Latest release: See the Light (Fat Wreck Chords)
Band site: www.facebook.com/lessthanjake
Floridian ska-punk veterans Less Than Jake are headed back to Australia for the Soundwave Festival, and Loud catches saxophonist/backing vocalist Peter “JR” Wasilewski at the tail end of what had apparently been a testing and tiresome batch of interviews. Despite this, he cheerfully answered our questions about See the Light, their first fully-fledged studio album in five years, the festival and finally, congratulated us on our efforts.
Q: JR, how are you doing?
A: I’m going to tell you right now, after the last pile of shit that I just talked to, you my friend, you have the chance to win the gold medal of best interview of the night. I’ve had four interviews prior to yours, and you my friend, have the chance to win the gold medal. Right now, you’re competition is so far behind, you’re already in first place. And no matter where you go, you’re gonna be in first place. So get ready to win a gold medal, buddy. You’re winning the medal tonight.
Q: What was less than enjoyable about your previous conversations then?
A: It was ill-prepared. They asked the one question you’re not supposed to ask a band. Do you know what question that is?
Q: I’ve had a few bands suggest me that asking something like “what can we expect from your live show?” often isn’t appreciated, so have been trying to kick the habit of using that one.
A: That’s a good one. The one never to ask a band is, ‘where did you get the name from?’ It’s on the Wikipedia page. You never ask that. If you’re asking that question, you should not be on this interview. And I was really nice to the guy, and in at the end it was like, I was talking to him about a John Cougar Mellencamp song, for some reason. He’d lost me. ‘Cause he said, he’s like, ‘well, I can wing this for a while, we’ve still got ten minutes left, I can wing this’. And then I started talking about John Cougar Mellencamp. I was like, ‘I’ll show you winging this’. I thought he did a good job for someone who didn’t prepare, and I just hope that I wasn’t too much of a dick towards the end, ‘cause I didn’t mean to intentionally, it’s just who I am. So I can’t really hold that back. But I thought he did a good job… Like I said, four prior, everybody else is in last place. They’re all tied for loser, because they were all pretty bad. Right now, you’re winning – gold medal.
Q: (Laughs) Thank you, sir. Is that your most disliked interview question then?
A: Yes, ‘where did the name of the band come from?’, because, it’s fucking, you might as well just knife me. Just knife me, it’ll hurt less.
Q: (Laughs) Do you typically enjoy the press side of things much?
A: Yes, I do. I actually do, I have a lot of fun with it. You can never really tell what I’m being truthful about. The only things I try to be truthful about are important things, like our records and our music. I try to be truthful about that. Everything else, you know, 50/50.
Q: You do have some artists who complain about having to answer the same questions in every single interview, but do you just consider it part of the job?
A: If you get asked the same questions five times a day and you give five different answers, who’s having a good time? This guy.
Q: I suppose we’re here to talk about Soundwave and your new album. It’s been five years between records, but plenty has changed within the music industry during that half-decade. Were you in any way concerned about how to market and release this record?
A: We decided that we wanted to go back to a label, and we decided that we wanted to go back to an independent label. And we decided, we asked around, and the first label we went to was Fat Wreck Chords. (Fat) Mike and Erin have been friends for a long time, and they were like, ‘yes, we want to do your record’. And they were very cool, they gave us a budget, they never asked for a demo, they were really happy with the record that we gave to them, and we were really happy to give them that record.
The only thing that’s really changed in the last five years is… There used to be a lot of screaming shitty bands, who went like, (screams), you know, right? Now there’s a lot of electronic, screaming shitty bands. So it was cool, and I’m glad, because I figured those bands must be doing something right, because when I was a little kid, I listened to Guns N’ Roses and NWA, and like 2 Live Crew and shit like that. My parents fucking hated it. So I figure, I’m about my parents’ age, so these guys must be doing something really, really righteous and great. So good for them, but it really is just really bad, for me, personally.
Q: So metalcore, deathcore and screamo aren’t on your iPod then?
A: Ah, some stuff – you’d be surprised what’s on my iPod actually. Like I said, 50 per cent of what I say is pretty truthful. The other 50 per cent, you don’t know.
Q: What’s the most shameful song on your iPod then?
A: I have no shame about anything that I listen to. I have Justin Bieber on my iPod, just like every other 38-year-old punk rocker, thank you very much.
Q: (Laughs) Is that the best-kept secret in punk then, that every guy of that age has Justin Bieber on their iPod?
A: God, I hope not. I don’t think Brian Baker or Greg Graffin has Justin Bieber on their iPod. I could be wrong, though. I could be wrong.
Q: After a sizeable gap between studio albums, did you approach the songwriting of the new disc any differently to in the past?
A: No, we approached actually this record as like, we wanted to write a cohesive record. Like, we had written a bunch of EPs following up to this record, just to test out different styles, different production things, different songwriting ideas, combinations and stuff, and see what kind of worked or what didn’t work. We decided that when we were going to do this record, that we needed to write like a record – a cohesive, well thought-out idea. And so that has a lot do with music, and also has a lot to do with lyrics. But I think Vinnie (Fiorello, drums) did a great job. He writes roughly 90 per cent of all of the lyrics that you hear, so he did a fantastic job in writing the story of this record. And he’s the one who really came up with the idea of like See the Light. It was something that we could all really get behind after different circumstances in all of our lives.
So this record is good for us, and it’s therapeutic and cathartic in a lot of ways. So we’re just glad that everybody that’s involved, like not only in the recording of it, but in like, just the record, we’re glad that everybody likes it, you know? ‘Cause we all liked it. And the people that don’t like it, everybody’s entitled to their opinion. But we like it. So anybody else who likes it, come on down, we’re gonna party.
If you like it, cool. If you don’t like, sorry, there’s other stuff. I’m sure whatever it is those people listen to gets them really excited. Music, like all art, it’s just open to suggestion and it’s open to opinions. Some people don’t like some things, and that’s cool. But if you don’t like it, you don’t have to talk about it. I don’t talk about how I think certain bands suck. I don’t waste my time, you know what I mean? I feel like it’s so pointless to sit around and trash other people’s art, when I can just talk about the art that I like. It’s better to just talk about the stuff that’s good, rather than waste your time venting about why you think other people’s stuff is so shitty. Those kinds of people to me tend to be failed artists, or maybe they haven’t fully reached whatever vision that they had.
I feel bad for those people, because I’ve been able to do that in my life multiple times, you know? I’ve been able to reach a vision that we all had as a group, and I’ve been able to see those visions executed. And that’s awesome. Some people, they don’t have that, some people have never had that; some people never will have that. Those tend to be the ones that have the loudest opinions, and I feel bad for those people. Not so much the fact that they think that they’ll never be heard or whatever. Sometimes I feel like people who scream so loud, their opinions, they just want to be heard to see what other people are going to say. Maybe they don’t think words have any kind of weight or any sort of feel to them, but they do. So I tend to, not shy away from it, but I’m old enough now to know what pisses me off, so I try to avoid things that piss me off. When you get to be my age, which is not really that old, but when you get to be a certain age, you try to avoid things that piss you off. Your life will be better; you’ll live longer. It’s more fun.
Q: I can’t imagine you sitting on music news websites, venting your thoughts for hours on end as some people do about bands they don’t like.
A: You know, I got a life – those people, apparently that’s their life. So good lives, I guess. Seems shitty; yeah, I don’t know, whatever. Some people are happy being shitty.
Q: (Laughs) Indeed. Shifting topics to Soundwave now, but who are you keen to catch at the festival?
A: I heard Stiff Little Fingers was playing from a previous interview, so I’m just going to go with that. I don’t really know who else is playing. You probably shouldn’t tell me – don’t ruin the surprise.
Q: Would it be spoiling it for you if I revealed Green Day are the headliners?
A: Oh, see, you ruined it. You ruined it. Now I’m not going. That’s cool though, that’s really cool. Australian fans are crazy as shit, just like us. I’ve always said there was some weird connection between Florida and Australia. Maybe it’s just an area that’s surrounded by water, the surf culture. I don’t know what it is, but there’s some weird connection between Florida and Australia, and it’s a beautiful thing. I am so happy to be coming back. It’s a place that when I was a kid I never thought I would see, any more than outside of a picture book. So it’s very cool to be coming back yet again, and we’re stoked. It’s gonna be great.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never make it out alive.
Q: I have to ask – how did I ultimately compare to the previous four interviews?
A: Gold medal, you get the double gold medal. You’re first and second place – you won the gold and the silver, dude.
You can catch Less Than Jake at Soundwave on the following dates:
22/2: RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD
23/2: Olympic Park, Sydney NSW
28/2: Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
1/3: Boynthon Park, Adelaide SA
3/3: Claremont Showground, Perth WA