Less Than Jake

By paul

Vinnie Fiorello hasn’t exactly got what you would call a ‘brief’ CV. As founding member, drummer and lyricist for one of the most successful ska-punk acts of, well, ever, he’s seen every side of the music industry. He knows how it works, he knows what makes it tick. Let’s also not forget, as co-founder of Fueled By Ramen not only has he sold millions of his own records, he’s also sold millions of other people’s too. So why then, with all that wealth of experience did Less Than Jake’s last record In with the Outcrowd get such a modest welcome from fans and industry folk alike?

“It was a real cut down the middle,” explains Vinnie, “It was a very loved, or very hated record. There was no luke warm middle fans of the album, there were two very different mindsets about it.”

With a noteable lack of horns, and a more straight-up rock feel to it, In With The Outcrowd wasn’t a typical Less Than Jake record; it signalled a chance for them to break the mould a little, a chance to do something people weren’t expecting.

“Here’s the thing: a record is just a collection of songs of who you were at the time of writing those songs. It’s a shame that sometimes fans, reviewers and press keep bands in their place. If bands step out of their place they’re chastised.”

It’s a valid point, and one that you can imagine most musicians and bands would agree with.. Music fans are fickle and labels are hard to shake. However, as part of a genre-defining band, Vinnie’s under no impression Less Than Jake will turn their back on their ska-punk roots.

“Of course, Less Than Jake has a specific sound in peoples mind’s eye. When they think of Less Than Jake, they think of fast, melodic punk rock, some ska, some horns. I think that even in the face of not doing a record like that, people still associate us with that category. I honestly believe that no matter what we did, even if it was a death metal record, everyone would still think of us as ska-punkers from Gainesville, Florida!

However, that was then, this is now. Where In With The Out Crowd had fans turning their backs on Less Than Jake, GNV FLA is here to remind those very people why they fell in love with five dudes from Gainesville, Rock City in the first place. Fiorello describes it as a “true” Less Than Jake record and it’s an apt description. With a self-release through their own Sleep It Off label, LTJ are doing everything themselves this time around. With the state of the music industry at present, it’s something Vinnie encourages more and more bands to do.

“My belief is that in the future, bands will be cottage industries. The band will sell their own merch to kids, will put out their own records, will own everything and do everything that pertains to being in a band, themselves.

“As money shrinks, the pie shrinks. When that happens, there has to be less eaters involved in that smaller pie. Before long, bands won’t be able to afford to have a label taking 20 to 50 percent of everything they make.”

Of course, Less Than Jake should find it easier than most to make that business model work. Fiorello’s experience as co-founder of Fueled By Ramen records gives them something of a head start. It’s not all business and money though. Fiorello is a man of principles, and when he saw that FBR’s standards were slipping with every new act they signed, he left, his original ideas for a record label, diluted.

“I left on my own terms, and that was a cool thing, but I also left leaving a mark with Fueled By Ramen. They started to put out the same type of music, they started doing the same things.

“For me that was a trapping that I’ve seen all too well, with Epitaph, Fat, Drive-Thru. Once you keep releasing the same-sounding records, it’s the kiss of death. You start to follow your own tail and that only ever leads to a spiral down.”

Whether GNV FLA stands the test of time as a ‘true’ Less Than Jake record remains to be seen, but all signs are positive so far.

“I think that when you go and write a record and people understand what you meant by it, that’s a huge milestone for any song-writer or for anyone in a band, The fact that you can do this body of work and people embrace it and understand it, that’s amazing. GNV FLA seems to have done that, and I think that’s been the best part of 2008.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]