Ska, the punk-rock hybrid that combines speedy guitar riffs with trumpet and trombone blasts, is alive and well. And if you don’t believe that, then you haven’t been listening to Less Than Jake.
The ska/punk quintet will perform at Seville Quarter on April 16.
Over the last 20 years, Less Than Jake’s sound has evolved from raw, scratchy punk to a more refined and melodic sound.
But that’s not to say they’ve lost their edge. The eternally youthful Less Than Jake fanbase continues to do plenty of jumping, moshing, shoving and headbanging at their shows.
“Bands that have been along as we have…you have to continually move forward and push yourself to write interesting songs,” says drummer, lyricist and founding member Vinnie Fiorello. “Not only for you, but for the fans.”
The band is currently touring to promote their latest album, “TV/EP,” released last October.
“TV/EP” consists of 16 sped-up, ska-flavored covers of a variety of TV theme songs and old school commercial jingles, everything from “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” to the “Hungry Hungry Hippos” song. The result is a nostalgic sing-a-long that for the 20s and 30s crowd will recall the lazy channel flipping of childhood Saturday mornings.
“We had a year off and wanted to do something fun,” says Fiorello. “We’ve done TV covers in the past and just sort of resurrected that idea.”
“Fun” is a common thread strung through the entirety of the Less Than Jake catalog, dating all the way back to 1995’s “Pezcore,” their first studio release. For the better part of two decades, Less Than Jake has helped keep ska relevant with its bouncy, party theme tracks and casually self-deprecating lyrics.
Encouraged by the success of “Pezcore,” Capitol Records signed Less Than Jake in 1996. Together with Capitol, the band released its two most commercially successful albums, “Losing Streak” and “Hello Rockview.” The latter produced Less Than Jake’s first Billboard-charting single, “History of a Boring Town.”
Tensions between the band and Capitol caused the partnership to dissolve, and Less Than Jake found themselves shopping independent labels. They returned to the major label scene in 2003, releasing the “Anthem” LP on Warner Bros. Records.
“Labels, be they indie or major, don’t really affect how we are making our music,” says Fiorello.
Fiorello admits, however, that pressure from a label did impact the band’s sound, if only once.
“With our last record on Warner, ‘In With the Out Crowd,’ there was this tedious push and pull with the label,” says Fiorello.
In 2008, the band chose to circumvent the label scene altogether, forming their own imprint called Sleep It Off Records.
“I think that after being on two major labels and countless indies, we have the education on how to put out records ourselves,” says Fiorello.
To Fiorello, Sleep It Off represents more than just a business venture. It’s a new model for the industry that he expects to catch on with other bands.
“I think it’s maybe a glimpse of the future,” Fiorello says. “(Bands) being their own industry, selling their own merchandise.”
As for the future of ska, a genre that many declared dead in the early 2000s, Fiorello isn’t so sure.
“I don’t necessarily know where it’s going in the future,” he says. “But we’re happy with the label of ‘ska punk band.’ It’s where we started, and it’s what we continue to do.”
LESS THAN JAKE
WHAT: Less Than Jake with Chilled Monkey Brains, Stick City Mafia and Operation Hennesey
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday, April 16
WHERE: Phineas Phogg’s, Seville Quarter,
130 E. Government St.
COST: $15, $17 (under 21)