On February 2, 2011 Vinnie Fiorello (Less Than Jake and founder of Paper + Plastick Records) was kind enough to sit down with me and discuss all things Less Than Jake along with a little bit of Paper + Plastick. A little of everything is covered as we discuss the current tour,most recent EP, upcoming re-releases, the overall industry, and much much more.
OV – I just want to start off by saying it’s been awhile since you’ve been on tour, so how’s does it feel being back on the road with this weather?
VF – Yeah. Well, you know the weather’s the weather, man. You can’t control it. The tour though, it’s good, it’s been fun. Usually in years previous to last year we were on the road a lot, last year not so much just did some writing, did a few songs and did an EP called the TV EP. So, it’s good.
OV- So the bands that you selected on this tour, The Supervillians and Off With Their Heads, how were they decided? Did you guys pick them?
VF – Well I mean I think a lot of it is that we all talk about who we would want on a tour. Then we go to their agent and see if they’re available. Then if some bands we want aren’t available then those agents will go “Well did you ever think about this band?” and you go “Oh, no but you know we can talk about them.” And that’s how The Supervillians happened. Pretty much most of us are fans of Off With Their Heads so that’s sort of a no-brainer.
OV – Yeah, I saw them with The Bouncing Souls and they put on a great show.
VF – Yeah, they’re great.
OV – So how’s the response been for both bands?
VF – So far, great.
OV – And for the bands?
VF – Good. You know what, sometimes it’s funny just because we’ve been around a long time that sometimes the kids who come see our band are slightly…fickle about opening bands, you know. So, you have to sort of get on stage and have to power through it and sort of win the crowd over.
OV – Yeah, but they (OWTH) definitely won the crowd over with The Souls because it was a good crowd that knew their songs.
VF – So, you know, you saw it first hand with The Souls, and they’re a similar band to us where there’s a long running fan base.
OV – That was definitely cool to see, the reaction they got. So you guys are going to be re-releasing Losing Streak and Hello Rockview. How’d that come about with Capitol and Warner Brothers?
VF – Well, I mean when we left Warner Brothers, we had decided that we wanted to do any new releases under our own label Sleep It Off, so that kind of went from “Oh yeah, we’re going to do GNVFLA” and that talk went into, well, we should do our whole back catalog. I mean, if we’re going to do our own record label, we might as well go in and see about getting the records. And Capitol were cool enough, you know, to go “OK, yeah. Go ahead and do it.” For the most part, we’re paying them an override to use it. But the fact is, they let us do it. And I think…that could be, you know, a quick view into how shitty the fucking record industry is at the moment. You know, from them letting us “Oh yeah, here, go ahead and take that” you know take the record and put it out and just give us some money off the top of it. You know, the role has sort of reversed. That we’re giving them a royalty off the record sales, you know, where they used to give us a royalty off the record sales. So the roles have been reversed.
OV – I know there’s a DVD that’s being packaged with that.
VF – Yep.
OV – Is the DVD going to be the same for each album?
VF – No, every album that we’re going to re-release is different. Losing Streak is the full record that we played at the record shows of Losing Streak. The same thing goes for Hello Rockview, so they’re completely different. But they’re both full records, from front, you know, from top song to bottom song of us playing them live at the record shows we did in Florida.
OV – So as far as far as the actual re-release of the record, is it going to be remastered or are you just putting it back out?
VF – We’re just putting it back out.
OV – Changing the artwork?
VF – Yeah, changing the artwork, adding, like a small poster to it, and adding the DVD. Not remastering it or anything like that.
OV – As far as the TV EP is concerned, I know I heard in an interview that said the songs that are on it are the only ones you went in (the studio) with. There weren’t any extras or anything like that. Was that the case?
VF – I mean, we kind of picked the songs. We kind of picked the songs. We didn’t have an “Oh yeah, this is what we’re doing”. Kind of picked the songs and then we were going to go over to Roger’s house, who has a studio, and kind of figure them out and play. And then he sprang it on us. Well, me anyway. It was like nah, fuck it, we’re just going to start recording right now. So, I mean, I didn’t even really know the songs enough to go down and play. It was just a song by song basis. And it was just learning as you go and it came out cool.
OV – Was that just something you guys were doing to put something out and stay current?
VF – To be honest with you, it was just down time, something cool to do on some down time.
OV – Just something fun to put out?
VF – Something fun, man. And I think that a lot of people like, sort of try to read into it too much. Be like “Oh, it’s covers” and “It’s a throwaway record” and well, no shit you fucking asshole. It’s just supposed to be fun. Like, if you can’t see through the fun of that then I don’t get it. I think that sometimes record reviewers and internalists over think it too much, for sure.
OV – It just seemed like when I listened to it, it brought me back to the different eras of Less Than Jake as a fan because some of it is so far back and current, like iCarly so it’s cool how you combined everything.
VF – Yeah it’s just supposed to be fun, you know. Like, some people are just like, “Ohhhhhh. This, you know, you listen to it once.” And this and this and you’re like dude, it’s just supposed to be, pure, like novelty. It’s not supposed to be something that’s heavy.
OV – So is that the reaction you’ve been seeing with the fans that understand it and those that over think it?
VF – I think that’s it not even necessarily there’s, you know, journalist versus fan. I think it’s, generally speaking, the reaction. You have people that get it and love it and then you have people that don’t understand it and try to over think it.
OV – Are you going to play any of the songs off the EP live?
VF – Possibly. We had talked about maybe doing a record show tonight. We don’t know yet. We’ll see. But usually we have been doing a few.
OV – Now in years past when I’ve seen you you’ve done some cool things live, like playing full albums or I forget what year it was, maybe ’07, you did The Price Is Right theme for the set. Has there been any thought for something new to keep things fresh?
VF – I mean, we have been doing it. Hello Rockview from front to back. We did it in North Carolina and we did it in Philly a few nights ago. So we’ve been doing that on this tour, sort of throwing it in randomly when we so sort of see fit, you know?
OV – So there’s really no agenda for this tour as far as your set goes?
VF – Well the agenda is play the widest possible array of songs. So literally it goes from Pezcore to the TV EP and everything in between it. There’s no record that doesn’t get touched. Like In With the Out Crowd, which we’ve shied away on playing sometimes before in the past, those songs are there. You know, P.S. Shock the World, Soundtrack of Our Lives, Overrated, The Rest of My Life, I mean, that’s a good deal of songs we’ve been sort of pulling out and rotating through. And that’s all we’ve been doing. I forget I think it was over 100 songs that we had and they just kind of rotate through slowly different songs putting in there, which is a cool way to do it.
OV – Right. I think that’s the only way you can do it when you have such a big catalog.
VF – And then on that sporadic night we go, “Let’s play Hello Rockview” and we kind of do that.
OV – And that kind of grounds you a little bit?
OV – Now that you guys are back on the tour cycle, is this the year for a new Less Than Jake record?
VF – We’ve been writing songs, so I would think that you probably won’t see a full length until probably the spring of next year. But we’ll probably wind up doing a few other things. We know, obviously, that Hello Rockview and Losing Streak are getting re-released. And then we’re going to do a DVD box set of 6, well, it’s actually of 3 DVDs, of 6 shows. So we’re going to do that. Hopefully another EP to come out around summer time. Then after like, early fall we’ll go in and record and then have a spring record. But tentative. A tentative plan right now.
OV – You mentioned doing another EP in the summer, I know some bands have given thought with the music industry the way it is, what’s the point of doing full records?
VF – That’s, to be honest with you, that’s my 2 cents. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t care if Less Than Jake ever does another full length. I don’t want to do another full length. I’d rather just do EPs. But the push and pull of that, I don’t know if that will actually happen that way, but, for me my personal preference would be not to do full lengths anymore.
OV – Yeah, or at least do them digitally kind of like the Paper and Plastic releases. Most of that stuff seems to be either vinyl or digital. And that’s what people want. That’s where the market’s at.
VF – I think the weird thing about doing things that people want, whether it be vinyl, or whether it be a detailed or deluxe package or something, you already have to have people who like the record or who’s a fan of the band. Like, you just can’t try to do those things and be like “Well fuck, no one’s buying this and we spent a bunch of money”. So I think that with Less Than Jake we could afford to do something that was very detailed and very, extravagant and deluxe package, mixed with a bunch of other stuff and get away with not doing a CD by doing CD, digital, DVD packages that are big and broad, you know.
OV – EPs, you put them out quicker and it keeps yourself current. I feel like some bands it takes them forever to put out another record and people forget about them and they wonder why their record doesn’t do well and their fan base is gone.
VF – Might be. But the music industry and record sales are in fucking shambles anyway. So who the fuck knows. It’s like the old west out there. There’s no rules and people are just doing what they need to do to get by. Some models work for some bands, some models don’t work for other bands. So I think that unless someone comes and like, has a really good thought on it, and leads the way, and sort of everything else falls in line behind it and goes, it’s still just going to be a clusterfuck for a while.
OV – So is that kind of your approach with Paper and Plastick then? Just doing what you think is the best approach and just going with it?
VF – Well, yeah, because there’s different approaches for different bands. Especially with Paper and Plastick. And I’ll give you this, just, on Tuesday (February 1, 2011), Dave Hause from The Loved Ones, I put out his record. I did CDs with that because he has a fan base from The Loved Ones and that fan base wants to see what he does on CD as well as vinyl. But, let’s say for Spanish Gamble, right, no one who likes that band gives a shit if that’s on a CD or not. And the vinyl that we did for it is just extravagant, like, detailed die-cut pullout, like, it’s gnarly. And the people that get to know that band, and find that band, when they see that package and open it up they become almost like, an instant fan of the band because it’s an elaborate package.
OV – And those are the people who have been following the band too.
VF – Exactly.
OV – Yeah, and they’re going to stick through thick or thin.
VF – So, I mean I think that it’s with Paper and Plastick I’ve been doing it where it’s specific things for specific bands and kind of going that way. You know, the same thing with A Wilhelm Scream who already had a fan base, I did CDs with it, even though as a label I really don’t like doing that. You know, but some bands who, let’s say, tour a lot, they want those CDs to sell, you know, because people could take a $5 CD and put it in their back pocket, but they can’t take a 12” and carry it around with them.
OV – For the artwork on the re-releases, have you tried to incorporate any of the artists or Paper and Plastick or how has that gone?
VF – Well, the guy, Horsebites, did a lot for Paper and Plastic early on. He’s who did all of the reissue artwork. And for every reissue that we have coming out, he’ll continue to do it. So when you’re looking at all of the reissues and everything that we’ve released as Sleep It Off, right, it all has a unifying theme to it, that visual aesthetic that kind of locks together, which is cool.
OV – Yeah I think that’s great. I don’t think there are many labels incorporating the artist like Paper and Plastick.
VF – Well I mean here’s the thing though, dude. Like when you talk about artists right, that artist represents anything like any band shirt you’re wearing, anything that, like sort of, when you’re visually looking at a band, you know whether it be the t-shirt, whether it be the sticker, or whether it be a pin, or whether it be DVD, LP, whatever the case may be, that adds to the culture of the band and that’s how people sort of generally view the band. They go “Oh, here’s AFI, here’s all the art for AFI.” But, what people don’t realize is that why wouldn’t the artist who basically molded and sculpted that visual essence of that band not get recognition? Do you know who did all the art for AFI? No, so for me I think that we should shine the spotlight on the dudes who propel the culture. You know.
OV – Would you guys ever consider going back to an established label after everything that’s happened? You guys have pretty much seen it all.
VF – We’ve talked about that recently. Just amongst ourselves, you know. And then I forget who, someone asked us that recently. Oh, it was Steven, who used to work for Fuse. We saw him a few nights ago in Philly, and we were talking about, you know, if we would go back to another label and things like that. I really don’t know, and this is me speaking personally not as a band sort of decision, but I don’t see why at this point in time. I think that we’ve been a band going on 17 years, going on 18, that who would we go back to? Right? Go to Epitaph?
OV – Everyone’s doing it lately.
VF – You know, I mean Epitaph is either metal bands or kind of teenage flavor of the month. Or it seems that every band from the ‘90s goes back to Epitaph, you know? The major label castaways, you know. And I don’t want to feel like that, that we’ve been cast away because I feel that Less Than Jake, we’ve always been forward thinking. So by going back to a label, I think that that’s not forward thinking. If there was something good behind it, something logical behind it, like, here’s the reason why, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and it didn’t feel like taking a step back, we’re out 5 paces in front of that at the moment, you know what I mean? To go back into that sort of headspace seems like it would be taking steps back and not taking steps forward.
OV – I guess when I’ve been looking at things from a fan’s perspective, it seems that a label, just as much as a band needs to prove they’re worth it to a label, a label also needs to prove it to a band.
VF – I agree with that.
OV – Like, what can we do for you? It’s a 2 way street.
VF – I agree.
OV – But it seems like when you sign to a label, it’s “our label way or the highway.”
VF – But here’s the thing. I mean like, going back to a label would mean us giving up the ownership of a song. 360 deals, right? Going back to a label would mean us giving up ownership of merchandise, give up percentage and money of touring income and things like that. That doesn’t make sense to me. We’re an established band, paying X label 20% of our t-shirt sales on the road doesn’t make sense to me.
OV – While they’re sitting in their office and not on the road helping out.
VF – Yeah. Makes no sense to me at all. So that’s what I mean by we’re 5 paces ahead of that model of a label scenario. But that doesn’t necessarily predicate that I wouldn’t be willing to do, like, partner with somebody and go, hey, you know, whether it be whoever the fuck, like, you know, Ambassador Services, right. Whatever company, and go, ok, you’re Ambassador Services and you sell widgets. We should partner and do this one thing. So, I’m not necessarily saying that I wouldn’t want to partner with someone to do a release in the future, I just think that going back to the same old model of a record label is not for us.
OV – Right. I would totally agree with that. I mean, I think you guys, as far as I know, when I spoke to Gary (publicist) earlier he said the show was sold out.
VF – For this? This could be weird tonight man, because of the weather. So, I’m expecting a smaller but enthusiastic crowd. Because they drove fucking through a shitstorm to get here. I don’t expect it to be what it was supposed to be. And that’s cool though. That doesn’t affect any train of thought. Just have to go play for the people that took that on their shoulders to drive through shitty weather and handle it, you know.
OV – True. The point I was going to make was in the general sense, you’re selling out shows, still, on your own and doing it all on yourself. So it’s kind of like, you look back and say we don’t need the label because we’re still selling out concerts without them. We don’t need their marketing.
VF – Here’s the thing, Does marketing help? Yeah it does. Can we play bigger shows and have more people if you have someone filtering money into marketing? Yeah, right? But again, how labels are right now, spending, or going, oh OK, here’s 25% of our merchandise, here’s 30% of our income from, tour income, here’s another 30% of our publishing, like, it seems like, they would never spend that much money in marketing to make up for the deficit that they’d be taking.
OV – Right. Bottom line.
VF – For a young band, basically a label’s going to Vegas on, you know, “We’re going to Vegas and put it all on black” it makes sense for some bands to do that as well. OK, we’ll give you this percentage because you’re giving us all these ample opportunities to do A, B, C, D, E, F, G. But for our band, it doesn’t make sense for that, at all.
OV – So looking back, you guys have played almost any kind of show. I mean you’ve played with Snoop Dogg, Bon Jovi.
VF – Yeah, we’ve played the super largest to the super smallest and everything in between.
OV – I know the politically correct answer is every show is a good show, but what do you guys feel the best with or enjoy the most?
VF – You know, I enjoy a little of everything. You, know what, it’s hard because there’s good shows for different reasons. You know what I mean? So I’ll go with this. We played Reading Festival on the main stage in the mid afternoon, and there were like, 90,000 people. And you walk onto the stage and you play and you walk off the stage you go, “Fuck man, that was amazing”. You know? Like, oh shit, that’s a milestone in a band’s history. But then there’s other times, man, where you play and you get off stage and the crowd was fucking awesome and everyone one stage had fun and there was like, different surprises and peaks and valleys and you get off and you go, “Fuck man, that was a great show”. And it wasn’t in front of 90,000 people. Maybe it was in front of 300 people in South Carolina. But that’s still awesome too. Like, it’s very hard to gauge what the pinnacle is because there’s so much good for different reasons, you know?
OV – Right.
VF – Sometimes it’s stale, don’t get me wrong, I’m not painting it all always great, because sometimes it’s a Monday night and the crowds are just like “Uhhhhhhhhhh……” and we’re just, you know, trying to push a boulder up a hill and it’s not happening, and those shows are good too. Sometimes the fucking planets just align and it doesn’t matter if it’s in front of 300 people or 90,000 people. Sometimes it just aligns and it’s a fucking awesome show and you walk off the stage and you go “This was great”.
OV – On a tour though, you guys have been around so long, I mean, you pretty much know that even if you have a bad show, you’re bound to have another good one.
VF – Being on tour man, that’s what it’s all about. Get it next time, tiger!
OV – You guys wouldn’t still be around if you did not have bounce back shows.
VF – That’s true. It’s funny. It’s funny that way, how it works.
OV – Is there anything else you want to say, since you’ve got a bunch of stuff coming out?
VF – You know what, to be honest with you, it’s for Less Than Jake, if you have a chance, come see us play live. Because that’s what it’s really about with our band. You know, whether you download the record, whether it be LimeWire, or you know, Pirate Bay, or whether it be Sendspace, or MediaFire, whatever it is, you downloading that music, you should come out and see it and support. Because, and if it’s not Less Than Jake, then it should be for someone else. Because without that support, live bands won’t be able to continue. And I’m not just talking Less Than Jake, we’re a bit different story because we’ve been around a long time, but if you’re, you know, basically downloading and getting free music of young punk rock bands, you need to be showing up at their shows, buying the shirts, you know, buying music, and supporting them, because if you don’t the creativity can only go free for a certain amount of time before it starts going away. So there it is.
OV – Alright, thank you very much.