Exclusive Interview: Vinnie Fiorello from punk ska band Less Than Jake

Drummer Vinnie Fiorello took some time while on the Fat Tour 2013 to speak about the band, record labels, the music industry, and his company, Paper + Plastick. Photo: Less Than Jake/Photo: Katie Hovland

LOS ANGELES, November 21, 2013 — Less Than Jake is a punk-ska hybrid band out of Gainesville, Florida. Formed in 1992, the band has released eight full-length albums. Drummer Vinnie Fiorello took some time while on the Fat Tour 2013 to speak to The Washington Times Communities about the band, record labels, the music industry, and his company, Paper + Plastick.

See The Light, 2013, Fat Wreck Chords


Kevin Wells: What made you choose drums over other instruments?

Vinnie Fiorello: Because my brother chose guitar. [laughs] When your older brother chooses the guitar and your parents are like, “Well, you can pick another instrument,” the guitar is out. The drums were the second coolest possible thing.

KW: What bands got you interested in punk and ska?

VF: That’s kind of two-fold, right? The kickoff for me, I grew up in New Jersey and there’s sort of three rights of passage that you go through when you’re in New Jersey. One happens to be Bon Jovi. The other one is Bruce Springsteen and the third is the Ramones. When I heard the Ramones, they were on a public access show called, The Uncle Floyd Show. As soon as I heard them play, I was in love with it. You know, I was 11 years old and that became sort of my go-to band. That got me into punk music. [For] ska music, that happened to be The Specials. When I was a teenager, The Specials and Madness were great, but what really brought me into mixing it together was Operation Ivy.


KW: When Less Than Jake started, was it always your intention to have a punk – ska mix?

VF: When we first started out, it was more punk rock and we were going to add horns to punk rock. We heard this band from England called, Snuff, were doing fast punk rock music and had a mix of a trombone in it. We wanted to add horns to punk rock, you know, faster American-style punk rock. Then adding the up-stroke to it, we just kind of fell into it, to be honest with you.

KW: See The Light is your first full-length since 2008. Why did the band wait so long to record a full-length?


VF: With a full-length idea, for us, that’s the format you do when you have a cohesive album thought, you know? When you can string together X amount of songs into a sort of flowing idea. Since 2008, we released three E.P.’s. The E.P. idea was just kind of write songs and kind of get creative with them and put them out, but the idea for an album, you have to have a good idea, at least for me, before you string 13 songs together so it feels like a unified idea; unified lyrically, unified musically. That didn’t happen at that time and after doing the E.P.’s, it just felt right among us to write for an album after that.

KW: How did your relationship with Fat Wreck Chords get rekindled?

VF: We were over in Europe and playing some festival shows and we played with Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies. Mike from NoFX and Fat also plays in the Gimmies and I said, “Hey, let me send you some of the stuff we did for the E.P.’s, Just kind of take a listen to it.” We were looking for a North American partner to release those E.P.’s together. I was like, you know, “Check it out and see what’s up.” He listened to it and felt they were really strong songs and we decided to do that CD together called, Greetings & Salutations, which is putting all the E.P.’s together. From that point, it was, “Hey, we’re gonna start writing some songs.” Kind of naturally, to be honest with you, they were like, “Hey, we’d be into releasing that new record if you are into it.” We were, so it naturally fell into continuing to work with Fat.

KW: What is the difference for you, the musician, between working with an independent label like Fat Wreck Chords and a major label like Capitol Records?

VF: You know, I think that it’s fairly the same now, man. The music industry has been going through this morph, and has been going through it, where you can get your music digitally out there around the world. You can find ends to be able to release your album physically and get it into record stores around the world. I guess, if you’re asking what sort of levels the playing field, it’s just finance. With a major label, the max on the credit card is a little bit more than the indie. If you want to chase a good, but really expensive idea, major labels are the perfect place for that, you know? We’ve been a band for 21 years. We’re very self-realized of who we are and how we want to be marketed and what we want to do with that. It didn’t matter for us whether it was an indie or major. We just know what kind of record we want to do. We know how we want to market that record. We just kind of go about our business that way. And like I said, the music industry has been going through a wild time. Majors now want to own partial bits of your publishing and they want to own your [merchandise] rights. They want to do these things called 360 deals and that’s not for a 21-year-old band, you know? We’ve worked at our band for 21 years, we’re not going to give rights up to some because they have a larger bank account, you know? So, doing it on an indie makes total sense.

KW: Less Than Jake is currently headlining the 2013 Fat Tour, what have the shows been like so far with so many good punk bands playing?

VF: They’ve been great, man. I think that the actual shows, we’ve played with Anti-Flag before. We’ve played with Masked Intruder before. Get Dead is on it to open the show, which I am just getting familiar with now. They’re a great band. The weirdest thing, to be honest with you, currently on the tour is the amount of traffic that’s out here, as far as bands on tour. The night before us is a great band and packaged tour. The night after us is a great packaged tour. The night after that is a great packaged tour. You’re really out here right now fighting for everything that you have and the people that come. It’s pretty nutty because the amount of time we’ve been a band, it’s never been this chaotic.

KW: That’s a good thing though, right?

VF: It’s great for a fan, you know? It’s great for fans of music, but it’s kind of s**tty for a band who has to fight, you know, the amount of craziness out there with the amount of good bands that are playing. IT’s a double edged sword, for sure.

KW: How are things going with Paper + Plastick?

VF: Yeah, you know, I’m focusing more on vinyl toys and kind of intriguing packaging and things like that. We’ve got this record from a band in Michigan called, From Hell, with a silkscreened B-side of the vinyl and also silkscreened cover that has the band’s blood mixed into the screening ink. I do a lot of vinyl toys as well, a lot of very limited resin pieces that got hand poured of our logo skull. I keep busy with that. I that it’s a creative outlet, but it’s not only a creative outlet for me as I try to give back to the genre of music that’s always inspired me, which is punk music. If I can help it along and help bands a little bit, then that’s a win for me and that’s a win for them. I always look at Paper + Plastick as a stepping stone to something or somewhere else. It just makes sense to me.

Less Than Jake can be seen live on the Fat Tour 2013 with Anti-Flag, Masked Intruder and Get Dead. The new album, See the Light, is available now on Fat Wreck Chords.

Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for The Washington Times Communities and also writes about Major League Baseball and punk rock music. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Kevin Wells

Kevin J. Wells was born and raised in the Los Angeles area in a town called Montrose.  He currently plays guitar for and is a founding member of the Los Angeles punk rock band Emmer Effer.  He has worked in a number of different career fields including Behavioral Therapy, Commodities, Insurance, and most recently a food cart in Portland, OR.


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