INTERVIEW: Less Than Jake

"If you’re going to want to learn about ska punk our name’s going to come up somewhere which is still really cool"

INTERVIEW: Less Than Jake

By Ellie Odurny

Jan 19, 2021 16:11

After a tumultuous year of change, uncertainty and melancholy, Less Than Jake brought some well needed familiarity with the release of their ninth full length album ‘Silver Linings’. The positivity, energy and consistency of the Florida ska punk outfit is a welcome break from the doom and gloom that the world has been facing throughout the majority of 2020. We caught up with bassist and vocalist Roger Lima to chat about the album, creativity, live streaming, and plans for the future.

‘Silver Linings’ was scheduled for release earlier in the year, but got pushed back on account of the Covid-19 virus sweeping the globe. Lima describes how the band were keen to release the record before Christmas, saying “we’re at least throwing some sort of lifeline to our fans…I wanted people to know that we’re going to do more songs, that we’re moving forward, and this way it’s that much sooner that the next record will come along.”

This focus on writing new material might seem like an odd mindset to be in at the time of the record’s release, but it’s worth noting that ‘Silver Linings’ was essentially completed nearly two years ago, so while this feels like a new release to fans, it’s been floating around in team LTJ’s heads for a long time. Lima continues, “The sooner that this one’s done, I can clear the space in my brain and get to the next one. Without doing too many shows, the online thing is cool but you can only do so much of that, so for us it’s just going to be more songs, sooner or later”.

Talking of online performances, Less Than Jake launched the album with a live streamed show: ‘Late Night with Less Than Jake’. On one hand, Lima describes how the evening brought back some familiar feelings of satisfaction of playing with the rest of the band. “It feels really good to make the noise together because it’s been a while since we were in a room just playing… and being like ‘Wow, we can make this big, collective, cool noise, I love that’”. On the other hand, he highlights how different it is to play without an audience, telling us that playing shows to fans and feeding off a crowd is their bread and butter. Thinking about how he tackles this change in dynamic, Lima says, “I just try to imagine that on the other side of the camera there are people sitting on their couch, dancing around, having a beer and having a laugh and trying to long distance communicate. Every action has a reaction, you put the action out there and even though you don’t really see it, you hope the reaction is happening somewhere”.

Thanks to an appearance on the remaster of Tony Hawk’s pro skater soundtrack, Less Than Jake’s music has been brought to a whole new generation of fans. Lima talks about being grateful for the opportunity to be included on “that roster of awesome bands”, and describes how their appearance on such a successful game series earlier on in their career was a perk of the major label connection.

“The fact that we did have a song on Tony Hawk ages ago definitely contributes to the longevity of ingraining our music to a whole generation of kids who grew up on that game,” he says, and describes how those fans have built a culture and community that has cemented Less Than Jake as a stalwart of the ska punk scene. “It feels cool to be grandfathered into those Google searches. If you’re going to want to learn about ska punk our name’s going to come up somewhere which is still really cool because we love our songs, we love playing our songs, we love what we do and it’s cool that there are people out there still dancing around.”

In terms of the type of fans who are discovering LTJ now, compared to when the band were starting out nearly thirty years ago, Lima admits that they’re still going to attract the same kind of attention. “We still have the same show, we have the same vibe, we have the same energy that we’ve had. We’re still doing our thing.”

Obviously, doing their thing in a traditional sense of gigging and touring hasn’t been an option lately, but the band have enjoyed having to think outside the box to be creative and come up with something entertaining in the new world of music production. As a producer as well as a musician, Lima is used to being surrounded by music – whether that’s in the studio, recording, or touring with other bands. He describes feeling like a rug was pulled out from underneath him when the pandemic first hit, recalling how he felt weirdly uninspired without being able to absorb himself with an influx of music, feeling as though he’s “not living the stuff that makes my heart pump.” More recently, Lima has been working on a few more studio projects and feeling able to channel his song writing energy again. He talks about the studio process as a kind of music therapy, “like a chess game where you’re analysing everything and you’re learning from it.”

In terms of song writing, ‘Silver Linings’ touched on some more delicate topics compared to previous Less Than Jake records, with Lima describing it as “…a bit mature, a bit more grown up, a bit more serious. Each record is a sort of like a snapshot of wherever you were at during that time when you were writing those songs. We were going through things and a lot of that comes out in music.” Is this a direction that the band are heading in going forwards? Probably not. Lima suggests that “maybe after this year, everyone will be in this mood where we feel like kids again and everything will be super rambunctious”, telling us that the songs he is writing for the new record are about “enjoying the moment, being with your friends, feeling good and doing something that energises you on the daily. It should just feel really fun.”

Whether that new record will be a full album or an EP isn’t yet decided – ‘Silver Linings’ was the band’s first full-length since 2013’s ‘See the Light’. Lima shares his thoughts about how it came about, about the role of the album for music fans these days, and how that’s changed over time. “When we were working on the songs and seeing that they had a common thread about positivity, the light at the end of the tunnel and that silver lining kind of thing, it was like yeah this is an album, these songs talk to each other, and it’s going to be an experience listening to the whole thing. It’s kind of weird in a way because so much music is consumed differently these days. So many people just listen to singles or they listen to songs that are on a playlist or they only hear one song off the record. Back in the day an album was a whole voyage, an experience, and you’d sit there with the lyrics and you’d engulf yourself with what the band was feeling. With this record, I specifically wanted it to be a collection of songs, a whole experience, that the listener is going to want to put on and hear the whole thing and be a little bit deeper into the waters with us than just the single based mentality. I hope people absorb it as a full thought and not just a bunch of singles.”

In a time when we’re all online more than ever, we ask how Lima feels about the impact and influence of the internet on younger fans, and his answer is refreshingly positive. Pointing out that the current generation don’t know any different, he says “I actually think it’s more informative for people to be like, ‘Regardless of what you say, I like this, this is how I feel.’ or the other way around, ‘You guys might like this new record but I don’t like it.’ It gives you a chance to stand your ground a bit more and have your own opinions. On the internet you’re more isolated, you’re not as influenced, you can actually like or not like something on your own because you’re hiding behind your keyboard. You can be yourself, no-one’s pressuring you, no-one’s being suggestive”. Seeing hiding behind a keyboard as an independent, empowering position rather than a negative state of anonymity perfectly sums up Lima’s optimistic attitude and upbeat outlook on the world.

Going into 2021, the future of live shows is still very uncertain, but one thing is for sure; Less Than Jake will still be writing new material, they will still be looking for new ways to stay creative, and they still just want everyone to have fun, have a dance, and stay awesome.


Silver Linings‘ is out now on Pure Noise Records

Read our review here