Less Than Jake is an American ska punk band from Gainesville, Florida, formed in 1992. The band consists of Chris DeMakes (vocals, guitar), Roger Manganelli (vocals, bass), Vinnie Fiorello (drums, lyrics), Buddy Schaub (trombone) and Peter "JR" Wasilewski (saxophone).
Less Than Jake released their debut album, Pezcore, in 1995, following a series of independent seven-inch single releases. The band's subsequent two studio albums, Losing Streak (1996) and Hello Rockview (1998), were released on major label, Capitol Records, leading to increased exposure. The band's fifth studio album Anthem (2003) was their most commercially successful to date, featuring the singles, "She's Gonna Break Soon" and "The Science of Selling Yourself Short".
In 2008 the band founded its own label, Sleep It Off Records, and released its seventh full-length album, GNV FLA. The band has recently stated its preference for EP releases, and independently issued Greetings from Less Than Jake (2011) and its counterpart, Seasons Greetings from Less Than Jake (2012). In late 2012, the band combined the two to create the full-length album, Greetings and Salutations (2012) Their ninth studio album, See the Light, was released on November 12th, 2013.
Formation and Pezcore (1992-1995):
Before the formation of Less Than Jake, vocalist and guitarist Chris DeMakes, drummer Vinnie Fiorello, and bassist Shaun Grief led a local band named Good Grief while attending high school in Port Charlotte, Florida. Good Grief broke up when DeMakes moved north to attend the University of Florida. On July 13, 1992, Less Than Jake was born. While Grief moved to New York City (he would later return as the band's roadie), DeMakes and Fiorello began writing songs on the weekends before Fiorello would join DeMakes at the University of Florida. When united, the pair decided they needed a bass player, but first, they wanted a name. Fiorello said:
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.
The band's name comes from Fiorello's dog, Jake, who was treated better than the rest of the household, so everything was "less than Jake". After practicing 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 Manganelli practiced with the band on guitar for a few hours, the band fired the current bass player and recruited him instead. 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 released 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 the 1995 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. Derron eventually 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 suon Asian Man and Fueled By Ramen records). The title of the album stems from Roger and Vinnie's unexplained fondness for Pez candy, clearly apparent in their reportedly sizable Pez dispenser collections, and the pervasively used suffix "core". Ever since, Pez dispenser motifs have been a common feature of Less Than Jake's merchandise.
Losing Streak and Hello Rockview (1996-1999):
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's popularity soared, as they 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, helping the band spend the majority of the year on Billboard Heatseekers chart.
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 No. 39 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks, despite not being released as a video single.
Borders and Boundaries (2000-2002):
Following the album, tensions started to grow with Capitol. There were disagreements over various issues, including Capitol dragging its feet over funding a video for "History of a Boring Town", the band attempting to sell full length shows on MP3.com, and the band selling two full length CDs, Bootleg a Bootleg, You Cut Out The Middle Man and Goodbye Blue and White through their webstore, which their contract stated didn't have to be through Capitol. After recording what would be Borders & Boundaries, the band opted to buy out their contract from the major label and release the new album on Fat Wreck Chords instead.
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 as previous releases initially, the album contained singles such as "Look What Happened" (which received minor airplay on college stations) and their home-town 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 2001, they toured the US along with New Found Glory, Anti-Flag, and the Teen Idols
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 re-released their compilation album, Goodbye Blue and White, which included various 7" releases spanning from 1996-2001, and provided a different track listing 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. The album was arguably Less Than Jake's most successful commercially. Debuting at No. 45 on the Billboard 200 (the band's highest to date), the album featured three major 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" (which spent fives weeks on the Billboard Top 40, peaking at No. 37), and "The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out" (featuring Billy Bragg) which spent time in the 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 angsty teen girl who has a nervous breakdown, and destroys her bedroom over the course the song. The band spent the rest of the year promoting the new album by playing the Warped Tour and gained support from Fall Out Boy, Yellowcard, and Bang Tango during their Fall 2003 tour. 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.
In with the Out Crowd (2005-2007):
After spending the majority of 2005 writing and recording, the band opened 2006 by 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 and california 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 Astoria II for 6 nights in a row.
On May 21, 2007, after much speculation, Vinnie Fiorello announced on his blog that the band had asked and 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.
GNV FLA (2008-2009):
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 18. 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.
On April 20, 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 GNV FLA, the name being an abbreviation for the Gainesville's airport code. Buddy Schaub stated the reason behind the album title was "to get back to our roots". The first single from GNV FLA was "Does The Lion City Still Roar?", GNV FLA was officially released June 24, 2008. Touring in support of the album included the Reading and Leeds Festivals and a tour of UK during the fall containing thirteen dates with the band Zebrahead.
"Conviction Notice" was the second and final single off the album. They also stated at other various concerts during their recent Europe tour that they were recording video footage for a new DVD.
In June 2009, Internet radio station PunkRadioCast teamed up with Jones Soda to create a punk pop 6 pack featuring labels designed by PunkRadioCast and five punk artists, one of which was "Less Than Jake - Root Beer".
EP releases and See the Light (2010-present):
On July 7, 2010, Less Than Jake announced that they had started recording again. On October 12, 2010, they released TV/EP, consisting of sixteen covers of television theme songs in the span of thirteen minutes: "Spanning from the vintage adverts of yesteryear to the frenetic promos of modern day, TV/EP reimagines a world where pop punk and ska is the music de rigueur, and this is the soundtrack to your couch potato life. Tracklisted as anonymously numbered channels, the experience they have planned is akin to the feeling of flipping random television channels." The first revealed track off the disc is a rendition of the Animaniacs theme song.
The band also performed in Tavares, Florida along with the Supervillains and local acts to support funding for the surrounding counties' high school band programs.
On June 20, 2011, the band released an EP, entitled Greetings from Less Than Jake, which was made available on their online store and was sold on Warped Tour 2011 as well. On February 16, 2012 Less Than Jake released a follow-up EP, entitled Seasons Greetings from Less Than Jake. The band announced both EP's would be re-released, with 2 unreleased songs, as part of a new album called Greetings and Salutations from Less Than Jake, released in October 2012 through Fat Wreck Chords, who had released Borders and Boundaries. On April 17, 2013, Less Than Jake announced through their Facebook page that they had signed back to Fat Wreck Chords and would release their first album full of new material since 2008 sometime in the Fall. On August 9, the album's title, track listing and release date were announced, and See the Light was subsequently released on November 12, 2013.
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 second album, High Speed Access To My Brain, was 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. Buddy is one half of Coffee Project along with Jake Crown who released a self-titled album on the aforementioned Paper and Plastick 1 label. Together they decided that "a couple of acoustic guitars and a trombone was all they really needed".
Chris has been recording his own solo music while not working with Less Than Jake. He is a guest vocalist on the 2010 album The Seven Degrees Of Stephen Egerton by Descendents guitarist Stephen Egerton.
Chris DeMakes - lead vocals and guitar (1992-present),
Vinnie Fiorello - drums (1992-present),
Roger Manganelli - lead vocals and bass (1993-present),
Buddy "Goldfinger" Schaub - trombone and backing vocals (1993-present),
Peter "JR" Wasilewski - saxophone and backing vocals (2000-present),
Jessica Mills - alto saxophone (1993-1998),
Derron Nuhfer - tenor and baritone saxophones (1995-2000),
Pete Anna - tenor and alto trombone (1998-2001)