Roger Manganelli - Less Than Jake

July 18, 2008

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You guys have been around for quite a while coming out of the Gainesville, Florida area. That seems to be quite a hotbed for bands.

Itís a hotbed all right. Especially for a friend of mine. I donít really know exactly why but yeah, it does seem like that. I think itís because itís a college town so you have this resurgence of kids that are living there for school. It sort of re-electrifies the scene when sometimes young musicians move to town. It does feel like that kind of town. Thereís always a show to go to every night. There are various clubs that put on local shows and stuff like that. It does have a big culture of that kind of thing.

I have a friend who lives there and it seems like every night heís going to this show or that show. Iím like god damn.

There are a lot clubs close to the school so you can just walk home.

He always takes the bus. You guys are a mixture of ska and punk. When you guys first formed, how did you decide what direction you wanted the band to go into?

I donít really know how we officially started getting some ska influences in there but when it first started it was more of a three piece pop/punk, sort of early Green Day sort of sound roughly speaking. Maybe Pegboy. Then at the same time it was like you know what? Letís do this kind of high energy sort of Bosstones thing. We started putting ska into it. We liked the electricity that goes with it. Itís kind of connecting with the crowd and getting them moving and stuff. We definitely have that live energy. I think thatís really what started pushing us in that direction to try to factor more ska in more songs. Itís a good way to get the crowd involved. I donít know. You have to have something to shake your ass to.

I know tonightís going to be fun then. I was talking to the Suburban Legends and they have six people in their band. Did you increase the number of members in your band too?

We did have three horn players for a while and that made six total but right now weíre down to five. Itís been like that for eight years now so thatís just where itís hanging. We do have to have a couple of extra dudes on tour being a punk band. Having a horn section is rad because when theyíre not playing, theyíre the security. Theyíre the entertainment. Theyíre the jokesters. Theyíre the pranksters. Theyíre the built-in cheerleaders for the band. Then they can be part of the show when theyíre not actually playing.

Iím always interested in how bands come by their names because thereís usually a funny story attached to it or something cute. You guys named your band after a dog?

Itís true. Yeah, the complete story can be found online but itís definitely named after Vinnie Fiorelloís little dog.

Thatís cute. Did you guys re-release some of your CDs?

We did. We were with Warner Brothers until a couple of years ago. We recently started our own record label called Sleep It Off and we started off by re-releasing some of our early CDs with DVDs included. One of our first records, Pezcore, we wound up playing in its entirety live. Weíve got specialty kind of stuff in there. That was the first release on our own label. Then the new record thatís come out.

What was it like to start your own label and how do you go about doing that? I know a lot of people do that.

We argued for a few weeks as what to call the label. Then we argued for another week or two on what the logo of the label would be. Thatís the hardest part.

Fueled By Ramen is pretty catchy.

The label now is called Sleep It Off.

What happened to Paper And Plastick?

Thatís Sleep It Off also. We constantly have new projects going on like that. We laugh and giggle at record label stuff. There are other things that weíve done over the years being on various labels, major labels and off beat labels. We kind of already knew what we wanted to do as far as putting a record out there so people could find out about it. Although it was a lot of work for the individuals in the band, it really isnít because in the old days weíd have to convey our ideas to someone at a record label and then they would have to go through all the red tape theyíd have to go through trying to actually do any of that work. Itís like when you play telephone, it gets diluted the further down the line you go. Now we all have very direct interaction with whatís going on with the publicists and the online stuff like MySpace and the videos and the singles and the artwork. Weíre directly tied in so actually itís easier.

I like the whole MySpace thing because people just instantly connect with other people. Thatís so cool.

You can. Or you can come up with a total creepy dude.

Yeah, that happened to me once. It was some ex-Marine who posted some weird shit one day about his neighbors being Arabic and they were going to come and kill him in the night. He was going to have his gun ready. I decided I was going to opt out of this online friendship. That was too fucking weird. You guys played six shows in 2007 and each show you played all the tracks from an album?

Yeah, we played through all six of our full length records and that was recorded. None of those shows were used for the DVD that was on the re-release. That was actually pretty crazy. We had to listen to the CDs to refresh our memories. Dusting off cobwebs of songs we hadnít played in 10 years. It was very educational.

It had to be a lot of fun doing that.

Oh, it was awesome.

So you guys have out a new record called GNV FLA. Tell me a little bit about that one.

Itís the first new material thatís released on Sleep It Off Records. Itís our third record off of coming off a major. It rocks because we were allowed to have total creative control and we didnít have to be absolutely sure about everything before it had to go through anybody else. It was more from the heart a little bit because we were allowed to be put back into our element without anyone putting their fingers in there and messing with it. We were able to make the record very organically.

Iíve been talking with a few people who are on independent labels or doing their own thing and not on any label at all. They talk about how much easier it is to do your own stuff because youíre basically the one who decided what goes on the record. Whereas when youíre with a major label, they make all the decisions.

Hold on, you make the decisions but they influence them very heavily. They donít say ďyou have to do this.Ē But they do say that ďif you choose to do this we could probably get behind that. If you donít choose to do that, Iím not for sure Iím going to be into it.Ē They try to steer you. I think if youíre a young band just getting going and that kind of thing, I think thereís a lot to be said for the experience that weíve had working with some of the producers that we have had like Rob Cavallo or Howard Benson, these big name kind of guys. You do learn a lot about making records with these guys. Maybe you donít think every idea that they have is going to be completely right for the moment or whatever but Iím not so sure that if I was 20 and I was starting another band, I donít know that I would be wanting to make my own record just completely shut up. I think that youíre going to be a bit sheltered doing your own thing. Youíre not open enough and I think you need some experience before you be like ďoh, I really think I know how it should or shouldnít be.Ē

Sometimes itís a good idea to have some outside influences come in.

Yeah. Definitely you donít want anybody to take over but Iím very happy that we got to make the records that we did with the producers that we did. It seems like a good time now for us to take over the reins.

How do you feel that this particular record differs from and is similar to some of your other releases?

Well, itís really different from the last couple of records because of what we were talking about not really being influenced and that just went into the songwriting because all along we knew when we were writing this record that it was going to be on our own label. That I was actually the co-producer on the record and that we were going to make the record in Chicago on a much smaller budget and scale than our other records. I think all of that in the back of your mind influences the songwriting and you can hear some of that rawness in some of the songs. That reflects some of our earlier stuff. We really are the kind of band where we had just been given an advance for nine weeks, we have three weeks off and we have to record a record and we have to record a record in those three weeks, and we only have four songs. Weíre going to be in the studio and be spontaneous and trying to siphon out our creative energy. I think it adds a little more rawness.

Isnít that kind of difficult to do sometimes?

Well, back in the day, no. It didnít seem difficult at all. It just seemed like what we had to do and there was nothing that was going to stop us from making it happen. You hear a lot of our fans say that the record was done in a very short amount of time. There were about five or six songs that were a little nurtured before going into the studio but most of that stuff was like ďIíve got this rough idea. Letís scrape some lyrics together and make it happen.Ē This time it wasnít so rushed like that but I did have sort of that anything goes vibe.

Kind of like that whole crash and burn thing. Weíre going to do this thing on our own and itís either going to sail or itĎs not.

Yeah, itís either going to sink or not. Yeah. Weíre all very happy in the end. We did the record with a dude named Matt Allison who was pretty good about sort of accepting everything. Being cool with everything. He said ďyeah, you guys do what you need to do.Ē He let us fill in the blanks to some degree. He made the songs amazing. Mixed them amazingly. The production was influenced by the vibe of the recording. He was very mellow and that helps facilitate us getting our ideas out right.

How has the tour been going so far?

Itís going fantastic. This is our second summer doing the Sleep It Off tour. Weíre not on the Warped tour so thatís good because the Warped tour is a tough one.

Yeah, thatís pretty huge.

Itís a tough tour. Itís long and a lot of hot days. Weíre having a good time and it seems like the fans are receptive because weíre doing our own thing. Our record just came out so weíre playing some new songs and thatís kind of refreshing. It feels good to get out there with some new tunes that weíre all having fun playing. Itís really good. We have three weeks to go.

I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. Anywhere from pop to rock to heavy metal to death metal to black metal. I love all that shit. Ska was never anything I really listened to until I got my first Fishbone CD. Thatís one genre I havenít been exposed to a whole lot. Iím looking forward to that.

Cool. I hope you like it. We try to get the fans involved. We try to get the crowd involved. We try not to have separations. Weíre just regular dudes. We like to get up there and have a good time and try to be entertaining in whatever way that we can and play hard. Play with spirit and I definitely try to give it as much as I can every night out there. Itís good stuff. Hopefully youíll like it and youĎll get shaking a little bit. If you make yourself a little too obvious youíll probably be called out on stage. Who knows what will happen to you then. Like I said, we try to get the fans involved literally.

I was doing a lot of reading up on ska last night. I read up on how it originated in Jamaica and there was a really cool story about how after World War II the Jamaicans had gotten a lot of radios and were listening to 50ís music like Fats Domino and the like. It just somehow evolved into this really cool form of music and then people here in the States and in England got a hold of it.

Sounds like you know more about it than I do.

It was a really interesting story. One of the main purveyors of it was a guy by the name of Peter Tosh and I read about him and how someone decided to wipe him out. He was a little radical. He was really into getting justice for his people and it was really interesting to read about that.

Very true.

You need to read about that.

I do.

Any other thoughts or comments?

Thank you.

Less Than Jake