Jake punks Jannus
Pull out your suspenders and get ready for a skankin’ good time as one of the best ska-punk bands around makes its way to town tonight. The Less Than Jake boys from Gainesville will be performing their signature style of hurried punk rhythms at Jannus Landing.
Less Than Jake is one of those bands that people know about but don’t really know. So here is a brief run-down of its more than 13-year history. Lead singer Chris Demakes and drummer Vinnie Fiorello started making a racket together back in high school. When they moved to Gainesville to attend college, they met Roger Manfanelli, who joined the guys on bass, forming a three-piece. Soon after, they decided to put some horns over their fast punk-pop style. They added a saxophone player and a trombone player named Buddy Schaub.
With the exception of Buddy, the band has gone through quite a few players in the horn section. Peter “J.R.” Wasilewski became a saxophone fixture after the breakup of his old band, Spring Heeled Jack, to complete the Less Than Jake lineup.
The guys have a wacky sense of humor and infuse it into their music, videos and stage performances. Their music is a blend of upbeat tempos, catchy horn riffs and join-in choruses. They sing about life in a boring town, their friends and their band. They introduce a host of characters into their lyrics, such as Johnny Quest and Cheese.
A trip to the band’s Web site, , will reveal an impressive discography. Less Than Jake has several editions of all its albums and has participated in a host of compilations. It has been a part of the Ska Against Racism tour and the Warped Tour, and has also contributed songs to the Punkvoter-sponsored Rock Against Bush albums.
Less Than Jake’s videos are all fused with the energy of their songs and live shows. Its first video for new label Warner Brothers, “She’s Gonna Break Soon,” is a polished look at their live shows. The band’s video for “Gainesville Rock City” was a video they did not plan to make. That was, until the daughters of Tom Petty and Peter Gabriel became interested in making it their project. The video features Roger and J.R. dressed in drag, Chris as an old man and Vinnie disguised as a Middle Eastern tourist. Their sense of humor prevails.
Less Than Jake’s upbeat songs are a spectacle to behold when they are performed live on stage. The band’s energy is transferred to a swirling mosh pit of an audience and lingers throughout their entire set. They have a large following of devoted fans who try to sell out every show and keep the guys around for another 13 years.
Less Than Jake plays at Jannus Landing tonight. Tickets are $15 and doors open at 6:30.
Movies Editor Lori Bartlett snagged an exclusive interview with Chris Demakes, the lead singer of Less Than Jake. This is your chance to discover what these punk/pop/ska forefathers have in store for fans.
LB: So what is going on with Less Than Jake right now?
CD: Right now we are in Jacksonville. We are starting the first night of the tour here.
LB: Are you guys working on a new album?
CD: We finished a demo of 12 songs, and we are going on tour for a month, and we’re going to come home and record in June.
LB: Do you have a title yet?
CD: No, don’t have a title and it will either be out this fall or early next year.
LB: What do you consider the best and the worst part of touring?
CD: The best part of touring probably would be just being able to play your song every night to people who appreciate it and come out to see you play is like a dream come true. And the worst part is trying to find a clean sh**er every morning.
LB: I know you’re from Gainesville. Is it still one of your favorite places to play or has it become tired?
CD: Oh, well Gainesville is great, you know, because that is where we started and I don’t think that we have ever had a bad show in Gainesville. It’s always a good time.
LB: Do you have a favorite venue or favorite city to play? Would it be Gainesville or do you prefer somewhere else?
CD: I get asked that quite a bit. As far as in America, I would have to say I love playing at Jannus Landing. The outdoor courtyard vibe, and I have been going to shows there for a long time and we have played over the years there a number of shows, and I’ve never had a bad time there either. So that’s one of my favorite places to play.
LB: You have a song called “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads” and you were on VH1’s My Coolest Years recently talking about being a metalhead, so what metal band’s posters were on your wall as a kid?
CD: You name it. Metallica, Motley Crue, Slayer.
LB: Besides metal, what other bands have been influential to Less Than Jake?
CD: Oh, God. Bad Religion, Operation Ivy, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Snuff, the Descendents. That was the core of who we were into when we first started the band.
LB: For those who don’t know, can you explain the fascination with Pez candy?
CD: Well, that has been our drummer Vinnie and our bass player Roger thing. They have been collecting Pez basically since the band started like 12 years ago. They literally have every dispenser made, they belong to an order right off the Pez Web site, and they get them sent to their house as soon as the new ones come out. And they are like fanatics, and it has always been a part of the band due to their fanaticism about it and over the years every time we play a show, there are always Pez thrown on stage. It’s kind of just something that sticks with the band.
LB: What do you want USF students to know about Less Than Jake?
CD: I want everyone to know that all the band members in the band share the same parents. But we’re not brothers though. We just share the same parents.