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INTERVIEW: Vocalist Chris Demakes of Less Than Jake

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SoCalMusicToday.com recently spoke to Chris Demakes, vocalist of punk band, Less Than Jake. Throughout our conversation, Demakes’ humor and wit had both of us laughing as we talked about their shenanigans on Warped Tour, their take on the ska scene and their upcoming tour with The Mad Caddies and Reel Big Fish. Less Than Jake’s tour stops in SoCal on October 9, 2012 at the House of Blues in Anaheim and October 10, 2015 at the House of Blues in Hollywood.

What are you looking forward to this tour?
I’m looking forward to getting out of Florida ‘cause it’s hot as hell!

It’s pretty hot here too, in California.
Yeah, but you don’t have the humidity that we have here.

True. So, have you ever toured with Reel Big Fish or the Mad Caddies before?
We’ve known these guys for years. We’ve done more tours with those bands that I can count. And we’ve played a lot of festivals over the years with them as well.

So, it’ll almost be like a reunion.
Yeah, you can say that, yeah.

When can fans expect “Greetings & Salutations” to be released?
It’s coming out later this month, and we’re going to iTunes and the Internet as well. We’ve released 10 songs from the album previously in two EPs with five songs on each one and we had two songs left over. So, it’ll be 12 songs total and it’ll be out very soon.

Before “Greetings & Salutations,” you had the “TV/EP”—how did it feel playing theme songs versus your original tracks?
Well, when we played Spongebob Squarepants that would get the best response out of any of our songs, so it’s kind of like a double-edged sword, haha. You do a silly thirty- second cover and it’s something that everyone knows. It’s a lot of fun, ya know. We totally did it off-the-cuff and always done covers and stuff so it was kind of a natural thing for us to do.

Will you be playing any more covers on this tour?
I don’t know. We haven’t rehearsed since last tour, so tomorrow when we do sound check we’ll probably talk about it and figure it out… but, if you want to hear one I will try and get one played for you.

Yeah, any would be awesome! How would classify your music?
Bland washed up 90’s ska rock, haha. I don’t know, I always say we’re a three-piece punk rock band with a horn section.

Your first description made me think of PBR, for some reason.
Ha—really?

Yeah. That’s the first thing I thought of…
Wow. Well, we’re the PBR of rock music. Current rock music, it is what PBR is, that’s awesome, haha.

I can definitely hear the punk rock but I can also hear some ska influence. What do you think about the ska genre in the last 20 years?
Well, when we started playing ska the common person would say, ‘What’s skay music?’ So no one knew what ska was until about 1993 or 1994 and it got commercial. Mighty Mighty Bosstones got popular and it peaked in 1997 and by 1999, no one wanted to listen to ska music. We’ve kind of just been riding it out since then. It had like a commercial peak in the late ‘90s but ska music has been around since the ‘60s for a really long time and that was just one of our many influences—the ska scene.

I was reading your biography on your website, and I really liked the fact that some of your early influences were from the East Bay punk scene. You mentioned Operation Ivy and early Green Day, and I’m really big fan of that scene so that was interesting to read.
Yeah, certainly. A big influence on us was that scene in the early ‘90s. There were a lot of bands that came out of that and ended up getting really popular over here.

I don’t think a lot of people understand that there’s actually a scene in the East Bay.
Yeah, people always thought we were influenced—well, people associate ska music with Orange County, Southern California, and they would always think we’re from California, but we aren’t—we’re from Florida and the other thing is we were never influenced by the SoCal bands. We were influenced by the Northern California bands.

As Warped Tour Veterans, how has it been seeing Warped Tour evolve?
It’s been great ‘cause now when we play we’re the only punk rock band with a horn section so there’s no completion out there. We sound like a new band while everyone else who’s singing kind of look like girls and have really bad haircuts and eyeliner, we stick out. We’re the old guys up there playing punk rock. So, it’s actually worked out for us really well.

Do you ever get random stragglers that are confused ‘cause they see a horn section up there?
Yeah, a lot of the time. They think they’re having bad flashbacks of marching band in high school, haha.

Roger had to leave Warped last year due to his baby, how would you say family life has affected him and the band as a whole?
I don’t know how it’s affected him, but it hasn’t affected our day-to-day thing, we’re still touring and doing what we have to do. If anything it’s been a positive thing, it hasn’t really changed anything, with how we go about things.

Would you say it’s an advantage having two singers in your band?
Absolutely, ‘cause I get to rest when RJ’s singing, that’s the best part.

Do you both join in—or is there a mutual understanding when it’s someone’s turn to lead?
If he wants to annoy me, yes but typically no. I think so, it’s like, I don’t finger his girlfriend and he doesn’t finger mine, haha—oh, wait you’re recording this! Shit. Haha.

I guess this could work as good blackmail.
Yeah, exactly. I cursed myself earlier.

Will there be any more punk rock haircuts?
There could be—I actually have the clippers charging as we speak.

How did that even get started?
Sheer boredom. Did you get the pun?

Haha, yes I did. What is going on through your head as you’re doing this—do people ever freak out? Does it ever shock you that people are actually allowing you to do this?
Usually if they’re up there they’re passed the point of freak out—but no we haven’t had anyone get too crazy. And not really, ‘cause everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, that’s why there’s so many reality shows on TV and actually, nothing really shocks me much these days.

Being around for the past 20 years, how does it feel to have almost hit the drinking age as a band? Is anything exciting planned for that year?
It feels pretty good; we’re going to be able to get rid of our fake I.D. next year. But no, not really… I think that this year is the big celebration. We’ll see when we get there if our livers are still going to be able to hang out and perform, haha.

Lastly, what can fans expect of your upcoming gig in Anaheim?
The usual insanity—lots of energy, lots of really bad jokes and we’ll play for about an hour and a half and hopefully people will leave with a smile on their face and come back to see us.

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