What do you do if you’re in a band for more than a decade-and-a-half and have just left your label? You start your own and release what drummer Vinnie Fiorello of Less Thank Jake calls an album for fans of “infectious, catchy pop-punk.” He, along with bandmates guitarist/vocalist Chris Demakes, bassist Roger Manganelli, trombonist Buddy Schaub and saxophonist JR Wasilewski, started their own label, Sleep It Off Records, which will not only will release their new album, GNV FLA, but several of the band’s older records as well.
With so much going on in the Less Than Jake camp, it was surprising to hear that Fiorello has time to even think about side projects. He took some time to discuss not only the new album, but how his own company is recapturing the lost art of the entire music package as well as the age old question on the state of ska music.
With the new album, you said that you wanted to get back to Less Than Jake’s musical roots, named it after your hometown and released it off your own label. There’s a pretty distinct theme around it, so what can fans expect?
I mean, you discovered it. It’s what people have come to think about what Less Than Jake is. Fans can expect that. Is it a throw back to who we were? Absolutely not. Is it a step backwards musically? Absolutely not. There’s no power ballad, there’s no techno remix, there’s no rapper coming out, it’s what we come to think of LTJ. If that’s what your expectations are, they’re going to be met and hopefully exceeded.
Lyrically you wanted to talk about the everyman. Why this topic?
I think with this record, I just wanted to sort of create a small movie based on a few different people. I wanted to make it a little more cinematic than it had been in the past. Like one song, ‘Handshake Meets Pokerface’ is a song about a single mom, sort of sacrificing to make ends meet for her kids. There are other songs talking about the 40-hour work week and sort of coming to grips with that maybe you’re programmed already to do the things you do. Overall, it wasn’t necessarily focusing on the everyman, as far as, it was focusing on how the everyman lives in the future and doesn’t live in the present. It’s always ‘Things will be better tomorrow.’ I find it kind of disturbing sometimes that people don’t live in the now. I just wanted to sort of roll out the red carpet and point out a few things that have gone on and use the small town as a backdrop for it.
Will fans be surprised at the darker lyrical content?
The last four records that we’ve done are basically sort of heavy on that anyway. I’m proud of the lyrics and proud of how it came out. I used sort of the influence of let’s say, older Bruce Springsteen, you know. And not that I would ever compare myself to him, it’s just the influence where he just sort of uses a backdrop of scenery to explain the point of the lyric.
Was there anything you were able to do on this record that maybe you couldn’t have before being under a major label’s eye?
Well, I mean that’s sort of a loaded question in a weird way. Just because you’re on this label, doesn’t indicate that they have an eye on you or are pulling you in a certain way that you’re not already going. I think that ultimately we decided, even before we wrote note one of this record, what kind of record we wanted. We wanted a dark influenced pop-punk record with ska in it and horns. I think that we had that blueprint before we started even writing and we wanted a record that over-amplified LTJ.
Was there hassle with the label? Obviously, but there’s hassle even when we’re putting the record out ourselves, as the label. It’s just the power transfers in a general term, to us from them. Which is where, I think anyway, the music industry is heading, where labels will become banks with distribution anyways. Yeah, I remember talking with another band about labels becoming obsolete. That will never happen. Well, maybe not the majors, but the smaller ones might get picked off. I mean, it’s just the economy. The economy is what it is. I think, honestly, what you’ll see is labels becoming more streamlined, where this label only primarily puts out pop-punk music and this other label only puts out reggae music.