LESS THAN JAKE
Interview with Drummer Vinnie Fiorello
By Alex Del Campo
Photography by Jodi Cunningham
Ska/punk pioneers Less Than Jake have been around for 20 plus years and are still staying relevant. With an album due out this year and a European tour coming up, Less Than Jake has stayed busy. Drummer Vinnie Fiorello was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions about their upcoming album, tours, and his thoughts about the state of Fueled By Ramen.
The band has released a new album last year, Greetings and Salutations via Rude Records/Fat Wreck Chords, and you have mentioned in an update on your website that you are on the early stages of writing some new songs for a release later this year. Is this a direct branch off from Greetings and Salutations or can we expect a completely different sound this time around?
Less Than Jake songs seem to be Less Than Jake songs. When you have a core unit together for over 20 years it’s hard to reinvent the wheel and, honestly, why should we try to reinvent it? Greetings was casually written specifically for EPs. We tried a few things we wouldn’t have done on a full- length. Expect this round of songs to be more cohesive, musically and lyrically. This time we are writing for a full- length and that means better production, and lyrical themes tied into the complete package of art.
Is your horn section a little more or a little less involved on your upcoming record?
The horns have been heavily involved in writing not only parts but also songs; it’s a very democratic process for writing records since GNV FLA. Everyone in the band has their fingerprints on the songs.
What are some concepts used in your writing, is there a specific message or emotion you want to make apparent?
I guess that depends on what record you’re talking about, a lot of the lyrics in our catalog provide a dark cloud backdrop and the music provides the silver lining. This upcoming record has been dealing with faith, not just in religion, but generally speaking. It’s a heavy concept for a bouncy ska punk band I guess, but we never really had that many just fluff songs.
When you wrote Greetings and Salutations, was it more of a group effort when it came to writing, or was it more individually driven and will your new record hold the same style of writing?
Writing LTJ records is very much the five of us. It’s a very democratic process at times and leads to interesting places and sometimes to places that we would never gotten to if it was only one person writing.
The band has just announced a European tour and that you’re playing SXSW this year. Are there any plans to set up a full US run anytime soon?
We are planning out 2013 right now. I think a full US tour will happen closer to a record release of the new record. We have been actively touring for two decades so I don’t think we wouldn’t tour.
Are there talks or plans to return to the Vans Warped Tour?
We aren’t doing the Warped tour this year even though it seems like every ska punk band happens to be on it this year. I’m sure in the future we’ll be back on the tour; we’ve done it so many times.
Being around for so long and having eight studio albums under your belt, is there a song in your discography that you always have to have in your set list when you play a show?
“Goodbye, Mr. Personality” is an essential live song now. It’s one of those songs that really takes on something different when we do it live compared to the recorded version.
You founded Paper + Plastick Records four years ago, how do you balance being in a full- time band and running a record label?
I’ve been lucky lately to have a great crew of people helping me out, but it takes really tight scheduling and some frustration to keep everything moving along together while giving my attention to a few different things at once.
Looking at the music scene now, how do you feel about the new up and coming bands, such as bands that are now playing Warped Tour? Are there any that you feel can successfully carry the torch for the new generation?
Red City Radio, Hostage Calm, Make Do And Mend, Teenage Bottlerocket, The Swellers, The Skints, Apologies I Have None. All of these bands have been carrying the torch, all of them are smart in what they do and understand making music for the new generation.
Less Than Jake have been together for 21 years. How do you all manage to keep a level head with each other? I imagine there can be times when things would be frustrating between members. How do you all cope and keep things fresh?
We are brothers now. We know how to dial up tension and dial down the frustration with each other. Again there’s this chemical reaction with all of us on and off stage. It’s the glue that keeps everything together and the gasoline to throw on the fire when things feel stale. I feel lucky to be able to have my best friends be in the band I play in.
How do you feel about the state of Fueled By Ramen since you left it in 2006? Do you feel as though the bands being added to the label are contributing to the music scene in a positive way?
One of the most talented bands in the music scene is currently under the roof of FBR. That band is fun. For a moment FBR seemed to be a shadow of its former self, but with fun. I think it invigorated the label.