25 years and over 300 songs since their original formation in small town Florida, the Gainesville punks responsible for fashioning a generation’s suburban discontent, social isolation and ‘plastic cup politics’ into irresistibly tasty punk ska hooks, Less Than Jake, will be returning down under to greet their loyal audience and play five headlining shows.
The band have been self-managed for over five years and their success has comfortably spanned two and a half decades. Perhaps that’s the reason they show no signs of easing their breakneck touring pace, one that sees them routinely smash out over 150 dates a year.
“People are coming out to shows in Australia for a party, and that’s an important thing when you’re talking about a live show,” says drummer and lyricist Vinnie Fiorello. “Those who go want to have fun, but the band wants people to have fun as well.”
25 years is an extremely long time to be doing anything – especially to be spending all your summers on the road touring, and having to constantly find fresh ideas in an ever-changing industry. But the band’s continuous success is a lot simpler than it seems: it all comes down to the fans who inspire Less Than Jake to keep playing music, touring, smashing out records – and doing it all at a breakneck pace.
After all, there’s a kind of electricity that sparks up between bands and their fans, and Less Than Jake feed on it. “The energy has to go back and forth, and the moment it ceases to do that, then we’re not going to be a band anymore. So that’s why we keep on doing it. We still write new songs, and it’s not just about resting on our back catalogue. We are still an active band and we constantly tour. It’s five to eight months a year depending on what type of cycle we’re on, and I think that goes to show the love that we have for what we do.”
One might assume that after 25 years spent on the road with a bunch of his mates, Fiorello would have countless tour stories to share. But according to the veteran musician, it’s not like that at all: touring is, for the most part, pretty boring, and the best part of being on the road is the hour and a half a band spends playing to their adoring crowd.
People are coming out to shows in Australia for a party.
“On tour, you spend the time searching for coffee, searching for a bathroom. Then you have soundcheck; you say ‘hi’ to your friends if you know some people coming to the show; you look for food out on the street of the town that you’re in. It’s not what people expect it to be like, being in a band for 25 years.
“But I must say one of the best things that has happened to us was when we were lucky enough to tour with Bon Jovi. It was one of the weirder moments of our career. It was just very, very bizarre to be able to tour with Bon Jovi, being in a punk rock band.”
He laughs. “But that was great – that and stuff like being able to play at festivals, or supporting bands like Slayer and looking off to the side of stage and seeing some of the members watching us play. You have these odd occurrences happen. Like Roger [Lima, bass player] met a fan, and it turned out that his dad was the lead singer of Iron Maiden.”
The much anticipated anniversary tour follows the release of their EP Sound The Alarm back in February, and the group have spent the better part of this year taking the new work around the world. Though it must be said, it is a little strange that the band chose to release an EP, given the collossal back catalogue of full-length albums they’ve dropped over the years. Not that Fiorello thinks there’s anything particularly strange about it – indeed, as far as he is concerned, now is the perfect time to drop something a little shorter.
“It’s the way people consume music. They cherry pick songs, and then they put them on their playlist or they download them and put them on their devices. I don’t know many people that digest a full record, so why not release an EP?”
I don’t know many people that digest a full record, so why not release an EP?
As Fiorello tells it, Sound The Alarm is about nothing less than the meaning of life. It’s a record about weathering the storm; about living through trauma, and pain, and struggle, and coming out of the other side for the better.
“The lyrics on Sound The Alarm are basically telling you that you can live through the bad times and that you’re going to come out better for it at the end. Just because things are hard, doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from the bad times.”
You better believe that Less Than Jake aren’t planning on fading away anytime soon. The jury is out on whether or not they have another 25 years in them, but they definitely want to play more shows – hundreds more, if they can help it.
“After we’re in Australia, we’ll be doing a cruise for the Warped Tour. Then we play two shows with the Descendants and it’s going to be a cool time – but as far as November is concerned, I think we’re going to start writing a little bit; starting new music, and a new record and beyond that, I’m not too sure.” He laughs. “We’ll just be doing what we usually do.”
Less Than Jake play the Metro Theatre on Wednesday October 25.