the kind of meat and potatoes punk influenced rock you've come to expect from the P&P stable with an emphasis on weariness and dare I say, ennui. The dudes in Junior Battles cite influences like Jawbox, Jawbreaker, Superchunk and Jesus Lizard, which are pretty goddamned unimpeachable, and Idle Ages features pop-punk that's bouncy, herky-jerky and destined to sit them at the smart kids (nerd) table, somewhere between the professors in Bad Religion and the poetry kids in Brand New. Beyond that, these dudes decided to spruce up the gash a bit and read ancient Japanese texts backwards into the mix all while subtly layering pianos and timpanis over their new take on a classic punk sound. If it wasn't for the fact that these are the kinds of dudes that sleep on floors and force their poor drummer to eat at Waffle House against his will every day on tour, you may be tempted to say that shit sounds pretentious, but in fact, in the world of Junior Battles and Idle Ages, it's nothing more than the attention to detail that is part and parcel with doing shit the right way.
Junior Battles will be touring their dicks off in support of Idle Ages. I mean, look at the writing on the wall, people: They're young, they're disenfranchised and they're feeling trapped by their age and their jobs. The opportunity to hit the world stage and rock out for any and everyone sure beats the hell out of sitting around Ontario saving up enough bile and vitriol for a follow up. So expect the courtesy you've come to take for granted from the Canadian citizenry at large, accompanied by a healthy respect for the roots of aggressive rock and roll and a dick-melting dose of gumption as brought forth by only the types of kids who can put together a record with all the idiosyncrasies, all the crazy guests and all the ambition of Idle Ages. They're gonna rock your town's nuts off, thank you for coming and fall asleep on your floor without realizing that they just renewed your faith in punk rock. You'd be a real asshole to miss out on that, eh?