Thursday, November 23, 2017

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Who Are Less Than Jake?

Less Than Jake is an American ska punk band from Gainesville, Florida. Originally formed in 1992 as a power pop trio, the band evolved into a hybrid of third-wave ska and punk pop, with added elements of modern rock and even metal. To date, the group has released seven original full-length albums and a number of singles and compilations. The current lineup comprises guitarist/vocalist Chris Demakes, bassist/vocalist Roger Manganelli, drummer/lyricist Vinnie Fiorello, trombonist Buddy Schaub, and saxophonist JR.


Before Less Than Jake, Vocalist and guitarist Chris Demakes and drummer Vinnie Fiorello led a local band named Good Grief with bassist Shaun Grief while attending high school in Port Charlotte, Florida. Good Grief broke up when Chris moved north to attend the University of Florida at Gainesville, Florida. On July 13th, 1992, what would become Less Than Jake was born. While Shaun moved to New York City (he would later return as the band's roadie), Chris and Vinnie started writing songs on the weekends before Vinnie joined Chris at the University of Florida. When Vinnie arrived, the two decided they needed a bass player. But first, they wanted a name. Says Fiorello, "We decided before we tried to get a bass player we'd zero in on a name for the "band" - to either (A) - make it seem like we had our shit together or (B) - make ourselves feel better. I think it was (B) or maybe it was just so I could write it over and over again on notebook paper during my anthropology class."

They decided to the name the band following a traumatic experience involving Chris' dog, Thumper. Chris said in interview back in 2001, that when he was vacationing in Florida, his dog Thumper ran into the water and almost drowned, if it was not for a young man by the name of Jake Whitt, Thumper would have surely drowned and been eaten by sharks. Chris was so grateful that he repayed Jacob with his own band name. Jake is also a term often used to describe something as good. After practicting with a different bass player for a couple of weeks, the band met Roger Manganelli, a guitarist who also attended the University of Florida. After Roger practiced with the band on guitar for a few hours, the band kicked the bass player out and asked Roger to play the bass with them. Citing influence from Snuff, the band decided they wanted to add a horn section. In 1993, the group added their first horn player, Jessica Mills, and releasd their first 7" record, Smoke Spot, hand pressing all 300 records themselves. Soon after, trombone player Buddy Schaub joined the band. Over the first few years, the band put out their first EP, Better Class Of Losers, made compilation appearances, and released several vinyl records (featuring songs that would later appear on Losers, Kings, and Things We Don't Understand compilation, before Mike Park agreed to release the band's debut album on Dill Records. Right before the band's first U.S. tour in June 1995 with Skankin' Pickle, Schaub had already made plans to travel to Europe with his friends. The band found a temporary replacement in saxophonist Derron Nuhfer, who filled in for Schaub during his absence. After speculation that Derron would (and then wouldn't) join the band, Derron became a permanent member in August 1995.

Less Than Jake's first full length LP Pezcore debuted in August 1995, featuring such staples as Liquor Store and My Very Own Flag. Originally on Dill Records, the CD contained 21-tracks, including two covers of TV theme songs Jeffersons and Laverne and Shirley (which were omitted on the 2002 reissue through Fueled By Ramen Records). The title of the album stemmed from Roger and Vinnie's unexplained fondness for PEZ candy, clearly apparent in their reportedly sizable Pez dispenser collections. The name is partly a homage to their obsession and partly a parody of the way in which many bands are described as [something]-core. Ever since, Pez dispenser motifs have been a common feature of Less Than Jake's merchandise.

Commercial Growth

Shortly following the release of Pezcore, the band was signed to Capitol Records. They debuted on the major label in 1996 with Losing Streak. The album was full of the band's wry, fast-paced brand of ska-punk anthems, producing such fan favorites as "Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts," "Jen Doesn't Like Me Anymore," and "Automatic". Following the 1997 Warped Tour, saxophonist Jessica Mills left to pursue teaching, and was later replaced by ex-Slapstick trombonist Pete Anna in January 1998 (trombonist Lars Nylander served as a fill-in during the fall of 1997). Around this time, Vinnie Fiorello also started his own record label, Fueled by Ramen, with friend John Janick, as a means to find and promote up-and-coming bands that he himself would want to hear. During 1997, the band embarked on the Caffeine Nation Tour with the Descendents, Guttermouth, and Handsome, the Race Around Uranus Tour with Blink-182 and Frenzal Rhomb, and the Warped Tour.

In 1998, after participating in the Ska Against Racism Tour with such ska acts as The Toasters and Mustard Plug, and the Warped Tour, the band released Hello Rockview. which included staple songs such as "All My Best Friends Are Metalheads" and "Last One Out Of Liberty City", which is commonly used as a circle-pitter. The band even spawned a minor college radio hit with "History of a Boring Town", which reached #49 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks, despite not being released as a single. Following the album, tensions started to grow with Capitol. There were disagreements over various issues, including Capitol dragging its feet over doing a video for "History of a Boring Town", the band selling full length shows on, and the band selling two full length CDs, Bootleg a Bootleg, You Cut Out The Middle Man and Goodbye Blue and White through themselves. After recording what would be Borders & Boundaries, the band opted to buyout their contract from Capitol and release the new album on Fat Wreck Chords instead of Capitol.

In September 2000, the band released Borders & Boundaries, as well as landing the opening spot on Bon Jovi's North American Fall tour. While it was neither as commercially successful or musically appreciated as previous releases initially, the album was a display of significant growth for the band, showcasing much more mature music than the band had ever shown before. Still, the album provided fans with two instant hits in "Look What Happened" (which received minor airplay on college stations) and their hometown anthem, "Gainesville Rock City (which received some airtime on MTV2)." Shortly after the album's recording, Derron Nuhfer left the band (going on to join Gunmoll and later Escape Grace; he currently plays bass for Cutman, a Gainesville-based rock band featuring ex members of Escape Grace and Unitas), and Less Than Jake found a replacement in the ashes of another ska band, this time ex-Spring Heeled Jack U.S.A. saxophonist, Pete Wasilewski. To avoid the confusion provided by having two Peters within the band, the second Pete Wasilewski was dubbed JR (as in 'Peter Junior'). He still goes by JR even following the departure of the first Pete after the 2001 Warped Tour.

In 2002, Less Than Jake spent time touring with Bad Religion and Hot Water Music while spending most of the summer touring in Europe. Less Than Jake rereleased their compilation album, Goodbye Blue and White, which included various 7" releases spanning from 1996-2001, and provided a different tracklisting from the first pressing. The album was named in honor of their original tour van, with the liner notes having the band recounting memories of the van. To celebrate the band's 10th year anniversary, Pezcore was re-released and the band's first four 7", Smoke Spot, Pez Kings, Unglued, and Rock-n-Roll Pizzeria, were repressed and included in a limited edition Cereal Box (which also featured a t-shirt, bobblehead, and pin).

Less Than Jake returned to major label status with their next album Anthem, releasing the 2003 LP on Warner Bros./Sire Records. It featured hit singles in both the US and the UK, with "She's Gonna Break Soon" (which spent a couple weeks on TRL), "The Science Of Selling Yourself Short" (#37 Hot 100[4]), and "The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out" featuring Billy Bragg (UK Top 40). Actress Alexis Bledel, known for her role as Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls appeared in the video for She's Gonna Break Soon, where she played the unnamed subject of the song, an angst teen girl who has a nervous breakdown, and destroys her bedroom over the course the song. After spending time touring on the Warped Tour and gaining support from Fall Out Boy, Yellowcard, and Bang Tango, the band released B Is for B-sides in July 2004. The album comprised tracks that didn't make Anthem's final cut and was produced by Less Than Jake. The DVD retrospective The People's History of Less Than Jake appeared a month later, featuring both professional and bootleg recordings of the band. The band also held the opening spot on the main stage during the Projekt Revolution tour in the summer of 2004 with Linkin Park, Korn, Snoop Dogg, and The Used before taking a long break to write their next record.

Recent Activity

After spending the majority of 2005 writing and recording, the band opened 2006 with a bang, going on a full U.S. and Europe tour that also featured Catch 22, A Wilhelm Scream, The Loved Ones, The New Mexican Disaster Squad, Rock-n-Roll Soldiers, Damone, Dropkick Murphys, and Far From Finished. In April 2006, the band released its four-song Absolution for Idiots and Addicts (EP), with their next full-length, In with the Out Crowd, following a month later on Sire Records. The album was also issued in a limited edition that came in a leather-bound case complete with bonus multimedia discs that contained a plethora of music videos, bonus tracks and an elaborate photo gallery.

In February 2007, Less Than Jake played six shows in Florida that each featured the band playing one of their albums in its entirety, plus b-sides and rarities. They played at three venues with each venue featuring two shows to be recorded for a possible DVD release. The records performed were Borders and Boundaries, Pezcore, Losing Streak, Anthem, Hello Rockview, and In with the Out Crowd. They then did the same in London, United Kingdom, in September 2007, playing at the Mean Fiddler for 6 nights in a row.

On 21 May 2007, after much speculation, Vinnie Fiorello announced on his blog that the band had asked and been granted their release from their contract with Sire Records and Warner Brothers. Following this split, the band released five high quality (MP3, 320kbit/s), DRM-free, unedited recordings of their live shows, taken directly from the mixing console at each show. These recordings are being released for sale on the band's website via Snocap. During the 6 Albums / 6 Shows / 6 Nights in London, Chris stated that Less Than Jake's new record label in the UK and Europe would be Cooking Vinyl.

In the summer 2007, Less Than Jake embarked on the Shout It Loud Tour, co-headlining with Reel Big Fish and featuring support from Streetlight Manifesto and Against All Authority. During the shows, the band held a spoof of The Price is Right, quizzing the contestants on various Less Than Jake "trivia", having them play a few games from the shows, using the games to determine which album they'd play selections from, and giving prizes to the winners. The band reunited with Reel Big Fish and Streetlight Manifesto for a Japan and Australia tour in December 2007.

On January 8, 2008, after speculation that the next Less Than Jake record could be released on Fat Wreck Chords or Victory Records, CMJ reported that the band was starting their own label, named Sleep It Off Records, the name taken from the title of a song from the B is for B-sides record. The purpose of the new label is to release the band's forthcoming album in summer 2008 and to reissue their back catalog. Reissues of Goodbye Blue And White, Pezcore, Losers, Kings And Things We Don't Understand, and the DVD The Peoples History Of Less Than Jake were released on March 18th. The reissues include new artworks and bonus DVDs.

Upon talking about their new album, Vinnie mentioned his desire to "combine third wave ska and pop punk in each song," hinting at a possible return to the band's older sound. He also had the following to say: "When you are in a pop punk band in your 16th year, sometimes you don't fit in the modern music industry. You need to be a shiny new penny. We didn't feel like the rest of our years as a band should fit in that narrow parameter. ... All I do know is that we're writing songs now and they seem to have the spirit of a tempo in mind, all very speedy but once we hit the record button they may be slower."

In a March 2008 press release pertaining to Vinnie's new record label Paper + Plastick, Vinnie stated that the band was currently in Chicago recording their new album, slated for a June 24, 2008 release date.

On April 20th, Vinnie announced, via his blog, that the new album, recorded at Atlas Studios in Chicago, was totally finished. On April 23 Vinnie revealed the title of the album would be [[{{NAMESPACE:Discography/GNVFLA|GNV FLA]], the name being an abbreviation for the Gainesville's old airport code. Even though the band has played shows since the album's recording, Less Than Jake has not played any of the new songs, instead deciding to hold off on breaking them in until this summer when they will be playing on the Shout It Out Loud II tour. Less Than Jake is currently locked in to co-headline with Goldfinger on some dates, and features support from Big D and the Kids Table, Mustard Plug, Suburban Legends, and Westbound Train on various dates. Also, the band will head back over to Europe in August to play some festivals and has booked a couple west coast dates with Rancid for September. On June 3, 2008, Less Than Jake revealed they would be going on tour again with Reel Big Fish, this time in Canada.

The first single off of GNV FLA will be the LP's third track, Does the Lion City Still Roar?, slated for a release a week before GNV FLA comes out. The single will include a brand new b-side, titled All Time Low.

On May 25, 2008, Vinnie Posted Does The Lion City Still Roar? on the band's official webpage.

GNV FLA leaked to the net on June 12, 2008, eleven days before the official release.

Side Projects

Vinnie and his friend John Janick started up the independent record label Fueled by Ramen, which Vinnie has recently left. On May 13, 2008, Vinnie launched his new indie label, called Paper + Plastick. In the press release, Vinnie stated the inspiration for the name; "If you think about it, prints and books are the paper side, while vinyl records and toys are the plastic side. It’s a simple and to-the-point concept." The label is currently slated to release new albums; a concept album from Andrew Dost, The Landmines debut album, and the final release from The Explosion.

Vinnie also owns a toy company called Wünderland War, originally called Monkey VS Robot. The name was changed due to legal issues. Vinnie has also started a second toy company with a friend called Symptoms. Many of these toys have been featured in art books and shows.

Roger has a side-project called Rehasher, who have recorded an album Off Key Melodies on Gainesville based record label No Idea Records in 2004. He plays guitar (not bass) for Rehasher, and is also their lead singer. Roger also has a recording studio at his home, dubbed as the Moat House. Some local bands record music here and Rehasher's next album (release date TBD) will be recorded here.

JR composes his own solo music on top of working with a promoting company called the CT Mafia. He contributed one track to the Drive-Thru Records tribute to Bob Dylan, under the name "The Stay at Home Joneses" which also featured secondary vocals by Roger.

In 1996, Vinnie, Chris, and Roger served as backup musicians for Asian Man Records owner Mike Park in The Bruce Lee Band (former sax player Derron also provided horns on some of the tracks).

Buddy is involved in a side band called PB&J; in which he provides the bass, vocals and occasional trombone, as well as the bands Black Ice that he plays all instruments for and another band called Coffee Project.

Chris has been recording his own solo music while not working with Less Than Jake.

Former bassist Shaun Grief joined hardcore punk band Victim Youth out of Fort Myers, FL in 2007. The band's first album is expected sometime in 2008.