Less Than Jake – Borders & Boundries – Interview

Less Than Jake

Borders & Boundries (Fat)
An interview with vocalist/guitarist Chris Demakes
by Scott Hefflon

So tell me why you left Capitol and decided to release Border & Boundaries on Fat?
They weren’t willing to do anything more for us. They were just going to do exactly what they did with our last record.

The two records you did for them, Hello Rockview and Losing Streak, both did well.
Yeah, but by major label standards, it wasn’t much. We were the ones selling the records by being on the road 10 months a year, so why stay with them?

What’s the advantage of Fat over Capitol if sales’ll be roughly the same anyway?
Mostly, on an indie, we’ll make 50% of the profits instead of 10%. If a major’s not going to support us and still take 85%-90% of the money, why not go to an indie that’ll give you half and probably do more work for you? We’ll sell the same number of albums either way…

Who is it in the band that owns Fueled by Ramen Records?
Vinnie, our drummer, owns it with another guy, John Janick. John runs it outta Gainsville, Florida. That’s where we’re from. John’s not in a band, but he sings for the Orlando Gay Men’s Choir. We’ve toured with Pollen, a band on Fueled by Ramen – they’re really nice guys. Now we’re on tour with Suicide Machines and One Man Army.

They’re on Adeline, Billy Joe’s label. Good to see band members running their own labels.
Yeah, they’ve been around the block and they know what bands want and what they don’t want. A lot of bands don’t take care of the other stuff (the business part) and they get ripped off.

Who writes the lyrics and the music, or is it pretty democratic?
Vinnie writes most of the lyrics, and Roger, the bass player, and I write most of the songs. Then the horn players come in and add their parts.

Musically, this record is less ska but has more horns. Sounds like a contradiction, but it makes sense when ya hear it.
Oh, so you’ve heard the album? (While recorded, the record wasn’t scheduled for release for another month or so at time of interview.)

Yeah, Vanessa at Fat burned me a CDR and FedExed it to me. How’s that for looking out for you?
Cool. Yeah, as for the songs, it’s not like we really planned for them to come out any specific way or anything… We started writing last Fall, and then we went to L.A. in February for a couple months to record the album.

That’s longer than you usually take in the studio.
Yeah, but we used less computers and did it “for real,” so it took a little longer to get the performances right. And we still had a lot of writing to do…

Do you write most of the songs on the road or during what little down time you have?
About half and half. We’re always getting pieces while on the road, but they usually come together later.

Do you ever try out a new song – one you haven’t even recorded yet – on the road?
We haven’t done that in about seven years. People want to hear the songs they know, so we’re only doing about three songs off the new record in our shows.

And it’s not like you’re hurtin’ for material… How many records do you have out?
This is our fifth full-length. The first two were on No Idea and Asian Man, then the two on Capitol, and this one on Fat. And we have 7″s, collections of 7″s and EPs here and there.

Did you put out an EP when you were having trouble with Capitol, or was that Jimmy Eat World?
It wasn’t us… We never really “had trouble” with Capitol, just nothing was really happening. We did our thing, and they never really interjected: For better or worse.

Seeing as you write the music, was it intentional that the last song, “Faction,” sounds kinda like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”?
Unintentional. But we joked about it after it was done.

And in “Pete Jackson is Getting Married,” is that a glockenspiel?
A xylophone. We wanted something that’d sound like wedding bells, and someone at the studio was able to lay their hands on a xylophone.

Another thing I noticed was that the song titles aren’t necessarily ever said in the song. Is that because they represent what the song is about, even though it’s not actually said, or because nothing in the chorus made a very good title, or what?
You asked and answered the question.

Any hidden or bonus tracks or anything?
There are 15 songs. The CDR you have probably has 16. The first track shouldn’t be on there. It’s just an intro, and it’s a hidden track before the CD starts. The first song is “Magnetic North.” In order to hear the intro, you press play and rewind before the CD officially starts.

What’s the point of the intro?
I forget. It was us at a fan club show in San Francisco. I dunno, it was fun…

I seem to recall that Less Than Jake was one of the first bands to have a good website (www.lessthanjake.com) with tour dates and lyrics and now mp3s and stuff.
It’s done by a couple fans/friends and they do a great job. It’s pretty in-depth and there’re tons of pictures and soundbites. And there’s a list of all the CDs and 7″s we’ve ever put out with how to find copies (if you can – lots are out of print). It was really primitive when it started in 1994, basically an online newsletter.

How do you hook up with bands you take on tour?
We get demos out on the road and go to record stores every day, we read the free rags in whatever city we’re in, and we’re friends with enough booking agents and bands that people recommend stuff to us.

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