Scene Point Blank: You're going for the hat trick this year celebrating your third time at the Fest; what drew you to playing this festival?
Vinnie Fiorello: It's run by a very good friend of ours,Tony Winebender. He's come on tour with us to sell t-shirts; he'd run around in a werewolf mask or get naked on stage with Less Than Jake. He also worked with me at Fueled By Raman before going to No Idea and doing the Fest. Less Than Jake has wanted to do it but we were always out on tour. Then three years ago it clicked and we played under a pseudonym and last year we played as ourselves as we will this year.
Scene Point Blank: Has it become a staple for you to play it? I know a lot of bands that don't get to tour as much will organize Fall tours around this one event. Some will just drive straight down to play a one off show.
Vinnie Fiorello: For us, it's really a matter of if we're around. If were not on tour, it's a great chance to hang out with everyone who we don't get to see that often. It's almost the opposite of what a lot of bands do. We're very casual about it.
Scene Point Blank: As one of the longest running bands playing the Fest, what it's like watching the energy of younger bands, including those whose records you released, celebrating the spirit of independent music?
Vinnie Fiorello: I think that with the Fest it's an opportunity to get a whole weekend to see a lot the younger bands. The Fest kind of turned me on to a lot of bands whom I eventually signed to Paper + Plastick. I'm excited to see a lot of bands whom I never seen before.
Scene Point Blank: Not so long ago, the band moved away from a major label to Sleep It Off, your own imprint; do you think it's becoming easier for underground bands to get more attention without having to deal with labels at all? Less than Jake self-released their last album and Alkaline Trio, another large act, is as about to do so as well.
Vinnie Fiorello: I think that with onset of technology and the power of the Internet, it's almost too easy to distribute music digitally. I'm not saying I had it hard, but when I started, it was snail mail and you had to write a letter to someone, a record label, a band, or whatever and that would take time. A lot less bands were around. Now it's amazing at how quick you can put stuff out there. While my label focuses on making really artistic intricate packaging, we now have the power to get the songs out sooner using a digital format. I think any band can embrace the business side of being a band if they so desire, which is still a new thing.
Scene Point Blank: Do think that since the music can be released so quickly then it can also be disposed of so quickly or totally disregarded?
Vinnie Fiorello: I've had that discussion before. Who monetizes music now? What is one song worth when it's so easy to get it for free? Some people will pay 99 cents for a song and think that's fair. Some people will pay five dollar for a CD. Some people will pay 30 dollars a month for every single song on the planet. I don't have the answer to any of that but it's training listeners to not pit monetary value on music. It becomes a sort of buffet, eat all you want type thing. If you don't like the first bite you can throw it away and get something else you might like. There are a lot of listeners out there now who just digest music and move on, digest and move on. Rarely does any of it stick. I bought the last ALL album and there were a lot of quirky songs on there that I didn't get. If I didn't pay for it, I would probably move on, but because I did, I took the time to give it a few listens because I paid for it. People are sort of being trained to demonetize music.
Scene Point Blank: How does Paper + Plastick separate from Sleep It Off and what drew you away from your original project Fueled by Ramen?
Vinnie Fiorello: Sleep It Off is just for Less Than Jake. We had talked about doing other bands, but if I wanted to do that I could release it on Paper + Plastick.
Scene Point Blank: So Sleep it off is the band's label where as Paper + Plastick is your child?
Vinnie Fiorello: Exactly; it's easier for me as well, because with Paper + Plastick there is only one person whom I have to run everything by and that's myself.
Scene Point Blank: When you contact a band do you put equal emphasis on the digital and vinyl distribution?
Vinnie Fiorello: That's what the label is. But with some stuff I don't have the rights to do it digitally. With the new Frank Turner album, I can only do the vinyl; same thing with the latest Rehasher album. With the newer bands I sort of focus what the digital side of the band is as well as the digital side. I stress the digital side because as they gain a following I want their fans to know it's available on vinyl and, immediately, available on digital. That's the beautiful thing about digital, the immediacy to it.
Scene Point Blank: What drew you away form Fueled By Raman? Its seems like they're an incubator for a larger label.
Vinnie Fiorello: Yes, for Atlantic. FBR upstreams bands to the major label. To answer your question, I didn't have a passion for the music anymore. Instead of dismantling a successful company, I decided to sell my half to another label that was interested.
Scene Point Blank: I think of the early bands on that label like Cadillac Blindside and The Impossibles and compare to the stuff on Paper and Plastic, which comes off as a little grittier and dirtier.
Vinnie Fiorello: It's just a matter of what I love whether it's melodic punk or melodic hardcore. I'm doing something with a band called Capital, which is more of a 90's rock sound. I almost always do stuff with a melodic bend, but I'm always open. Next year is going to be an eclectic year for the label.
Scene Point Blank: In your experience, how does something like the Fest compare to radio-sponsored fests or the Warped Tour, both productions with a bit more corporate funding?
Vinnie Fiorello: It's still all rooted in the same idea. The spirits all the same, but with the Fest, they're not following any sort of trend. Warped Tour has to appeal to a wider audience. Fest is more of a narrow slice of music listeners. It's still very diverse, but to a lesser scale than bigger shows. Any way you break it down; it's people showing up to watch a ton of bands.
Scene Point Blank: During my sort of coming of age years, high school to college, Less than Jake was sort of the band that got me through the day, and I think the lyrics sort of reflected that? Do you find yourself still tackling those heavy ideas now, or have you noticed a shift in the themes you're writing about?
Vinnie Fiorello: If you look at Less Than Jake lyrics you'll see that all the songs are about my family, my friends, and my life. I think heavy topics come with heavy times. Borders and Boundaries is a sort of dark record. At the time a friend of mine committed suicide and it really influenced the way I wrote for that record. Every record is a shot of where my life and everything important in it is at that time.
Scene Point Blank: I posed this question to Dear Landlord and Off With Their Heads, but I think it's sort of pertinent to Less Than Jake as well, when writing songs how conscious is the link between more upbeat music set to some loaded ideas.
Vinnie Fiorello: That's the cool dichotomy of the bands like that. You still want to convey your message, but you want people to dance. And that split, that sort of irony is pretty cool. On the last Less Than Jake album, I tried to have that pointed lyrical side to go with horns. That to me, is honest music. A bands is saying where their hearts and heads are at that time, using a catchy song as a vehicle for people to grasp hold of it.
Scene Point Blank: Now that everyone in the band is a little bit older, has your touring schedule waned a bit from what it used to be? I remember it used to be very possible to catch Less Than Jake four or five times a year without driving too far out of the way.
Vinnie Fiorello: We do, but not so much in the United States. We do try to do Europe twice, US twice, Australia once, and Japan once. We do Canada once and South America.
Scene Point Blank: Do you have the same idea as NOFX, that touring the US has gotten a little stale, in terms of the crowd's spirit?
Vinnie Fiorello: Not at all; we never know when we're coming back, and so does the crowd, so we all get really into it. It's easier to tour the US because we live here. It takes a lot of money and planning to tour outside the US.
Scene Point Blank: Last year you played on Halloween dressed as police officers. Do you still continue the tradition of wearing costumes on full tours or is it something left more to special occasions?
Vinnie Fiorello: We don't do so much when we tour. At some point you have to move on from shtick. Sometimes we do cool stuff for special shows like the Fest.
Scene Point Blank: As true veterans of living Gainesville, what restaurants and points of interest do you suggest all Fest attendees check out during down time, if there is even such a thing during the weekend?
Vinnie Fiorello: If you're looking for Caribbean cheap food thing, check out Caribbean Spice. Flaco's has Cuban food. Warren from Against Me has a Mexican place called Boca Fiesta, which is awesome. There are all kinds of stuff. Gainesville is a cool place to explore. It's not too big and you can just kind of wander the streets and hang out. That's why I still live here.
Scene Point Blank: What bands are you excited to see at this year's Fest?
Vinnie Fiorello: 7 Seconds, Snuff, Sakes Alive, all the bands who I put out: Failure's Union, Cheap Girls, Landmines, We are the Union. Bomb the Music Industry. There's a bunch.
Scene Point Blank: What advice do you have for first time Festers?
Vinnie Fiorello: Bring fireworks, bring alcohol, and bring a pillow for wherever you pass out because you're going to be too drunk to do anything else.
Scene Point Blank: Is there anything we can bring Roger for his Birthday?
Vinnie Fiorello: I don't know. Roger likes candy, bring him candy. Bring Pez.