Less Than Jake

By Andy

BEN – You’re over here in the UK again; this is apparently the biggest ever tour by a foreign band
JR – That’s what we heard, I think it was planned as such.
BEN – What is it about the UK that you like so much?
JR – I think it’s the fans. They’re definitely more manic over here and we’ve been received really well over here which is not a weird thing for us but it’s one of the first places that showed us love from fans, radio, MTV, whatever. So for us to come over here it’s definitely a pleasure. It’s cool because we get to go to all different towns where the kids are like “Nobody ever plays here!” so it’s great.
BEN – Do you find that when you play over here you get different reactions to songs than in the States?
JR – Certain songs. [All My Best Friends Are] Metalheads was way bigger over here than in the States, Gainsville Rock City too. I think it varies from song to song just as in the States there are songs that go over more than over here.
BEN – Do you change your set from night to night?
JR – We’re trying to, with the new songs. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t so you got to try and switch it up.
BEN – How have reactions been to the new material?
JR – Pretty good I think, some better than other. More than anything though, the record just came out on Monday [this interview took place on Friday 23rd May] so kids are not really familiar with it yet. The reactions are half and half – half the kids will jump around and go crazy and the other half will listen and try and figure out what’s going on.

BEN – What’s your favourite song to play live?
JR – That’s a good question…[looooooong pause]…probably How’s My Driving Doug Hastings? but we’re not playing it on this tour. Metalheads is always fun too.
BEN – Last year you played Reading and Glastonbury festivals, have you got any plans to play any festivals this summer?
JR – We’re doing the Download Festival. We’d love to play Reading and Leeds again, I don’t know when though. We’ll see what happens. Festivals are just crazy, Glastonbury was a little weird because it’s a lot more hippyish and Reading is a little more rock. Glastonbury was cool because it was just massive, you could walk for days!
BEN – What’s the biggest show you’ve ever played?
JR – Probably Reading. On our day we had the second largest crowd to Foo Fighters which was pretty awesome. They said 70,000 but once you get over 10,000 it all just…it’s quite a sight to see to walk through the curtain and see this fuckin’ field…full of people! Such an adrenaline rush.
BEN – Are you getting more conscious of your success?
JR – You know it’s weird, before I came here I was just calling my dad and he was like “You guys are getting real big over here, all over the radio and stuff”. I guess it’s becoming a little more apparent but it’s like we live in our own world – the five of us and the people we have on our crew. The only things that we hear are from outside sources so I think we’re a little older than maybe the average band out there so if there is a little bit of success it’s looked on as a building block rather than a skyrocket. It’s not like we’re saying “Let’s get three buses and ten tractor-trailers and play stadiums”
BEN – Please don’t!
JR – Obviously as a band we want to play in front of as many people as we can. You’re never thinking about this kind of stuff, we’re just guys from small towns who started a band. You don’t think you’ll achieve this much success or sell this many records or play this many sold-out shows. I still try not to personally so every day is a bonus.

BEN – When you started over a decade ago, where did you think you’d be in 2003?
JR – I really thought I’d be in a proper job, working at a gas station or something. Never thought I’d be doing this!
BEN – Have you been to any places on this tour that you hadn’t been before that you’ve fallen in love with?
JR – Southampton was amazing, that was one of the best shows. They kinda tend to blur into one after a while. In the US we played in South Dakota and we’d never played there before. Sheffield here was a good show. We’re looking forward to going places like Dublin because we’ve only played there once. It’s always a new experience every day.
BEN – What makes a good show for you?
JR – It’s a combination of about three things. If (1) I can physically put on a show, I mean move around the stage and try to make it memorable for the kids. (2) as long as my equipment works, whatever little toys we have on stage, they have to work and (3) I guess if I see kids smiling. If they’re smiling then I know they’re having fun and singing along.
BEN – Do you see the younger crowd as important to your success?
JR – It’s very important, just as any fan is really important for us. It seems like they’re getting younger as we’re getting older, that’s for sure. It’s a weird thing, because I’m 27 and it’s very odd for a 13 year old girl or boy to come up to me and say “You’re the greatest thing in the world, you guys are amazing, sign my shirt!” It’s tricky because I’ve been playing as long as some of these kids have been alive. I don’t consider myself to be old, but it’s freaky. Those are important kids because a lot of times I see kids are like “My older brother got me into this” and then they become a link in the chain or a snowball effect.
BEN – What were you listening to when you made the new record?
JR – Our music. Sometimes you have to get away from it because you’re actually living it, but I do tend to listen our stuff so it becomes ‘our’ stuff. Our influences are like The Descendents, All, some Snuff.
BEN – The new album has a more diverse range of musical styles; is that different members taking it in different directions?
JR – When you write a record there’s no conscious decision about putting in whatever parts. It just happens, like Roger or Chris will come up with a riff and then Buddy and I do the horn part and then it goes together. Everybody starts tweaking it and saying “that part sucks, or change than note, or try this, or drop this.” We don’t just sit sown and follow a roadmap, because if you follow a specific map then it becomes very boring. People may say “why haven’t you written another Losing Streak?” and it’s because we’ve already made that record. Why do the same thing? You just become a mockery of yourself. We’re still going to play History of a Boring Town, we’re still going to play Metalheads, we’re still going to play Automatic, we’re still going to play stuff off Pezcore. But you can’t put out a record that sounds like the rest.
BEN – Can you feel a progression through your records?
JR – Oh definitely. I joined the band when Borders and Boundaries was released, so as an outsider coming into the band I thought that was the best thing they’d done. This record is the best record, purely on songwriting and musicality and you can definitely hear a progression with everyone getting better on their instruments. It’s been a slow rise.

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]