You're the lucky reader of the 30th edition of the Punknews.org Vinyl File. This column aims to keep you informed with upcoming releases as well as spotlighting interesting releases, your favorite bands' own collections and labels with a history of vinyl releases worth talking about. As always, Vinyl File is brought to you by Ben Conoley.
This week's Vinyl File features an interview with Less Than Jake lyricist/drummer Vinnie Fiorello. Last week we took a look back through some highlights from the band's extensive vinyl catalog. We also have information on records from Lifetime, Gaslight Anthem, The Decemberists and more.
That's not all though, we've also got what has to be the coolest contest we've ever run at Vinyl File, as we will be giving four readers a Less Than Jake test pressing.
Vinyl File is extremely excited to be able to offer four readers a test pressing of one of four early Less Than Jake 7"s. When the band released the Cereal Box collection, they did new presses for all the albums. We've got one copy each of Smoke Spot, Unglued, Pez Kings and Rock-n-Roll Pizzeria. So here's the deal, email ben (at) punknews (dot) org with your name and address as well as a photo proving why you should win one of the test pressings. It can be a photo of your Less Than Jake collection, or perhaps a photo of the void such a collection would fill. Get creative and prove to us why you deserve one of these rare treats. Winners will be announced here next week.
THE VINYL FILE SPOTLIGHT Did you have any interest in vinyl before starting Less Than Jake?
Oh yeah, my brother collected 7"s and 45s so it's funny. As I was growing up my brother was into punk. We were living in New Jersey at the time and he was kind of taking care of me because my mother and father were working nights. He was in that scene, but after a while he drifted more into heavier music and metal, so I acquired his collection. So I had a bunch of Misfits and Damned 7"s that he gave to me as he moved onto other genres of music. So from that point on, that was what I listened to. I didn't know any better, it was the radio or listening to music on vinyl. There was no other way to listen to music in the house.
Itâs funny, it seems like a common theme, before the Internet people got into punk rock through their older brothers
My older brother is four years older than me and he is responsible for getting me into the music I love. Over half my life has been spent in the punk community, itâs weird.
How important was it to release your music on vinyl from the beginning with Less Than Jake?
100%. The first thing we did as a band aside from cassette tapes that you gave out for free, the format was putting out a 7". That was, as a band when we first started, we sort of went, "we want to put out a vinyl 7"." That's kind of trippy now when you think about it because people want to release CDs and then it moved to online and digital format. For us, out biggest sort of goal was to have a 7" and we wanted it to be on No Idea because at the moment they were more of a magazine than a record label, we were fans of the magazine so we wanted it to come out on No Idea. We said we'd pay for it, do the art work, hand screen the covers. Var said, "Oh yeah cool," but it's something we really wanted. We wanted to have a 7" and for it to come out on No Idea.
And of course you continued to work with them, and a bunch of other small labels throughout your career.
For us, we just wanted to work with as many labels as possible. I think I tallied it somewhere and it was 20 different labels or something like that. We just wanted to put out the music and whoever wanted to put out the records, that's where it floated to. We had records on Far Out records, World Records, What Else, Snuffy Smile, No Idea, Asian Man. It's kind of a crazy thing, some labels, let's say Far Out Records who put out the first Against All Authority record and who put out our Making Fun of Things You Donât Understand 10", the Crumbs Records, those were great records and big bands at the time. Against All Authority, when Destroy What Destroys You came out was massive. That label isn't around anymore.
As someone who collects records yourself, how do you feel looking back over your catalog and having all these random records all over the place that are so tough to find?
Early on there was a comp called Make the Collector Nerd Sweat. That's been our mantra as a band as far as our vinyl output but also as toys and other rare things. We wanted to do cool projects weather it be records, toys, hand screened tours. We just wanted to do that because it is the culture around our band, we do it in our own right. I collect records and toys and put out collectible toys.
I was talking to Var from No Idea Records and one of the things he said about releasing so many colors of their records was that it simply keeps things interesting for them.
When you're doing it, it's not what other people are going to think, you're just doing it because it's fun. A die-cut cheese record, you're not thinking people are going to go crazy, I am just thinking "we have a fucking piece of cheese for a record." It's fun for us and for people who like our band.
Is that why you have released your own vinyl for a little while now?
We've had a few things with different labels, in the UK we worked with Warner UK and they did a lot of vinyl pieces for some reason. Var did a lot of represses of old records and I have been handling the duties putting out Les Than Jake stuff here. Regardless of how convenient it is to go to my computer and download the new Crimpshire, you can find those records, that's great. But when you do vinyl and you have that physical aspect, the reason why you are doing it, it's art, it's more than the music, it's this other thing thatâs attached to it. You want something physical besides the song, that's the cool thing about doing vinyl. It might not be as convenient, but it's something that you have forever. You are holding a die cut record in your hand unlike something you've ever seen before. Then you put it on and it's got great songs as well.
I wanted to ask you about a number of your records specifically. Letâs start of with the Megadeth split.
We had been on Capitol Records for Losing Streak and Hello Rockview. Megadeth had been on Capitol around the same time we were and one of the people that work at Capitol knew we were metal-heads. They knew we did the Slayer thing before. They said "Dave Mustaine really likes your band." We said, "Can you get in touch with Dave about doing a song?" They had a new record coming out and we were offering to pay for the whole thing. A mutual friend at Capitol that also knew Megadeth, it was a simple and painless process. We had âAll Our Best Friends are Metal Headsâ on the a-side and they had âDisintegratorâ on the b-side. We had green vinyl and the four flaps that fit together for the European version and the Pentagram cover in the US.
Speaking of Slayer, how did that 7" come about?
The Slayer one, we did two covers of Slayer songs. As a fluke when we did the Grease soundtrack we learned two Slayer covers and never thought of doing anything with it, and then Var listened to it and said "We should do those songs." If you listen to those covers, it's a bit of a reach for the band, a departure, but at that time we were doing a lot of covers. We were doing â80s pop covers like Twisted Sister, so it wasn't foreign to us. I am a massive Slayer fan, so being able to go in there and cover those songs and put your own twist on it was cool.
Do you know If they ever got back to Slayer?
Have they heard it? We played the Eagles Ballroom in Milluake and Machine Head was playing upstairs. Their crew head worked with Slayer and we gave them a bunch of Less Than Jake Slayer shirts and vinyl, so I am sure they heard it.
How about the food related records such as the Cheese and Cake ones?
The Cheese ones came from our friend Cheese who was in Pittsburgh. We did an early version of the song that ended up on Hello Rockview. We had a few songs such as âScott Farcas Takes it on the Chinâ and âCheeseâ was another one, so we decided to do the cheese shape in honor of our friend Cheese. I called up Erika Records and talked to Liz and said "I want to do this record and I want it to be a cheese block and have holes drilled in it." She laughed and came back and said "I can drill this many holes in it and have it this shape and you can have these many songs." I said, "Thatâs great, Iâm stoked."
The Cake record was a celebration for us, it was our 50th release, so I just put some songs that were hard to get at that moment. We had some out of print records that I just let get farmed out.
Continuing on with the food theme, what about the cereal box set?
Smoke Spot, Unglued, Pez Kings, Pung/LTJ split, Rock-n-Roll Pizzeria, Crash Course in Being an Asshole, Kemuri/LTJ split It was a blast. It was represses of our first 7"s. Unglued, Pez Kings, Pung spit, Rock-n-Roll Pizzeria, Crash Course in Being an Asshole and the Kemuri split. We packaged those with a t-shirt and I did these small little skull toys and we did some of these gold toys and if kids got those they were guest listed for life. There is one guy, I don't have his name in front of me but he still emails me and I put him on the guest list. He has used it four times. He had sold that toy to a collector of Funcom, the company I had the toys made through, for an obscene amount of money, something like $600. The cereal box is the highest priced thing I have seen as far as Ebay - that, the toy and everything wound up being something ridiculous like $630. One toy that we did that we were giving away to people with Less Than Jake tattoos, it went for $800. The pie tin had the same records.
And the final food record, the Rock-n-Roll Pizzeria.
That was really cool, we screened the pizza boxes in our apartment and put it together with a magnet and a guest check, and we went through with the whole thing. We were nerdy and meticulous with the things that were in there. On the b-side was an etching from Armadillo. We also did the Rock-n-Roll Pizzeria on a repress from Snuffy Smile in Japan, but that didn't have the box, just a sleeve.
What I have a hard time understanding is just how something like that comes to fruition
It's weird, you have this song, you're looking at it, and looking around for a unique way to release it. We weren't going out of our way to make it unique, but it was a way of keeping ourselves entertained. We just though, "Wouldn't it be cool to put it in a pizza box?" and before you know it after a bunch of coffee and a lot of missed sleep we called this pizza place and got these boxes and another place told us where to get cheap magnets. You just go with it, itâs a project.
You also did a few flexi-discs, which you almost never see anymore.
We did three. One was with Boris the Sprinkler, on was âI think I love Youâ for the Scream soundtrack and another one after that that just had some live songs on it. We did "I think I love You" with Capitol Records because the soundtrack came out on that label and we said we wanted to do some weird promo. They said, "Do you want to make stickers?" We said, "No, we want to do some flexies. They only cost 30 cents a piece," and they said "Do it." So we made an insane amount of records just threw them out .They don't make them anymore. The company that made them stopped making them, I don't know why. I called them five years ago to make clear flexi and they were like, "We don't do that anymore." I tried to pry, but they weren't having any of my nonsense. Before they stopped making flexies they turned into a weird religious company and they went through your music and if you had any swearing they wouldnât do it, but "I think I Love You" was a Partridge Family song, so it was ok. I think we were one of the last people do a record with them.
Lately you have released your albums as a series of 7" records, is that something youâre going to continue to do?
In the future, I don't know if we'll do it. The Anthem set was really cool, I was stoked on that. We did the In With the Out Crowd vinyl ourselves, but I don't know if we'll do it again. But I definitely plan on doing an interesting thing for the new record that I don't want to say, but it will be like two records in one. But instead of packaging, it will be based on the audio side of things. Stay tuned for that. I have heard of people doing it once or twice, but I have never heard one. Consider this, even when we were on Warner and Capitol it's not like they were interested in vinyl anyways, especially from Less Than Jake, so it was really easy to do it ourselves or have someone else. But for us to do stuff ourselves now with Sleep it Off, expect more collectibles. When we want to record songs we don't have to worry about anything else. We don't have to worry about clearing songs and the red tape involved.
It must be a relief to be at a point where you can do this now and not have to worry about label support.
It really is. After a certain point on our last record it was really evident that it was time for us to do it ourselves and just step away from Warner Bros. Luckily Warner was cool enough to say "OK, we're going to part ways". That gave us the opportunity to start sleep it off and redo
are you going to be re-releasing any of your back catalogue now?
I donât think I'm going to reprint anything, but I am going to do anything that Less Than Jake does from now on. I have toyed with the idea of just doing a live record that is just on vinyl. I had a hair-brained scheme of doing every LP that we have ever done in one box and the extra record would be a live record that you can only get with this. But thought of doing 9 or 10 12" and boxing them, and then, is someone going to pay $135 for a set? That's nuts, I don't know. I would like to do it, but if you do it and it doesn't go anywhere you are in the hole a lot of money. But it's on one of those drawing boards.
Did you manage to keep one of everything that you have released over the years?
I kept two or three extra copies because inevitably there is someone writing a letter saying "My house burned down and this record was in it, can you send it to me?" That happened with the Muppets 7", this girl emailed me and said "My house burned down, and do you have any extras? It was my favorite record." So I went into my collection and pulled it out, and that happens all the time. But right now I still have like two copies and test presses for every record that we've done.
THE PUNKNEWS.ORG VINYL FILE
The Isis 10th anniversary box set, which collets all the bands LPs inside specially designed sleeves and original artwork went up for sale and sold out from the European distro, Conspiracy Records. However, their American partner, Robotic Empire says they will have their 300 copies on sale in the next two weeks.
In other news that might interest Isis fans, Japan's Boris have released a new 7" through Southern Lord Records. Statement can be ordered here. The 7" is limited to 3,000 copies with 1,000 available on yellow/gold for mail-order.
Those who missed out on The Loved Ones' latest release, Build & Burn, can rest easy knowing that the band has a limited number of the record with them on tour. Word is the band is limiting their remaining copies, so you might have a chance yet. For a time, the band also had special tour editions of the record featuring a screened cover insert, but those are since gone.
Against Me! are playing some club dates while tagging along with the Foo Fighters. On these dates the band will have copies of their latest 7" in support of New Wave. The single for 'Stop' is available on yellow vinyl limited to 500 and black vinyl limited to 5000. The 7" is backed with the unreleased track 'Gypsy Panther.'
Don Giovani Records has launched a pre-order for The Ergs!' Dorkrockcorkrod. You can pre-order the record along with other releases from the label here. While it had been pressed once before, it has been a pretty tough find, leading to this repress.
Polar Bear Club's debut full-length, Sometimes Things Just Disappear will be getting a vinyl release care of Kiss of Death Records
Rhino Records has released the Juno soundtrack on orange vinyl. Although the label says it is a limited release, they have not announced any pressing information.
Mae Shi's HLLYH has been printed as a 2xLP and is up for pre-order at the Yosada webs store. 250 have been printed on color vinyl with the first record on white.yellow swirl and the second on light blue/green half and half. It is also available on black.
We announced some time ago that No Idea Records is going to be re-releasing Lifetime's latest self-titled album, but news has just come in that they will also be re-releasing the band's Jade Tree albums Jerseyâs Best Dancers and Hello Bastards. Jade Tree has long since stopped printing copies of their Lifetime albums, while the band's self-titled effort on Decaydance was a disappointment with poor quality concerns and the lack of a lyric sheet.
Still waiting on your Gaslight Anthem 7"? No need to rush to your mailbox yet. SeÃ±or and the Queen has been delayed in both CD and vinyl formats. Seems the band had a particular type of paper in mind for the inserts, one which the pressing plant did not carry. Once they get the sheets printed up and inserted, they'll be shipping them out.
Dead Meadow's Old Growth is now available on vinyl from Matador Records. It is limited to 500 copies on white 180 gram vinyl in a gatefold jacket and each copy comes with an MP3 download for the album.
Colin Meloy of The Decemberists recently did a solo tour and recorded some of the songs for a live album about to be released on Jealous Butcher Records. The 2xLP is available for pre-order from the label with the first 100 orders having received autographed copies.
Gilead Media has a bunch of things in the works. They have repressed mewithoutYou's first two albums on color. The second pressing includes 500 Catch For Us The Foxes and 500 A->B Life. Exactly what the colors are has not been announced yet. They also have releases in the works from indricothere, Thou, Of Sinking Ships, Moouth of the Architect/Kenoma and He Who Corrupts. Furthermore, they will be releasing the Rocky Votolato 10" in May.
If you have anything you want to see posted in Vinyl File, get in touch with ben (at) punknews (dot) org.