The Gainesville, Florida-based quintet, known for their infectious ska-inspired pop-punk anthems, have been making music, recording, and touring for 14 years while watching plenty of other bands parade up and down the charts. "Ska, nu-metal, screamo, and now Brooklyn indie rock have all skyrocketed then sky-plummeted," says drummer and band mouthpiece Vinnie. "But we've survived. Mainly because music is our life. Sure a lot of bands can say that, but I think we've proven it by evolving in a way that has kept our earliest fans, as well as new generations of listeners excited about what we do."
That evolutionary zeal is clearly in evidence on the band's new album In With The Out Crowd, Less Than Jake's first new studio collection since 2003's Anthem (which scored their highest Billboard chart position to date). The record opens with the pop/punk anthem "Soundtrack Of My Life," which features Chris and Roger's dual lead vocals throughout the entire song. The band is also excited about "P.S. Shock The World," which turns Less Than Jake's signature sound on its head. "It's minor chord-driven laid-back ska, but it has all this weird intricate guitar work that transforms the song into something else," Vinnie says. "It's not glistening and overly poppy. It's ska, but it's got grit."
For the band, that grittiness sums up In With The Out Crowd. In the studio, Less Than Jake reteamed with Howard Benson, who produced their 1998 album Hello, Rockview before he went on to become one of rock's hottest producers with My Chemical Romance and Hoobastank, among others. "Our band's career is like the roots of a tree," Vinnie says. "That's our inspiration. The roots are East Bay pop/punk, Screeching Weasel, Operation Ivy. Then you have the tree trunk, which represents our long history, then the leaves, which signify our latest inspirations, whether its friends, family, or whatever. In With The Out Crowd fuses the tips of the leaves with the roots of the tree—the Police, early Green Day, the Specials, and all these bands who were there at our inception, and incorporates it all into our modern-day sound."
Along with acknowledging long-time roots, helping out promising newcomers is especially important to Vinnie, who as a founding member of Less Than Jake, which formed at the University of Florida in 1992, has become an elder statesman of the pop/punk scene. In 1996, Vinnie and his college pal John Janick began an independent ska-punk label they dubbed Fueled By Ramen, which has since signed such chart-topping bands as Fall Out Boy and Yellowcard and continues to bring fresh new indie music to its fans. "We want to open doors for bands who are willing to overlook the nearsighted glory of being part of a trend in exchange for receiving the respect and devotion of generations of music fans to come," he says.
Another way that Less Than Jake keep up with their forward-thinking, musically evolved fans has been to preview several tracks from In With The Out Crowd online. "You're hoping kids feel the songs and what the new record is about and get excited about it," Vinnie says. "We have no gripe with letting the fans take possession of the record before anyone else does."
Of course the best way for fans to get buzzed off Less Than Jake is still the band's high-energy, raucous live show. During a recent tour the group performed the bouncy "Overrated," and more new songs will be added following the album's May release, like the scattershot "In-dependence Day," which is quintessential Less Than Jake pop-punk, but with a twist. "It jumps three to four parts at a time then repeats the cycle," Vinnie says. It has heavy lyrical content, but it's super poppy, super up-tempo."
As a result, Vinnie believes people are going to be surprised by In With The Out Crowd. "People have a preconceived notion that Less Than Jake is a ska/punk band, that we're wacky and silly. That is one side of the band when we're onstage, but we have another side. That's the beautiful thing about our band — it's multi-headed," he says proudly. "We can be different things at different times; we can be socially relevant and we can still be musically relevant 14 years together and still progressing, not only as players, but in terms of direction. We can jump outside the box of what people expect, which is what this record is -- over-amplified Less Than Jake.