Less Than Jake was at the forefront of the Ska explosion during the mid 90s and 20 years later they are still going strong as one of the headliners for this year’s Warped Tour. I have to admit, I haven’t paid attention to Warped Tour for several years now but with a slew of “older” bands on the bill, Less Than Jake may truly be leading the way in making ‘Warped Tour great again.’ I caught up with Buddy Schaub of LTJ during the tour’s New York stop at Jones Beach Theater and discussed the ever changing landscape of the music industry and how the band has adapted and persevered all these years.
LESS THAN JAKE INTERVIEW
SONIC HIGHLARK: I’ve been listening to a lot of the bands playing on this Warped Tour for a long time, but you guys are one of those bands that never really stopped putting out music.
BUDDY SCHAUB (TROMBONE // LESS THAN JAKE): No, we did not. We haven’t been one of those bands that have that hiatus or break up and get back together. We joked about breaking up during the middle of the tour but then getting back together the next day, everyday for the rest of the tour, like “We’re back together again!”
SONIC: Haha, and what are some of the changes you’ve seen over the years?
BUDDY: Oh God, the ride that we’ve been on is crazy. So many different things have changed but one of the biggest changes for us is the technology over the years. Recording music and putting out music is one side of it, but even the touring side alone the technology has been crazy. When we first started playing there were no cellphones and no internet at all, so booking a show for a tour was like sending actual tape cassettes, demo tapes to… Seattle, trying to get a show then waiting to hear back from them through snail mail. We’d have to pull over the van near a pay phone to call the next venue, now we have Google Maps on our phones, but we used to have real maps and argue with each other about whether or not we’re going the wrong way.
SONIC: Oh that’s true, or MapQuest or something.
BUDDY: Yeah, someone would print out all the directions for the tour on the MapQuest thing.
SONIC: I remember that, I would be saying “Wait, we forgot the MapQuest!”
BUDDY: Right, “We gotta go back!” There are also changes on a personal level too, when you get to a venue… we’ve played the same clubs a lot as we’ve gone along and sometimes I thought I was in the middle of nowhere because I didn’t have a map, but now I have my phone so I look and it’s like “Wait a minute, we’re only 6 blocks away from the most happening part of this town!” We used to sit around the club and do nothing but now it opens up a lot more opportunities to go see other stuff.
SONIC: What about the audience? Are there a lot of the same fans or more new ones?
BUDDY: That’s what’s so good about being in a band so long. Fortunately we have fans that stick around the whole time so we have fans that are our age that still come to a show and we still get new fans by doing things like this. Warped Tour is great for that, there are younger kids that have heard of us like “Oh my older cousin listens to you guys but I never saw you.” Sometimes we get the parent with the kid, so we keep having different generations of fans almost, it’s great.
SONIC:Losing Steak was great but Hello Rockview is one of my favorite Ska albums.
BUDDY:We actually re-released both Losing Streak and Hello Rockview on vinyl few months ago and we did 3 different pressings of it already but they’re almost gone. We still have a few in our merch booth.
SONIC: No way! I have to stop by there later for sure.
BUDDY:They’re selling like wildfire, but they haven’t been on vinyl in over a decade so…
SONIC:Hello Rockview in particular, I really connected with that one.
BUDDY:Yeah, that’s the quintessential Less Than Jake album. It’s one of the big two, Losing Streak and Hello Rockview are the ones everyone seems to cling to.
SONIC: It’s a great album all the way through, Greased is a lot of fun too.
BUDDY: Going back to what you were saying, that’s another one of the things that have changed over the years is the full albums. I couldn’t wait for a record to come out and actually get the record, the artwork, look through the lyrics and stuff. Nowadays because of the internet people can just download a song, or listen to a part of a song on Spotify and the whole concept of a record is waning. People don’t digest things as a full album anymore. It’s whatever you can listen to on iTunes for 5 seconds and if you don’t like it, it’s trash, trash, and it has made music more disposable and the album is a thing that’s going away.
SONIC: I ask a lot of bands this question also.
BUDDY:Kids don’t listen to it like that anymore. You have a favorite album from ours but kids are just into songs.
SONIC: I loved having the physical thing and checking out the cover art or reading the liner notes….
BUDDY: Yeah, it was more of an experience digesting the whole thing lyrically with the artwork and the whole product. It was cooler than when it got reduced to these digital ones and zeros and nothing that comes with it.
SONIC: I think it wouldn’t have stuck with me if it was like that. I remember the cover with the guy diving into the pool and all that.
BUDDY:Exactly, and the liner notes was a comic book with the lyrics…
SONIC: Yes! I always thought that was so cool. Even the recordings they sort of sound different these days.
BUDDY: Just how people record is different now, you can fix everything and the tones are different but that’s the way life is with everything. You have to adapt to the changes and we’ve adapted too through out the whole thing. You can’t just shun the stuff that’s new just because it’s new because then you end up like the old guy that’s like “You kids get off my lawn!” So you have to change and grow and adapt with the scene as it does that, you know?
SONIC: Is it more difficult now for the band to get together?
BUDDY: You mean writing wise?
SONIC: That too but in general, for example rehearsing before this tour?
BUDDY: Well, two of the guys have kids and Chris now has a child on the way so that does start to dictate how we spend time a little bit. When we write, we’ll do like a 2 week session where we just get together for 4, 5 days in a row and work stuff out. Whatever we write is pretty organic, it’s pretty cool. People bring stuff to the table in the beginning then everyone puts their two cents in, and we’ll record a demo-ish thing out of it. Vinnie then might have some lyrics and say “Oh, this might be good for that song.” and try to fit some words into it. I’ll take it home and me and JR will sit there and work on horn parts. I’ll jump into my Pro Tools and record stuff and bring that back, so it’s like a melting pot of ideas.
SONIC: And like you said, you guys kind of adapted and making use of the new technology.
BUDDY: Exactly, we wrote like that back then too but I had a little 4-track that I’d bring out and record stuff on. Before that you kind of had to say “Play it again.” and try to come up with a part on the spot. I like that side of the technology for sure now where you can write with your phone. I can put the phone down and play some stuff and it records good enough that we can use the ideas to go further with the song.
SONIC: What’s coming up for you guys?
BUDDY:Well, we’re still on this (Warped Tour) for six more weeks, and four days after we get home we fly out to Mexico City for one show. We started doing this mini festival of our own in our hometown called Wake N Bake Weekend where we play three nights and have different bands play, and we do different stuff during the day. It’s kind of grown into a thing over 5 years, we’ve had people fly in from England and stuff. It’s really cool because we had realized we’ve been neglecting our hometown – we’d book a tour and forget to put Gainesville (Florida) on it so we’d go and come back and say “Shit, we never played Gainesville.” So we started doing that and we do it around the same time every year, around beginning of September, usually Labor Day Weekend. After that we are going to England and Europe for the whole month of October. That’ll be a really cool eclectic tour with The Skints, Mariachi El Bronx and The Bennies from Australia. We’ve had a little bit of time off where we were supposedly writing new songs but it came to a point where nobody wanted to budge, so we scrapped those and now we have about 6 new songs which we haven’t finished yet. At some point we’ll finish writing and record too. We have a lot on our place coming up.