Bayou City

Staying Out of Cycle: An Interview with Jeff Rosenstock

Jeff Rosenstock dropped one of the best albums of 2018 so far, with POST-.
Jeff Rosenstock dropped one of the best albums of 2018 so far, with POST-. Photo courtesy of APA

It was early 2015 when John Baldwin of Walter's asked me, "have you heard this new Jeff Rosenstock record?" That record, We Cool?, would end up crashing the SideOneDummy website when it dropped, and thus made me a longtime fan of the indie rocker. I had already been a fan of his work with Bomb The Music Industry!, his D.I.Y. aesthetic and donation-based record label Quote Unqoute Records, but this version was so catchy and so unfiltered that it made me await his upcoming show. In the vein of doing whatever he wanted, Rosenstock returned the following year with another killer record, Worry., and toured again with better songs and an ever-growing fan base. Nowadays, Rosenstock isn't booking his own shows. His latest record POST- was released on New Year's Day without promotion through Polyvinyl, and with it he dropped the first killer release of 2018. After tagging Rosenstock in my review of the K. Campbell album review, his P.R. team reached out to me before I could send an email to them, and the rest is history below where Rosenstock and I discussed the new record, his time in the industry, and what people can expect from his performance here in March at The Secret Group.

Jeff Rosenstock deserves all of the attention he's been getting in recent years because essentially he's been doing this since the mid-nineties with ska punk band The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, and later with Bomb The Music Industry!. In recent years, it's felt like he's made a record, released it, and toured excessively enough to seem daunting to almost anyone who sees it. "Yeah, my bands break up, I have a band two months and I have to start a new one. I'm never putting out records to stay on (album) cycle, I did this cause I wanted to. When people wanna see me, it's cool." says Rosenstock.

And doing what he wants to seems to be the best method for how Rosenstock works. For his latest record, POST-, he recorded in New York and California, while adding parts from Canadian band PUP as well as Laura Stevenson and Chris Farren. When asked how he got everyone together to make that happen he replied, "the internet. We don't have to do things the old way anymore. We had a week to record, I thought of the harmonies, asked and everyone did their parts. I talked to Stefan of PUP, I asked and he did it all through the miracle of email. I did the same with the last Bomb record too, and it's fun and possible to do that way."

When you listen to POST-, you can't help but hear the lyrics in your face. As someone who doesn't typically put too much stock into lyrics, the catchy nature of the record meant that I'd listened to it enough to know all of the words, so much so that I wondered how much of them were political and leaning towards the dumpster fire of a president we have in office now. As per Rosenstock, "I think every song is political. You have a chance to say something, whether it's this girl broke my heart or whatever. Obviously, they are (about him), but I don't want them to be just that. They're more about how we are feeling over the fact that the body that represents us no longer feels like our body. The lyrics are there for you to figure out what you're thinking."

The music industry is in a weird place where the old model is dead and in this current climate Jeff Rosenstock has done his own thing. Through Quote Unquote, he's always gone with the "these are free" ideal through the donation based label, something that made me wonder if Polyvinyl was okay with and if it'd been successful for him. "Hell yeah, they were totally cool with it. No rollout, make it free, they suggested doing it. I'm in a band with my friends that tours around the world, so yeah it's successful. You have to weigh your time and finances, and in the past, I balanced it by having a regular job. People ask me that a lot, but all music is free anyway, it doesn't really matter anymore. I read things that say that streaming is taking money away from artists, but it's always been that way. There's always been someone there to take the money away from artists," replies the Long Island native.

Jeff Rosenstock will definitely make new friends when he plays The Secret Group March 9. - PHOTO COURTESY OF POLYVINYL RECORDS
Jeff Rosenstock will definitely make new friends when he plays The Secret Group March 9.
Photo courtesy of Polyvinyl Records
The tour, a pretty hefty string of twenty-four dates, will bring the party that is a Jeff Rosenstock show to Houston in early March. When asked what we can expect, Rosenstock is very candid in his response, "I dunno yet, we have to figure out how to play the album live first. With Worry, I just got stoned and we figured it all out, and it all worked out in the end. My band rocks and we'll figure this out too."

You can stream POST- in all of the usual places, or you can order your own vinyl, CD or cassette from either Polyvinyl Records or you can donate to Quote Unquote Records for hearing it for free. Jeff Rosenstock will perform live at The Secret Group on March 9. The all ages show will feature support sets from Laura Stevenson and Chris Farren. Doors at 7 p.m.; tickets $13.
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David Garrick is a former contributor to the Houston Press. His articles focus primarily on Houston music and Houston music events.