Less Than Jake are back! “But they never went anywhere,” you protest. Well reader, in that sense you are correct. But in fall 2013, they not only served up their first full-length in five years, but—after more than two decades together—also embraced a total back to basics approach.
Throughout a career that has run the gamut from self-releases and small indie imprints to large independent labels and major music conglomerates, the band has always been more than the sum of its parts. Now more than ever, though, they espouse their stature as a DIY collective that works together—or at least in tandem with a few trusted allies—on every element of their creative output. Drummer Vinnie Fiorello recalls, “We started out very internal, and nowadays we handle a lot internally again. ”
The result of their old school approach is the old school sound of See The Light, created without any external meddling from corporate lackeys. “Everyone had their alone time with chords and some quick structures; we all put our ideas down before we got together,” says Vinnie. “Then we sat at an octagon table in our warehouse and went through: this is what we think about this song, maybe we should do it ska, maybe we should do it punk—true band songwriting in essence.”
Not only was the songwriting a true group effort, but—like the three EPs the band have released since 2008’s long-player GNV FLA—so was the actual recording of See The Light, which was tracked entirely at Gainesville’s The Moathouse, owned by LTJ bassist Roger Lima, who took lead production duties with communal input and assistance from his four band mates and live sound engineer. “Roger has been recording our demos since the beginning of the band and steadily has worked his way up learning about studios from everyone we’ve worked with in the past,” says trombone player Buddy Schaub.
With no ticking clock and no studio fees piling up, the band used their breathing room to create somewhat of a rarity in today’s prefab music world: a full-length album that gels as a complete thought, lyrically and musically. Buddy adds, “I think this is one of the closest representations of our band to date. We’re all really excited for this record to get out into the world and we can’t wait to hear what people think!”
Like 2000’s release Borders and Boundaries, the new record was mixed at the famed Blasting Room by punk rock legend Bill Stevenson (Descendents, Black Flag) and Jason Livermore, but don’t let that lead you to believe that there’s anything same-ish about See The Light. "If you’re expecting retreads and repeats, this record will disappoint,” exclaims Roger. “It’s all new songs and new vibes only recorded in our old school way.”
While some other bands of a certain vintage are latching onto musical trends, you won’t find any dubstep beats or vocoder distortion on See The Light—a title that nods to the band’s history of marrying dark lyrical content (the tunnel) to bouncy musical arrangements (the light at the end). Less Than Jake aren’t turning away from their roots, and echoing Mark Twain, Fiorello points out that the rumors regarding their genre’s demise are greatly exaggerated: “Punk has been declared dead every year for 30+ years and it’s still going stronger than ever. People like to declare things dead just because it’s dead to them, but if bands are passionate about what they’re doing, they’ll attract fans who are passionate.”
As fits a band born long enough ago to now be of legal drinking age, Less Than Jake pulls in a multi-generational audience, which Vinnie notes is often a family affair. “Our crowd now is 16 to 40, and I’ve met kids as young as eight or nine. Dads bring their sons and it’s a weird rite of passage; moms bring kids in saying, ‘We’ve watched you guys for 15 years.’ But will the band stick around long enough to draw in a third generation of fans? “I don’t know man. I think our guys on that would be NOFX and Bad Religion. When you see Fat Mike or Bad Religion hang it up, maybe: but like them, we’re gonna ride that out.” We’re glad to be along for the ride.