June 11, 2014


Less Than Jake's Chris Demakes Reflects on 20 Years of Warped Tour

Mike Lewis Photography
Mike Lewis Photography

Three hundred and sixty five. The number of days in a calendar year, of course. But it's also a mile-marker that Gainesville, FL, ska-punk legends Less Than Jake will hit this summer. 

According to drummer and lyricist Vinnie Fiorello, the quintet will play their 365th Warped Tour show this summer, which will be their eighth time heading across North America with the traveling punk-rock circus. The group has performed on Warped during every single one of their full-length album cycles dating all the way back to 1997, when they were supporting their 1996 major label debut Losing Streak

We called LTJ vocalist/guitarist Chris Demakes as he was driving around Gainesville to ask him how Warped helped shape the career of his band, what keeps the group going back to the tour and more. Check out the full Q&A below, and don't forget to keep up with all our Warped 2014 coverage throughout the summer.

Less Than Jake was on the third-ever Warped Tour in 1997. I know that was a long while ago, but how well do you remember that summer?

I feel like it's almost become a part of Warped tradition to have us out there every couple years

I remember pretty much everything about it. Our manager told us about it, and this was pretty much pre-Internet. I mean, the Internet was around but people weren't using it like they do today. You couldn't find out what was going on instantly. But anyway, we got offered three weeks up the East Coast in '97 and we took the tour. And it was just awesome. We were a relatively young band at that time, we had done some touring, and it was amazing. It was one of the best experiences I'll always remember. 

How do you feel Warped Tour has helped shape your band's growth? 

I feel like it's almost become a part of Warped tradition to have us out there every couple years, and we're honored for that. We love to play it, it's still fun. A lot of people tell us, "You're the oldest band out there and there's all these different types of music and there are all these young fans," but at the end of the day we're still a festival band. You get us up in front of a big crowd and we bring the party, we'll bring a good time. That's why we still work in the Warped world.  

Vinnie says you're playing your 365th Warped show this year.  

We've played Warped in all three decades: The '90s, the 2000s and the 2010s. We've played way more shows on it than any other band, I'm not sure there's a band that comes very close to us. You know, we've stuck by it and we've developed a long relationship with [Warped Tour founder] Kevin Lyman and he's kept asking us back to play. I think it's a testament to us wanting to be there, and them wanting us to be there.  

What keeps you guys coming back? What do you look forward to now? 

It's always about the camaraderie—the backstage and production people whom we've known for many, many years. A lot of them have become close, dear friends to us over the years. It's that element—along with the fact that we've been a band for so long—that we know people everywhere we go. Every stop we have, there are always friends coming out to hang out and we love catching up with those people. The shows are awesome, too. We get to go up for 40 minutes and do our thing, which is play our songs in front of a ton of people. All the way around, it's great.

This is the 20th year of Warped Tour, but it's the 22nd year of Less Than Jake. There is a ton of music to choose from when you're making a 40-minute set list. How do you guys do that? 

We were actually just going over all that, we just had a couple days of rehearsal. You really have to go out there and just go for the jugular. A lot of these people are our fans, yes, but there are also tons of people at Warped who have never heard of Less Than Jake, or maybe they've seen our name but never heard our music. So we want to play the songs that best represent our band, and of course we'll throw in a couple for us, to make us happy. I think over the course of the summer we'll have about four or five different set lists, definitely heavy on "the hits" but we'll throw in a couple for the hardcore fans. 

Kevin Lyman does a great job making sure that Warped Tour lineups appeal to the young people that go out there every summer. But back in the day, did you ever see Warped Tour making it this far?

You know, I wasn't sure if it would go past 2003 or so [in regards to Less Than Jake playing on the tour], but here we are. We're still here, still doing the thing. Kevin always sprinkles in different stuff for people to get behind. Back when we started doing the tour, it was people like Kid Rock and Eminem, a lot of artists out there that were way different from the majority of what was going on. But now we're that band that sticks out like a sore thumb, the band that is the curveball. I probably never thought it would last this long, but it's hard to imagine it going away now.

You guys have been on tour for the better part of a year supporting your new record See The Light. How's the album cycle treating you?

We ultimately make records for ourselves—we like to continually challenge ourselves to write songs. And we also do it for our hardcore fans. I think we delivered a strong record and those hardcore fans, they love it. The response has been overwhelming. The reaction has been great and the songs go over well live, too. Of course there are always people yelling, "We wanna hear the old sh–t!" Well, we have a bunch of old sh–t and don't worry, we're still playing that, too. It's the best of both worlds for us at this point. 

Since we've been looking back, why don't we look ahead a bitwhat do you guys have planned for the rest of the year? How much longer do you see Less Than Jake going?

We'll be out all summer on Warped, we'll have some more touring, stuff that hasn't been announced yet. We've got our third annual Wake and Bake weekend in Gainesville in August and a festival in September in Jacksonville. But we'll keep doing the band as long as it makes sense for us—some of the bands that we look up to are 10 years older than us and they're still out there doing it. It's not about age, it's about the heart, the soul and the mind. As long as our bodies can do it, as long as we're overall healthy and we can go out there and do our thing, we'll want to keep doing this. 

Check out Less Than Jake's eighth studio album, See The Light, out now via Fat Wreck Chords. You can also follow the band on Twitter, and Demakes has a personal Twitter as well.