Founded in Gainesville, Florida in 1992, Less Than Jake began life as a Power Pop trio consisting of Chris Demakes (lead guitar, vocals), Roger Manganelli (bass guitar, vocals) and Vinnie Fiorello (drums, percussion, lyrics) before adding Ska Punk elements to their sound with the addition of trombone players Buddy Schaub and Pete Anna and baritone sax man Derron Nuhfer. The most common account of the origin of their name relates to a dog Vinnie's family once owned called Jake, who was treated better than everybody else in the house, who were consequently "less than Jake".
Despite lacking a clear signature song, Less Than Jake's brand of infectious, horn-infused pop-punk sound was a big hit with ska revivalist fans in The '90s and they established themselves as a popular live act noted for their DIY ethic and carefully constructed albums, with the 1998 Concept Album Hello, Rockview! bringing them their greatest success.
Although the departure of Nuhfer and Anna and their replacement by ex-Spring Heeled Jack USA saxophonist Pete "JR" Wazilewski prompted their brief shift towards straight-ahead Punk Rock, they've more recently returned to the ska-influenced sound of their earlier work and remain a very popular band on the ska scene.
Less Than Jake features examples of:
- Abandon Ship: The title for one of their songs. The phrase is used to represent how life (the ship) spirals out of control and one must either find something to keep going or leave it because "it's sinking way too quick".
- The Cameo: Jay Frenzal is about Jay Whalley from Frenzal Rhomb breaking down their bus. The song features him singing the verse "oh shit here comes your bus driver, he's pissed".
- In one concert, Herbert J. Budworth asked them to perform "We're All Dudes" from Good Burger. He stepped up to the stage dressed as Ed.
- Mr. Cheese once sang "Richard Allen George... No, It's Just Cheez".
- Concept Album: The songs in Hello Rockview! (one of their most well-regarded albums) are unified by the central concept of man returning to his home town after many years spent away and finding it so changed that he struggles to fit back in.
- GNV FLA is more focused on daily life on Gainesville, Florida.
- Cover Album: Greased
- TV/EP consists of commercial jingles and old school TV shows themes, squeezing sixteen of them into less than twelve minutes.
- He Who Must Not Be Heard: Excluding former members like Jessica Mills (who left after Losing Streak) and Shaun Grief (who left even before Pezcore), Vinnie is the only member not to sing in any song.
- Heroic Sacrifice / Self-Immolation / Man on Fire: Malachi Richter's Liquor's Quicker is about the Real Life death of Malachi Ritscher, who set himself on fire as a protest against the Iraq War.
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: The Science of Selling Yourself Short
- His Own Worst Enemy:
- The Science of Selling Yourself Short. Also provides the page quote.
- Hopeless Case also touches on this, with lines like "I have this feeling inside that I wouldn't like me if I met me" and "I'm my own worst casualty."
- Is This Thing On?: The title of one of their songs. It uses the phrase to represent loneliness and watching the world leave you behind as you mourn a loss.
- Must Make Amends: The whole theme of The Rest of My Life is about the "narrator" (so to speak) asking someone for forgiveness because he said something horrible. The music video drives its point home by making its adult protagonists argue and turning into little kids as they do so. They mostly return to normal, except for the married couple. The video starts and ends with a quote by Alden Nowlan: "The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise."
- New Sound Album: In With The Out Crowd was more straightforward punk rock and had minimal input from the horn section. Their next full-length release GNV FLA would return to their traditional ska influence.
- Promoted Fan Boy: Subverted. Some fans (like Herbert J. Budworth or Mr. Cheese) have a long time friendship with the band, so once in a while, they are featured in concerts.
- J.P. Flexner is a fan of Less Than Jake and managed to be the illustrator for Greetings from Less Than Jake, Season Greetings from Less Than Jake and Greetings and Salutations from Less Than Jake.
- Shout-Out: Malachi Ritscher's name (see Heroic Sacrifice above) is made to honor the Arsenal EP in which he played bass. The EP had accidentally mispelled his name as "Richter" but the song mispelled it on purpose.
- Step Up to the Mic: Although Chris and Roger are the main vocalists, Pete Anna (who left after Borders & Boundaries) sang "Hamburger Hop" (featured on Goodbye Blue & White), Buddy sang "Mississippi Mud" (also on Blue & White), Derron did some backing vocals on Losing Streak, and JR sang the SpongeBob SquarePants theme on TV/EP.
- On the Anthology DVD, some fans stepped in to sing a Less Than Jake song.
- Vocal Tag Team: Chris is usually recognised as their official lead singer, but he shares lead vocal duties with Roger often enough that it's become one of the defining features of the band's sound.
- JR is used for backing Roger's vocals since they both have high-pitched voices (as opposed to Buddy and especially Chris, who have lower registers).
- The Wiki Rule: They have their own wiki.