At the Crazy Donkey (Farmingdale, New York) Roger Manganelli – bassist and one of the singers of Gainesville, Florida’s Less Than Jake was kind enough to set aside some time for, as the schedule said, a “shitty interview.” After dishing out “it’s not you it’s me” in regards to the warm welcome, Roger discussed existing as a band in a digital world, the perks of running your own label, and gave an introductory lesson on Pez dispensers.
No interview would be complete without an interruption and this interview’s interruption was sponsored by Less Than Jake’s generosity – 2 bottles of whiskey for the birthday boys of opening band Bomb the Music Industry. Although the singer of Bomb the Music Industry swore off drinking before shows, a bottle of whiskey is a terrible thing to waste. Those of you unsatisfied with their performance can direct complaints to Less Than Jake.
QRO: Are you guys excited to be back on good ol’ Long Island?
Roger Manganelli: You know it’s always a good time people are energetic and it’s awesome. Totally excited.
QRO: Are you guys in the middle of a tour right now?
RM: Yeah, we are at the ass end of a tour another four shows or so.
QRO: Was it a full US tour?
RM: No we played some shows up in the northwest like Seattle, Idaho that area and then we went into Canada. It was our first real Canadian tour. We’ve played shows in Montreal and Toronto before but never a full tour. We played all the way across Canada for a week and a half.
QRO: How was Canada?
RM: It was awesome! A lot of fun, good fans, good shows. We toured with Reel Big Fish and when we tour together things seem to be awesome so no complaints.
QRO: You guys are touring in support of your new record, GNV FLA?
RM: It seems that way – it’s kind of weird how things are with music these days. You’re not really touring for the record anymore ‘cause no one buys the record. Everything’s downloaded and all that kind of stuff. We have the new songs but we’re still just touring because we’d be on tour anyway, ya know what I mean. So yeah we’re still touring in support of the new record but the new record is kind of supporting us sort of.
QRO: You co-produced the new songs. Was it the first time you’ve done something like that?
RM: I don’t really know. I tend to be overly involved in the recording process even since the beginning of the band so whether I ever got credit for doing whatever it is that is or not I don’t know. I feel like I did the same amount of work on this record as I did on Borders and Boundaries but it’s all just part of writing the songs and having an audio vision for that. I mean I got to be more involved.
QRO: Do you write all the songs together?
RM: It’s complicated. It kind of has different phases. It will be like Chris [Demakes, guitarist/singer] or I will have a song idea and Vinnie Fiorello [drummer/lyricist] will write lyrics that go with that song idea or Vinnie will just have words that he wrote down and we’ll take that and sort of mold it into a song. I mean it kind of happens in different ways and not everyone is always involved, and sometimes everyone is involved it just depends. There’s no like formula for writing songs at least not in our band. It’s pretty much however it comes apart and falls apart and everything if it feels right it feels right the song is the ultimate guide. Am I being too hippie for you?
QRO: No, you’re just enough hippie.
QRO: How long has the current lineup been playing together?
RM: Well it’s been the same members of the band since ‘92 with the exception of one horn player. So it’s been the four of us since the beginning of the band and then we’ve had some different horn players but JR’s the new guy and he’s been in the band for eight years so it hasn’t been that drastic.
QRO: Is there a video out for any of the new songs?
RM: Yeah “Does the Lion City Still Roar?” Actually I saw it on Fuse today, it was awesome. Steven played it today. Download that bad boy.
QRO: Even though people mainly download songs nowadays do you still think it’s important to have cool album artwork?
*Interruption by Bomb the Music Industry*
RM: Well no I think it goes a long way with people who are actually fans of the band. I understand that people who do buy the records are stoked when it’s something that has some value and some thought and actually looks cool. Hopefully slowly that will start to get people motivated to buy vinyl again. Not only does it sound better but you get more of an experience with the artwork and stuff and the lyric sheet in your hand rather than on your computer screen. There’s something more intimate about that. I think slowly but surely vinyl will continue to kind of hold steady even with people not buying CDs anymore.
QRO: Do you think the Internet helps or hurts music as a whole?
RM: It does a little bit of both I think it depends on the band. On a band that is enormously huge like Metallica it definitely hurts cause people are just going to download their stuff-period. But a smaller band maybe that hasn’t sold anything but has been able to have some good shows and get some fans out because of their MySpace or whatever you know what I mean. Using the Internet as a tool to promote the band is awesome. My sisters’ band doesn’t have a CD or whatever but they constantly pull 100 kids at their shows because they promote heavily on the internet and they stay in touch with their fans that way so it can be either or. For Less Than Jake we’re right in the middle. We definitely get a lot of paths to talk about the band, and interviews, and stuff for sale, and you know what I mean MySpace’s and Facebook’s all that kind of stuff there’s a presence there that definitely helps the band. But at the same time I know we’re one of the bands that is a victim of a lot of downloading so there you go.
QRO: Besides the recent release of GNV FLA, you’ve started to re-release the Less Than Jake catalog from the beginning. What’s the plan?
RM: We did a thing last year we played all of our albums in their entirety at six separate shows and we recorded all that stuff, video and that kind of stuff. On the first one we did, that has already been released, for Pezcore it includes a DVD of the whole album we preformed live. And there’s other content in there – extra stuff, pictures, fun stuff that make you want to actually have the DVD. We’re trying to do that with all the records slowly but surely.
QRO: This is all going through Sleep It Off Records – the label owned and operated by the band?
RM: Yeah, we got out of our major label stuff and we’re just doing our own thing.
QRO: Is it awesome?
RM: It’s pretty awesome, it’s more work for everyone individually and we definitely have to pay for more things out of our pocket then we used to with a major but there’s no red tape and there’s no one to ultimately tell us what to do. Not that anyone really ever told us what to do but kind of persuade you in a certain way ya know. They kind of go ‘you don’t have to do this but if you did it would be really cool’ and you’re like ‘ehhh I don’t know.’ It’s pretty cool.
QRO: Does everyone contribute to the label?
RM: To some degree everyone is involved ya know what I mean. Chris doesn’t really do that much, he’s the lead singer he’s allowed to do whatever he wants. He’s that guy. I kind of deal with all the audio stuff and Buddy [Schaub, trombonist] deals with all the video stuff and [Peter] JR [Wasilewiski, saxophonist] deals with all the online stuff and Vinnie deals with everything else and we have a great publicist named Rey [Roldan] he totally does what we need him to do. It’s a different world but a lot of bands are doing it and you know it’s a way to stay on a smooth track not to have any kind of weird outside voices.
QRO: Is Sleep It Off just for Less Than Jake or will other bands be on the roster in the future?
RM: It hasn’t really been set in stone either way for the time being it’s just Less Than Jake releases but it doesn’t mean it won’t ever have another band. We’ll just have to see where that one leads.
QRO: What’s your favorite Less Than Jake song to play live?
RM: It’s exciting to play new songs live, we’ve been playing “Summon Monsters” and that’s on the new record it’s fast and got some fun fast quick bass licks that are fun to play so that’s a fun one to play live. Been getting off on that lately, and I think “Conviction Notice” is super solid live and the horn line is great. It’s fun to play new songs.
QRO: Are you guys playing most of the new album on this tour?
RM: We’re playing like three songs and the old stuff that everyone wants to hear too. We can’t play just all brand new songs you got to mix it up a little.
QRO: If you had it your way would you play all new songs?
RM: It’s totally cool you know.
QRO: What’s the best part of being in Less Than Jake?
RM: Doing interviews on Long Island it’s awesome. I really love doing that. I don’t know. The best part of being in Less Than Jake is that it affords me the luxury of not having a quote un-quote real job. I mean we work a lot, we’re on tour a lot, it’s not like I have an escalade or Jacuzzi or anything. You know it pays the bills and we can buy Pez dispensers if we want to, you know what I mean. It’s a good life.
QRO: How many Pez dispensers do you have?
RM: Well over 800 at this point.
QRO: Any duplicates?
RM: No I don’t collect stem variations – the different colored bottom part – cause you can have one Pez dispenser that has a head and there will be the same head but the bottom will have a different color. I don’t collect those at all so mine are all different Pez dispensary heads, because the head is really the most collectible part. I’m trying to give you lessons on Pez dispensers… How dare you suggest I collect stem variations? Are they all duplicates? NO THEY’RE NOT DUPLICATES! That would be cheating.
QRO: I didn’t know if you had a favorite one in 10 different colors…
RM: I have 800 Mickey mice. I just love Mickey Mouse, I have 800 of them, it’s awesome.
QRO: I don’t know you, maybe you do…
RM: God I seem that crazy then, is that what you’re saying?
QRO: Do you have them all on display?
QRO: How are they displayed-a glass case?
RM: Uh no – that would be dangerous because they’re in my bedroom. People could get hurt. But no, I made shelves and it takes up a giant wall.
QRO: Do you have a favorite or most prized dispenser?
RM: Psychedelic Eye from the 60’s. Look it up nerds.
QRO: How long have you been collecting them?
RM: Since probably around the time I joined the band.
QRO: What sparked your interested in Pez?
RM: It’s a great way to pick up chicks cause they were making Rufinol Pez tablets for a while in Gainesville you could – never mind erase that part. Pez is rad.
QRO: Do you just like the dispensers or do you enjoy the candy as well?
RM: The candy’s all right.
QRO: Where’s your favorite place to play a hometown area show?
RM: This place called Common Grounds that used to be called the Covered Dish. We’ve been playing there over the last thirteen years so that feels the most home-ish. [some background chatter] Yeah the old room moved to where the Covered Dish used to be, the old room is a club that’s called 1982 that my friend owns. That’s a cool little club. That’s more where I go to hangout than Common Grounds. Common Grounds is kind of hectic and that kind of thing but yeah it’s the same owner as it was from the little place.
QRO: What are you guys up to after you leave Long Island?
RM: We will be hanging out for an extended amount of time in Europe. From November 1st until the end of our lives, it’s a very long tour. We’re playing the Fest on Halloween, which is my birthday in Florida – in Gainesville. We’re playing the Fest, my other band, Rehasher, is playing the Fest and we’re just going to be taking a little bit of time to breathe in January and probably be out on the road again pretty soon in the states. We’re doing some international stuff Australia, Japan, South America – that’s going on but nothing going on in the states quite yet.
QRO: What music have you been listening to lately?
RM: The new Metallica. The new Metallica record is pretty rockin’ I’ve been listening to that. I’ve been listening to the Josie and the Pussycats Soundtrack on repeat since about 2003. Les Paul the guitar player, Les Paul and Mary Ford – check that out, it’s good stuff.
QRO: I think that’s it.
RM: All right, cool. Thank you. Oh great, it ends on me saying I liked a Hillary Duff song. I was hoping for something else after that. Make something up, something… to be or not to be – anything.
QRO: Your favorite AC/DC singer – Bon Scott or Brian Johnson?
RM: I’m a Back in Black guy. I can’t help it man. I see both sides of that fence. It’s a tough one.