Less Than Jake's Chris DeMakes on Why He Doesn't "Buy Music Anymore"
Less Than Jake has been making music since before Generation iPod was old enough to mosh. As those folks have now outgrown the pit (except for those keeping it real into their 30s), the Floridians famous for loving PEZ and stirring crowds into frenzies are still at it. And things aren't terribly different -- performancewise, at least.
The music is still catchy pop-punk-ska, and the band continues to pour every sweaty ounce of its being into every show (the guys haven't missed one in 21 years). Their latest release, Greetings and Salutations From Less Than Jake, like others before it, is a compilation LP composed of previously released -- but less widely available -- and unreleased music.
Though their artistic M.O. is roughly the same as it ever has been, a significant shift has occurred on the business side of the enterprise since the days of recording for ten bucks an hour in a Gainesville bedroom and selling seven-inch singles at shows. These days, selling the music that they record is not quite as easy anymore, says frontman Chris DeMakes (recording costs are a bit higher for them these days too).
Ahead of the band's upcoming show with Sublime tribute band Badfish at Revolution in Fort Lauderdale, New Times talked with DeMakes about how the band has weathered the storm of the shifting music industry, why he doesn't pay for music anymore, and why he does continue to create it and love his loyal fans unrelentingly.
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When we reached him on the phone, he was driving toward Gainesville to work on music with his bandmates for a forthcoming album -- that people may or may not pay money for in exchange for possessing it.
New Times: Will the next album be another EP?
Chris DeMakes: No, it's going to be a full-length. We haven't really done a full-length record in going on five years.
You've been putting together compilations like "Greetings..." since the beginning. Are the reasons for doing so now any different than back then?
Our hard-core fans knew about these songs but not the casual fans. So that was the main reason for wanting to put it together as a proper release.
Like the compilations of seven-inch singles previously made, [to make] that music available for more fans?
How has the process of making and selling records changed for the band since the old days?
You knew, then, that if you made those records and you had a fanbase, you could get rid of them. It's just so much harder to get rid of music now because music is free.
How do you mean?
I'm a huge fan of a million bands, but I don't buy music anymore. It's kind of like walking into a hamburger place and the burgers being free and you're saying, "No, no, no, I should pay for this. I feel morally obligated to pay for this hamburger." I mean, music is free, man. That's just the way it is.
People can download it from the internet for free, so they aren't as likely to pay for it now. Has Less Than Jake weathered that storm all right?
I'm not complaining. We do have hard-core fans, and they buy our products when we go on the road. But this has affected everybody in the music industry. And I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for music anymore, because nobody else is.
Do you ever pay for music?
If I go to a show and a band is selling CDs and T-shirts, I'm much more inclined to buy it there.
There aren't many record stores to walk into, and I hate shopping online.
When you say you don't pay for music, do you mean that you pirate music or that you use services like Spotify?
Whatever. I listen to all my music on Youtube and Spotify and all those free services. So, I mean, it's an expense that I've been able to cut out.
As a career musician, you have a different perspective on this issue than most.
A certain portion of my income used to come from making money off my music, and it's gone now. Well, then, why the hell am I going to pay for music if no one is paying for mine?
It's not like I'm pissed about it; it's just a fact of the times. It's where we're at right now. You can't blame a 12- or 13-year-old kid who's never bought music in his life. This generation will never buy music because... Why would they?
So you don't see any possibility of remedying the situation?
No way. It's rampant. If the dude from Metallica couldn't straighten it, then who the hell can? [laughs]
So what motivates you to continue making records?
We like being an active band. We enjoy making new music. We're not going to get on the radio or television. We have our fanbase, and we like to cater to those people.
There seems to be lots of love between Less Than Jake and its fans.
I don't mean to be a poor sport about all this downloading stuff. We definitely have more loyal fans than a lot of bands who do come to the shows, who do actively buy the stuff. They provide a career for us.
Tough times, though.
It's been tough for all bands, especially new bands. With gas at four dollars a gallon and they're out there driving around in a van trying to feed everybody and maybe get a hotel once a week to take a shower, it's really tough out there when you can't sell your music properly.
Less Than Jake and Badfish with the Aggrolites. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 28, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-449-1025, or click here.
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