Interview: Jeff RosenstockWritten by Kenny Leys
Jeff Rosenstock is ready to bomb the music industry again with some new awesome music and sounds on “We Cool?”, his first release on Side One Dummy records, that even managed to crash their website when the pre-order went up. Time for us at RMP to have a chat through the technology of Skype with Jeff in his NY hometown of Long Island about the new record and all the amazing stuff surrounding this release, from bathrobes and bubble baths to working with AJJ and TSSB. Time to find out if we cool with Jeff?
- Jeff, congratulations on your new solo album, “We Cool?”. When the pre-order went up recently, it crashed the website instantly. How does that feel?
Honestly, I was just kind of worrying, because I wanted people to be able to get the record. At first I was ‘ah cool, that means people are interested’ and then like twenty seconds later the part of me that worries too much was like ‘oh shit, now people can't buy it anywhere. That sucks!’ It was nice and it's now available on a website that can't crash. Everything is back up and running now.
- You have some unusual merch on sale for this release, from a Jeff Rosenstock bathrobe to a teddy bear. Are you starting an imperium or what's the story behind the robe?
Well, at first I think Side One Dummy went to have some pre-orders stuff and I think like the first idea I was coming up with was like what would you want when you're having a sad night alone in your house like drinking. Stuff we were thinking about were like bubble baths, we were trying to figure out about having bottle of wines and then Christina at Side One came up with the bathrobe, she said ‘Rosenrobe’ and I wrote back ‘Robenstock’. And then it went real.
- Sean Bonette of Andrew Jackson Jihad drew up the shirt for “We Cool?”, epic as always of course. Was Sean or other friends involved on “We Cool?”?
Sean didn't play on the record but he came along on tour for a day or two with my other band Antarctigo Vespucci; just to hang out because we are buddies. He's just drawing in the van in this little notebook and all of us were like ‘holy shit dude, you're good at this’. I can't process how Sean is so good at so many things. So we asked him to do a shirt design for us. He sent me a bunch of stuff and that ended up being the one. As for other people on the record, there's a bunch of people on the record. Mike from Hard Girls and Shinobu played guitar on it, alongside me, John from Bomb The Music Industry played bass on it and Kevin from Bruce Lee band played drums. It's a solo record, but all four of us made the music. Then there's a bunch of other buddies who were cool and sent some other music in. Laura Stevenson sang some backing vocals with me on the record. Bob from Shinobu played trombone on it. I did a thing on Twitter and Tumbler to find a clarinet player and a cellist; we had two strangers, who are no longer strangers now to play cello and clarinet on the record. I know it was Scott that played clarinet and Sarah that played cello. We had a bunch of people doing all kind of things on the record.
- Since you’re tired of discussing the future, let's talk about now, how has the response been to your recently released video for the album track “Nausea”?
It's looking good, it's cool and everybody told me it's going good. People who have seen it and gotten in touch with me say they really like it. So I'm pretty stoked about it. I haven't got numbers but they're telling me it's good. My dad saw it and asked ‘what is your target audience, suicidal people?’ Even got my dad bummed out, so it's good. It's a weird ass video.
- “We Cool?” is the full album that's out in march, but you recently also released a track of it, “Hey Allison” on 7” through Side One Dummy records. It was your first release with them. How was it?
Really great, they are all really nice. It's a different experience to work with a label that has like an office. They have a whole thing going on there. When I mostly do things myself or with Mike who still runs Asian Man records out of like a garage or a basement. It's different to do stuff like that, but they are all really cool and it's nice to have new people having to help me out.
- Would you like to elaborate on the new song “All Blissed Out” because it has quite a different sound I can't totally place? Can you help me out?
This record especially is like faster and louder than anything I have done in the past few years. So this kind of stands out as one of slow-building, quiet ones. It came through a thing I was playing on my keyboard at my house where I sampled a harmonica, played it through and reversed it and just screwing around with it. And then one day I came up with the main melody and that other stuff that is in there. I was stoked to have a song on the record that was like superquiet and that got super, superloud. That’s extremely dynamic.
- You produce a lot of bands too, for instance the recent release of The Smith Street Band was done by you. How was working with the Smithies?
They're the best, they're my favourite. We were good friends before the record and we are good friends now. It was really fun. I'm super thankful for them, I hadn't done much of that stuff for other people on a large scale before they brought me up there to do that. I got to stay in Australia in the woods for about a month. That was fucking cool. They’re just a great band and it seems they keep getting bigger. So fuck yeah.
- You’re starting an American tour next with Andrew Jackson Jihad, The Smith Street Band and Chumped. How did this line-up come forth and how excited are you?
I'm really excited. Firstly, it's like the first tour I'm doing since like 2012, if you don't count going to Australia. It's been a really long time. It's really good to get back into it with three bands that are like really close friends. Andrew Jackson Jihad, we've been friends for like ten years now, we're just superhuge buddies. Chumped lives in Brooklyn and The Smith Street Band obviously, I'm pretty close with them after and even before the record. It's going to be a real fun time. I'm hoping to get to Europe somewhere by the end of the year. I'm psyched to come to Europe.
- With Quote Unquote Records you have your own unique record label, a donation-based label. You give what you want for the music. Any plans in that department?
I just put out Sean from Andrew Jackson Jihad, he made a solo EP of cover songs, songs that you have seen in skateboarding videos. All the money is getting donated to the Skate After School program, to get kids into skateboarding. That is the last thing O did. Quote Unquote is a really funny thing, you know Bandcamp just pretty much made that this thing can do anything, I think it's great. It's a slow-moving donation thing, like if a friend of mine has something they need a home for. I haven't been like seeking things actively for a while now, letting it do its thing.
- So if you have any time left after all those activities, touring, recording, producing, you even submit songs for movies. Any successes lately?
It's been fine. I get things through my publishing place, they are like ‘write a song that sounds like this’, or ‘write a party punk song’. I never hear anything back, I guess there not good enough. It's a fun thing to do. I scored a documentary some time ago. That was cool, I'm just stoked I get to do all those things. It gives me a different perspective on all those things.
- Any last words?
If we make it over to Europe, we don't speak English well and we don't understand any other language so don't yell at us because we don't understand what you're saying. Please come say hello to us, teach us funny things to say. Like when I was in Brazil the only thing I learned to say was like the only thing all old Brazilians say which was basically like saying 'that's a nice meatball'. If somebody could teach me something like that in every country we go to. And that's all I know what to say I think it will be fine.
– David Marote