"Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding" is both a song title and the underlying raison d'être that Gainesville pop-punks Less Than Jake keep moving forward. They're remain perpetually fired up for touring and recording in some kind of desperate quest to slake the unquenchable thirst of their audience. Listening to their records or their shows, you get the impression that it's all going to come down to who will drop first -- the band or the fans.
"We absolutely do it for them," says drummer and founding member Vinnie (the band members go only by first names). He was referring to the band's ridiculous nine-month-a-year road schedule and constant string of indie, compilation and one-off releases squeezed in between their "big-label" albums.
"We want them to know we are psyched that they came out to see us, so we give it all we've got," says Vinnie. If anybody was worried that signing with Capitol a couple of years back would restrain the off-the-cuff, out-of-control whirlwind, the recent pop-punk masterpiece, "Hello Rockview," puts that issue to rest. It's a grab-bag of beautifully frenetic, articulate funcore that puts their better-known contemporaries to shame. The band is very pleased with the lack of label-committee involvement.
"We have almost no label contact with them, which is fine," says Vinnie. The previous president of Capitol was very into what we're doing, but the new guy is more focused on R&B and rap -- so they leave us alone to do what we want. It's worked out well. We'll run with the ball when we have it."
On the other hand, those who had hoped that Capitol would promote the band and give them the national radio airplay they so richly deserve won't be satisfied. The lack of corporate fingers in the LTJ pie also means that promotion has to be fought for rather than given. Still, Vinnie and the other band members don't seem to mind.
"Why aren‘t we on MTV? Oh, they made it real clear that they're picking their battles -- the bands they want to promote -- and have moved away from doing a lot of music. We're not what they're focused on right now, and that's OK with us. This band is fueled by crowds, which means touring -- not videos. MTV is not a friend I care to have right now anyway." Even without the corporate push, the band sells very well -- "Hello Rockview" has already surpassed the quarter-million units sold of their major-label debut, "Losing Streak."
Before joining the Warped Tour in June, the band is taking a short break in their native Gainesville (which of course means playing at least a few shows around, like a two-night stand at the Covered Dish and then heading south to Barbarella on May 22). These national tours introduce new fans to Less Than Jake's pogo-propelled, ska-flavored joy. It also results in a lot of friends and some interesting side trips.
One such digression resulted in LTJ showing up on the soundtrack to the hot Playstation game "Street Sk8ter," along with national acts Pennywise, Gas Huffer and I Against I. "It was just one of those things where someone we played with said 'Hey you wanna do this?'" says Vinnie. "We didn't get paid -- we just wanted to do it, and our fans like games and we like them, so it was a good idea."
Unlike the bands from Florida that MTV does favor, LTJ are proud of their roots and always look forward to playing here. They continue to work to keep the ticket and merchandise prices low and play as many all-ages shows as possible. "We're from Florida. We draw our inspiration from Florida," explains Vinnie. "Our fans are here. There's a lot of good bands here. It's our home base."