“Please tell me it’s warm where you are,” Less Than Jake’s Peter “JR” Wasilewski begged when we spoke on the phone.
“I am freezing my tail off right now in Connecticut, in the north US, and I would love a reminder that it’s warm somewhere in the world right now.”
Reassured that yes, it was warm in Australia, JR was happy to talk about the band’s new album, See The Light.
“Congrats on knowing the title,” he quipped when I congratulated him on the release.
“You know, it’s hard for me to tell you what went through our heads when we were writing this one, it’s the only record I had listened to for a while so I think I’m a bit too close to the project, you know, but I think some people are going to like it.”
The band went true DIY punk ethos with this album, despite having signed back to Fat Wreck Chords earlier in 2013, with bassist and vocalist Roger Lima producing the release.
“We were really trying to keep it all in house with this one,” JR said.
“Roger is a very talented man, so we really wanted to let his talents shine through.
“We’ve used other producers in the past, but it can be hard sometimes to connect their vision for the music with our own, and then it becomes less ‘ours’ and more ‘theirs’ if you know what I mean… this was really good because Roger was involved in every facet from start to finish, so we were really able to achieve what we originally set out to.”
Rumour had it the band literally sat around a table and workshopped each track on the album – something JR confirmed… somewhat.
“When I think of a jam session I see a bunch of hippies sitting around in some kind of drum circle… this was nothing like that,” he laughed.
“The song might start out as nothing but we’d start with the chords and melody then add some lyrics and see if it was something we could perform acoustically and sound awesome, that’s how we knew we’d written a great song.
“I guess we probably had about 80 per cent of the tracks done like that before we officially started recording anything.”
JR was introduced to Less Than Jake by some mutual friends, who thought playing with the band might be something he could sink his teeth into.
“Here we are, what, 14 years later and I’m still sinking my teeth into it,” he said.
“I was 24 when I joined, being that little bit older than a lot of bands starting out we kinda managed to get our shit together pretty early on.
“The guys didn’t try to haze me or anything like that… they did try to do something stupid one night after a show, I can’t honestly remember what it was now but they thought it would piss me off and when it happened I just turned around and said, “Really, guys?” and shrugged it off, so I think they gave up on the idea of pranking me then.”
Before heading to Australia for Soundwave, Less Than Jake will be touring the UK with Reel Big Fish and fellow Soundwave band Zebrahead.
“Oh man, I love those guys… we love those guys,” JR said.
“We’re really good friends with both the bands, so they’re good fun to tour with.
“Imagine a big group of friends out on the road drinking and partying and occasionally doing some work… that’s pretty much our tours.”
As for JR’s plans for the tour?
“Don’t die,” he said.
“That’s pretty much the entire plan for any tour we go on… come back alive.
“I think if I wasn’t doing this I’d probably be a professional male stripper… or a professional jockey.
“Those might be slightly more dangerous professions than musician though, right?”
There was that one incident though, on stage, with a pair of scissors…
“Mike from NOFX decided I needed a haircut when we were touring together in Orlando, Florida, so he brought a pair of scissors on stage while we were playing and cut my hair,” JR said.
“I guess he did me a favour, though, because I’ve had it short ever since.
“So I guess I should say thank you Fat Mike.”
It’s not only the on stage antics that get crazy – JR said the band had its fair share of hard core fans.
“Special’s a good word for some of them,” he said.
“Most of the crazier fans – we call them superfans – spend a lot of money to come see us, we know most of them by name now so it’s a little less creepy.
“We like to stop and chat to our fans though, hang out and have a beer or whatever.
“We’re kind of one of those bands that break down the band/fan gaps, you know?”
JR said he was looking forward to catching up with the band’s Australian fans again.
“It’s always a good time in Australia, and we have a couple of friends on Soundwave this year, plus some friends we’ve actually made Down Under, so it’s gonna be great,” he said.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve been to Australia now – I stopped counting at four.
“I can tell you though I want to drink as much VB as I can get my hands on, it reminds me of Bud here in the States.
“Maybe it could accompany an emu risotto, or something, I’m not quite sure what our itinerary holds yet.”
Less Than Jake will perform at Soundwave in February. For more information check the official web site. See The Light is out nowthrough Fat Wreck Chords.