Hello and welcome to our latest edition of #ViralPirateRadio!
We couldn’t be more excited about today’s interview, and we hope you’re just as stoked as we are. If you came up through the DIY punk scene in the 2000’s then you’re already familiar with the DIY antics of Jeff Rosenstock. Since the late ’90s, Jeff has been pumping out album after album, slamming stages with The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, Bomb the Music Industry!, Kudrow and many more.
In 2012 the legend started dropping solo albums, with the fifth and latest offering WORRY. hitting the shelves last year in 2016.
Jeff is a testament to the grind of a DIY music career, with touring and recording processes seemingly having no-end in sight. #ViralPirateRadio’s Louis Pratt was lucky enough to catch him with a moment to chat, and unlocked some of Jeff’s insights on the new record, touring, and making a life in music work in 2017.
Enjoy the interview below, and tune in to our exclusive Jeff Rosenstock playlist at the close of the feature, only on #ViralPirateRadio!
Pleasure to have you chat with us, Jeff! How has the Spring of 2017 been treating you my friend?
Spring has been complicated! We just got off a long US tour with The Menzingers and Rozwell Kid, which was so much fun. Now I’m at home trying to tie up all the loose logistical ends before leaving for a European tour, which is generally stressful for me because I am a bit disorganized, but also I’m getting audited by the IRS, which is the least fun thing possible for anyone. So, yeah, no fun there.
But Chris Farren and I have been on the next Antarctigo Vespucci record for the past two weeks which is turning out awesome, and I also just got word that I’ll be composing music for a new show on Cartoon Network called Craig of the Creek, which is a dream come true. So yeah, crushing lows, soaring highs, the usual!
What led to your decision to sign with Side One Dummy, and how has the experience working with their team been thus far?
SideOneDummy got in touch with me right after we got done recording We Cool? I had sent demos for the record to my friend Eric at Night Owls Print. He also did merch for them, mentioned that the demos were good, they asked to hear them and it just so happened that we were in the same city as them a few days in a row so we got to meet and hang out. It pretty quickly felt like we were friends, which made the leap to a larger label a lot less scary for me.
Working with them is great – they trust me enough to let me do my thing which in turn makes me feel comfortable asking them for advice, as I know they’re not gonna try to force me to do anything that I think isn’t right for me. I’m probably not the easiest artist to work with; I have a very specific way I like to work, but I do work really hard and it’s nice to work with people who respect that and give me helpful guidance when I’m feeling lost.
Why was “Pash Rash” your choice of track for a music video, and how did the video concept come to life?
We were originally gonna make a video for “Bang On The Door” but we were toying with doing a 360 degree video for the last eight songs on WORRY. so we ended up picking “Pash Rash.” I wanted to do a video that showed our band playing a short punk banger with the amount of energy we have when we’re playing live. David and Ben at Baby Pony Food (the directors) have been friends of mine for around a decade and I think they make great videos.
With both the videos I’ve done with them, the concepts have been entirely theirs and they made it look good. We filmed that video at the end of a long tour, after our show in Washington DC and got done at about two in the morning. I was very grateful that so much of the audience stuck around for it!
How has your stance on free music been impacted by your long career in independent music?
It’s become a lot more nuanced, but I still feel pretty much the same and I think the industry has caught up in a lot of ways. I’ve always felt that no matter what, if someone hears your music they could potentially become a fan and start supporting your band, even if they initially downloaded it for free. Labels have adopted that philosophy a bit now – they stream albums for free the week they’re coming out, everything is on all these streaming services that have free options, etc.
Personally, I’ve always wanted to have my music be available for free to anyone without interference from advertising and without financial barriers. That’s why I started Quote Unquote Records. And that doesn’t really have anything to do
with “trying to make fans” or anything like that, it’s more trying to create an untethered place where people can enjoy music. Quite honestly, the fact that anyone ever became a fan of the music I recorded while I was living with my parents in my twenties and eventually various apartments was a surprise to me.
Does Worry carry a new weight this year with the current state of politics?
It does, but I certainly find myself having a hard time articulating my feelings on it accurately. It was discouraging to me to see how few punk records came out last year that touched upon these topics the same way it was discouraging to me to see so many people assuming Hillary Clinton was going to be the next president of the country and that the real nightmare was the pre-election stuff. That everybody chose to not see this coming, and I imagine it’s similar with Brexit, shows that we are out of touch with each other and the realities of racism, sexism, xenophobia and religious fundamentalism that are still a big part of our reality.
How can you even begin to tackle those issues if you don’t acknowledge them? And of course, now it feels like it’s too late because every day there’s new human rights that’s being violated. It feels impossible to keep up.
How do you feel people who might be discouraged about our current times can impact their community and country?
I’m with the discouraged. I think maybe the first step is to admit that you’re discouraged, that you’re fatigued, that it seems like there’s no hope. We’re so out of touch with how we truly feel and are so focused on the way we present ourselves on the internet that it seems a little personal truth could be a good first step. We were on tour when Trump got elected, played Iowa that night. Every night afterwards, I felt the need to talk about it because we were all there together with the audience, feeling lost and lonely. I always said to start with being kinder to the people in your life, strangers or not… having a more empathetic world begins there. Then suck it up and admit that if you are on the side of human rights, your current government no longer represents you.
So, start representing the things you believe it, donate your time and, if you have it, money to charities and causes that you believe in. Help people out. Participate in local government and start resisting from the ground floor instead of just spitting sad hyperlinks into an ecosystem that is far beyond its sad hyperlink capacity. Go to invisible guide and see what’s happening in your town and get involved.
What’s something that you’d like people to take away from Worry? Is there an overarching theme or message to the record?
I don’t want to tell anyone what to take away from my records. I don’t think I can make a record with intent like that, as if I hope my record to turn someone vegetarian like Propagandhi did to me when I was a kid. All I ever want to do is make something that my favorite records have done for me, which is when I’m depressed or when I’m feeling great or anything in between, I just want to write lyrics or make music that makes you stop and go “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck” at some point because of some chord or melody or some drum part or some screamy bit. I want to make music that can hold you. It’s been very nice to see that this record served as a crisis blanket for a lot of folks. I didn’t see that coming and it means the world to me.
Which track is the most fun for you, or your favorite at the moment?
I think I like playing “The Fuzz” the most, which is kinda strange because I wrote that song the night after we got robbed in San Francisco, got all our equipment stolen and found the SFPD to not give a single fuck. Every time we’ve been in San Francisco since, something has gotten stolen out of a car. Last time, our keyboard player’s car itself got stolen.
Do you see yourself putting another record out that is similar in style to Worry?
Yeah, sure. Also, no way. I don’t plan like that. I just write. The stuff I’m writing now – some of it sounds similar, I’m always drawn to power pop, thick Weezer-style guitar tones and fast punk. Some of it is way out there. There’s a song where there’s no guitar chords, there’s a song that has no electric guitars right now, there’s some ambient textures and weird shit. Lyrically, I am always just trying to write honestly. I don’t think this is going to be a “RESIST TRUMP BECAUSE HE’S DOING THIS!” record, although I’d be lying if I said there’s none of that.
Right now the lyrics deal more with feeling abandoned by your fellow person and the results of the fatigue that accompany the feeling of helplessness, the feeling of being betrayed by reality.
Do you think you’ll ever settle down into a life with less touring?
Yeah, of course! I’ve been on tour for most of the last two years, and it’s been awesome, but I’ve never thought that’s the only thing I’d like to do with my life. My old band Bomb the Music Industry! used to only tour about two or three months out of the year so we could continue to have happy lives at home. I am definitely stoked and incredibly appreciative of being able to travel around and play music right now… no matter what stresses come up, the fact of the matter is that I get to see a new place in the world every day with my best friends. You can’t really beat that. At the same time, I have no delusions that I’ll be keeping the same pace when I’m fifty-years-old.
Any advice for talented folks out there dreaming about hitting the road DIY style?
You can do more than you think you can, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. Treat everyone around you well… you’ll feel good you’ll learn to avoid the shitheads who don’t do that, and eventually you’ll start to find some friends, build a little scene and then accidentally end up getting to play in places you never dreams of. Or do the opposite! Treat everyone like shit, have everybody do the work for you, do whatever it takes to make the most money, especially early on when your band doesn’t draw anyone, be weird to promoters, be stand-off-ish to bands you tour with, and leave me
the fuck alone.
Don’t ever forget that you can do more than you think you can, Pirates! How lucky we are to get such an amazing peek into the Jeff Rosenstock adventure! Make sure to plug into Jeff’s website and Facebook and various social media platforms for all the future party plans!
Unfortunately, Jeff jumped into the studio before we could steal an exclusive playlist from him…
Worry not, though, friends! Our close friend Kelsey Larson blessed us with 10 of her favorite Jeff Rosenstock tracks from over the years, giving both The Arrogant Sons of Bitches and Bomb the Music Industry! some time to shine. Enjoy our Best of Jeff Rosenstock playlist below, only here on #ViralPirateRadio!
[Featured Image: SIDE ONE DUMMY RECORDS]