What makes Warped Tour so magical is that you can see bands of just about any genre. Sure, there was a definite pop-punk calling, but these days anything goes. From pop, rock, punk, hip-hop and whatever “alternative” means now, you can hear it all. You can see Sum 41 play a packed field or The Interrupters play to an intimate group.
After years and years of playing Warped Tour (there I go, calling you old again), bands like Less Than Jake keep coming back. Which made me ask, “Why?” What is it about Warped that keeps bringing us all back? For the fans, it’s obviously the music. The amount of bands you get to see is worth more than the ticket price (the food prices are what hurt the most). But what about the bands?
I spoke with Chris DeMakes of Less Than Jake to find out why. I was torn between cutting out a lot of this, but it needed to be kept in tact. It’s a conversation, not an interrogation, and if you’re able to stay 100% on topic for the length of any conversation, I need to know what kind of drugs you’re taking. You can skip through the bits about my extravagant side hustle as a dog walker, but this is what it’s like to chat with Chris DeMakes.
Creative Control: First of all, I saw you guys play with Reel Big Fish in San Francisco a couple years ago…
Chris DeMakes: Yep.
CC: I actually tweeted at you guys and asked you to play “We’re All Dudes” and you included it in the medley.
CC: And I loved that.
CD: Well, thank you.
CC: So thank you for that.
CD: You’re the only person that’s thanked us for doing that song the whole tour. It’s finally worth it.
CC: Finally. How many Warped Tours have you guys played?
CD: Well, today was our 377th Warped Tour show. In 2014 we celebrated our 365th in West Palm Beach, so my life has been more than a year solid of Warped Tour shows at this point.
CC: How does that feel?
CD: Well, it’s one of the many reasons I have to see a therapist, but we can save that for another conversation. It’s awesome! To still be doing it. Our first tour was in ‘97. We’ve played the tour more than any other band out there. Every year that we’ve been on it since 1999, we’ve done the whole thing. And I think we’re one of the only bands on this tour, if not the only band, to have played it all three decades. And last century.
CC: What keeps you coming back to Warped Tour?
CD: The money.
CC: Just the money. That’s it.
CD: Yeah, and free hot dogs. Although, the free hot dog truck wasn’t out here this year. So, there’s a free Twix truck. So I’ve been eating my weight in Twix. I’m probably gonna gain a hundred pounds on this tour.
CC: That’s kinda like two-for-one, though.
CD: We keep coming back because of new fans. There’s a whole new group of people out here that have maybe never heard of us or never seen us before. So, that’s one of the main reasons. It’s a fun audience. We’re a festival band. We can get up in front of any crowd. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like, we can entertain people. At the end of the day that’s what people want.
CC: What do you guys have planned next after Warped?
CD: A lot. We’re going to Mexico City on the 20th of August. The tour ends the 13th, so we’re going down there to play a tour for Pepsi. So, we officially sold out, which is great. Maybe they’ll give us some free Pepsi. We’ve got a couple shows in Gainesville, Florida where we’re from for the Less Than Jake Wake n Bake Weekend. It’s our fifth year anniversary. This year it’s a whole weekend filled with activities and people come in from all over the place. It’s one big party. September we’re working on new songs. October we go to the U.K. and Europe for a month, and for November we have shows pretty much the whole month scattered about.
CC: Until the next Warped Tour.
CD: Until the next Warped Tour.
CC: What’s your favorite food to eat on tour?
CD: It’d have to be something like a protein. It doesn’t weigh you down too much. I love carbs like the next guy. I can eat a whole pizza in two seconds flat, but it would be protein.
CC: Just any kind of meat, then?
CD: Yeah, I’m a meat eater. Like chicken or maybe some seeds or nuts. I’m nuts, so…
CC: So, just feeding what you already are. You guys have been around for a while…
CD: That’s a nice way of saying that you’re old.
CC: You’re old. I’ve listened to you most of my life.
CD: Thank you.
CC: But what keeps you guys going?
CD: You know, at this point we pride ourselves that it’s pretty much been the same guys for 24 years. The new guy has been with us almost 17 years, our saxophone player, so keeping that core lineup in tact, still having fun. Still having fun and enjoying each other’s company enough in between the arguments to where you’re still a band. It’s like a family out here. It’s crazy. I’ve been with the same guys for 24 years, and at the same time it’s the best job in the world. It’s not hard. The hardest part of my day is I’ve gotta go talk to somebody who wants to talk to me about my band.
CC: It can be taxing.
CD: Sometimes. Even the shitty interviews I’ll make fun for me. They may not like it, but oh well.
CC: So, is there anything you want to talk about that I didn’t ask?
CD: I want to talk about you!
CC: Me? What would you like to know about me?
CD: I’d say you’re about 23?
CD: 25. 30. How old?
CD: I said 25! That’s close!
CC: You were close.
CD: I used to work at a carnival. If I guessed your age or weight 3 pounds off or 3 years, higher or under, anywhere in that margin. I won’t guess your weight; that’s rude. We’re not at the carnival. So, you’re 26. Do you have a job outside of being a journalist?
CC: Yeah, I’m also a dog walker.
CD: I love that.
CC: I love it, too. I love being able to hang out with dogs. I also do some freelance editing.
CD: Do you have your own dog or do you walk other people’s dogs?
CC: I just walk other people’s dogs.
CD: I like that. It’s like when you go see your friends that have kids you can play with the kids. Then when you wanna go home, you get in the car and say see ya. They take care of the other stuff. How often do you walk these dogs? If someone’s gonna be gone at eight in the morning until 5 PM, how often do you have to stop by and walk the dog? You’ve probably gotta let it out twice, so around noon and around four?
CC: Something like that. One of my regulars I walk at 10 and at one.
CD: What happens when you walk into the house to a massive mound the dog left? Do you have to pick it up, or do you wait for the owner to pick it up?
CC: I’ll do it to be nice.
CD: If you came to my house, knowing that I didn’t have a dog, and there’s shit in the floor. And you can tell the difference between human and dog shit. Would you clean that up?
CC: How much would you be paying me to clean that up?
CD: Nope, you’re paid to walk the dog, you don’t charge extra to clean the dog shit up!
CC: No, humans are a little different.
CD: Is this gonna make the interview?
CC: Absolutely. We’re gonna throw all this in.
CD: Ok, great. Interesting. How long have you lived in Nashville for?
CC: A year.
CD: Where are you from originally?
CC: Georgia originally.
CD: What part?
CC: Columbus, Georgia, if you’ve heard of that.
CD: Columbus, Georgia. I have.
CC: It’s kind of on the way to Florida. I’ve been to Gainesville a couple of times.
CD: I used to live in Atlanta. I know where Columbus, Georgia is.
CC: I lived in Atlanta for a few years, then San Francisco a few years, now I’m here.
CD: Why’d you move back here from San Francisco?
CC: I’ve always wanted to live in Tennessee. It’s kind of been on my bucket list. And my boyfriend’s a musician, so Nashville’s the place.
CD: Does he leave to go on the road a lot?
CC: He does.
CD: Do you worry about him being on the road?
CC: I did at first, but now I’m just kind of used to it.
CD: That’s good. Well, that concludes my interview.
CC: Should we go back to my interview now?
CD: I thought we were done. You turned it over to me, that’s usually the sign that things are over.
CC: No, I like to check in with you guys. To talk about what you want to talk about. It doesn’t have to be all my questions.
CD: Well, I wanted to get to know you and I did a little bit. What else ya got?
CC: So, you guys just pretty much live on the road, right?
CD: Well, we’re on the road a lot, but we try to give ourselves time off during the year. We’ll take six weeks or two months off here, which isn’t a lot of time, but gives us some normalcy to do other things. We still tour a lot, though.
CC: Do you stay in Gainesville when you’re off?
CD: I live three hours south of Gainesville, but the rest of the guys stay there.
CC: What city is three hours south of Gainesville?
CD: I live in a place called Port Charlotte. So, it’s about a hundred miles south of Tampa.
CC: How do you like that?
CD: It’s cool. It’s where I grew up when I was going to school before I went off to college. Yeah, it’s cool. I sell real estate when I’m there.
CC: Oh, how’s that going?
CD: Absolutely fantastic.
CC: Do you want to use this interview to publicize?
CD: You can just post the card.
CC: I absolutely will.
CD: That’s how you know I’m not shittin’ you. Look how professional.
CC: You got your hair done and you’re wearing the polo… Nice. What’s your favorite house that you’ve sold?
CD: Probably the first one I ever sold. Just because it was a family and it was like their dream home. It had a pool and hardwood floors. It had palm trees and all that shit. It was a total Florida home. And they were from up north – Indiana – so that was probably my favorite so far.
CC: What do you like to do when you’re not working real estate?
CD: When I’m home, I stand for six days straight doing real estate. I’m up all night. I’m waking people up. At my house: “How you doing? Yeah, I’m off the road. I’ve only got a certain amount of time. Buy a fuckin’ house.” It’s pretty intense. I can barely get a shit, a sleep or a eat in.
CC: That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re off tour though…
CD: That’s why you’ve walked in and there’s been no piles on the floor.
CC: So you do need someone to come in and clean up after you?
CD: In more ways than one.