Interview Highlight: Jeff Rosenstock

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Read the full interview from DJ Emo King's interview with Jeff Rosenstock, aired on April 18th, 2018.

Emo King: So my DJ name’s Emo King, not that any of you here are really big emo people, but yeah.
Jeff Rosenstock: I put out that one Korean Girl record.
Mike: Is that emo or indie rock?
Jeff: Seam.
Mike: Seam, that’s indie rock.
Jeff: Alkaline trio.
Mike: I guess...
Jeff: Joyce Manor.
Mike: Are they emo?
Jeff: Yeah, hell yeah, man! They’re the biggest emo band around!
Mike: Haha, aren’t they pop punk?
Emo King: Yeah they’re pretty pop punk.
Jeff: I’m just kidding around.
Mike: Are the Queers emo?
Jeff: Haha, I think so.

Okay, so DJ Emo King. We’ve got a very special interview today with Jeff Rosenstock, of… Jeff Rosenstock, and many other things. And Mike Park of Asian Man Records.
: Yeah, we dragged Mikey here because he was just hanging around.

Mike: I’m excited, this is gonna be awesome.

So Jeff, I actually saw you with Shinobu in Oakland at 1-2-3-4 Go! I also, like, picked up the setlist and had you sign it.

Jeff: Ah thanks. Yeah, that Shinobu thing was really fun. Fun cuz Mike [Huguenor] and Matt [Keegan] from Shinobu both played in my bands a bunch.Mike’s playing in my band, and Matt played in Bomb the Music Industry!, so I was like yeah, I’ll play guitar in Shinobu. They’re like my favorite band today.

Yeah, I know, mine too. I’m also wearing a Shinobu shirt today. Are you aware of a Facebook page called Jeff Rosenstock Post- Posting?
: No.

So it’s a Facebook page on Facebook, and well it basically talks about Jeff Rosenstock stuff in general.
: I’m a member of it, actually. Yeah, I joined the group. t says to get in the groove you have to write your favorite Jeff Rosenstock song, and I just wrote “ska”.

Jeff: And they let you in anyways?

Well I queried the page, and was like I'm interviewing Jeff and what are some good questions? So I’m gonna go off with some of those.
: Alright.

Someone wanted to know what it would take for there to be a Bomb the Music Industry! reunion tour.
: Oh, I bet that’s never gonna happen. No, I don't know what it would take. I don't even know if it would take. I mean the the realistic answer for anybody is how much money it would take, but I feel like that was the opposite of what Bomb was about, so I feel like it’s really dicey.

I think me and John [DeDomenici] joked about it... it’d take something really bad, like one of us would have to be, like, dying in the hospital. Then the rest of us would be like, “Oh no we gotta pay Tom's medical bill right now, he's gonna die.”

Mike: I tried to get Bomb to play the Asian Man’s 20th Year Anniversary and Jeff said, “Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.”

Jeff: I think it would be funny if we did it when we’re like sixty years old, just because nobody would want it at that point, and that’d be a good bit. But yeah, probably no Bomb the Music Industry! reunion.

A lot of people are probably gonna be bummed to hear that.
: Yeah, sorry. Well, we were a band for like 10 years though. We were a band for a really long time. And you would be seeing a shell of us.

Mike: You said you might reunite when you’re sixty… Think about the Misfits when they were young, and now they're around 60 and they just did their reunion show…

Jeff: Are you allowed to talk just sheer numbers of what they made at those shows?

Mike: Yeah, I was just doing merchandise for an Alkaline Trio show so I know those numbers.

Jeff: So yeah, we’ll just wait for Misfits time.

Speaking of Bomb the Music Industry! stuff, a lot of people also want to know about re-pressing. There's a lot of people who actually want re-pressings of some Bomb the Music Industry! stuff. Even I Look Like Sh*t, and then Adults!!!, Vacation, and even Three Cheers for Disappointment too.
: Yeah, Adults!!! is the worst one because we literally like have six boxes of that. That record is pressed and we just haven't gotten them from John's house to put them up online. We've got a really busy... Mike is just shaking his head. We were busy the last like two and a half years. We've been on tour, it was kind of unexpected, so a lot of those just kind of fell out of print, but this year we're gonna get them.

We already have the Vacation repress kind of rolling, and I'm gonna work on the ASOB one. I got to get art work together for that one to make it good, but they're all gonna be repressed. They're all gonna be out there.

Jeff: I try to tell people that because I see it on like Ebay for like a hundred bucks, and I’m like yeah, don't spend that money. Just be patient it's coming. You know, now I don't want that person to have a hundred bucks. Screw you ASOB_fan43!

Mike: I just reordered jackets for the To Leave or Die album, and Goodbye Cool.

Jeff: So he's keeping the things on Asian Man pressed cuz he's a good label owner, and I’m doing bad because I’m a bad label owner.

Okay, so as far as your label—Shinobu’s Exhaustive, Exhaustive, is that ever gonna gonna get a pressing?
: Oh I doubt it cuz I would, I mean I feel like I'm not gonna ever end up pressing that, but they might press it on their own. They don't play a lot and I think, like, when it comes to a B-sides collection, like what that would take, like, that'd be like a double LP.

That would be my favorite double LP.

Jeff: Fans of Shinobu Exhaustive, Exhaustive I feel like are the biggest fans of anything. I love it. Yeah it's awesome. I'm not planning on pressing that but maybe they will someday.

Mike: It'd be hard. Financially it’d be hard because Bob, the bass player of Shinobu, tried to do it on Fat Monkey. But, he don’t got the money.

Jeff: It costs money to press these things. They won't let you just press vinyl for free, it's messed up. That's what happens. Typical American capitalism, they won’t let you press a record for free.

Just, to keep in the topic of records while we're stalling, do you have any plans to produce records because you did that Smith Street Band…

Jeff:There's no, I mean like I'm so slammed right now, writing music for Craig of the Creek, and right on tour. I don't have anything planned right now. There's stuff I wanted to do... I wanted to do Kitty Cat Fan Club record this year and I didn’t have enough time to do it. That really bummed me out, so hopefully I'll be able to do that.

I was gonna work with Laura [Stevenson] this year too, and I didn't have any time. It stinks, I want to get back into it at some point, but it's just kind of like there's only so much time, and I'm already losing my mind a little bit so I need to not take on more stuff as much as I would like to do.

You have to be one of the most prolific people in rock and roll today, and also one of the nicest people in rock and roll—
: It’s all fake.

I can't tell you how many posts I've seen of people on Facebook being like, “Oh man I messaged Jeff when I was feeling really bummed. I messaged him on Instagram and he responded and he sent like this really nice, like thoughtful, like long message to me. It meant so much to me.”
: Aaaaw… That’s nice!

Mike: He’s a good guy, honestly. This is coming from a long time, 30 years of the music business. He's a good guy, I like him a lot. He's one of my favorite persons.

Jeff: Thanks, you’re one of my favorite persons! Yeah, I try to be nice to people. I want people to be nice to me, so I try and be nice to people, you know? I try, I don't know if I always am. You see, it seems like it's easy enough, it's as easy as being mean, and I don’t like being mean.

Mike: It’s no fun, I agree.

Like you even saying, like... I've seen so many people say how nice you are and you're still like, “I try, don't know if it works.” A lot of your lyrics, like, kind of have that same feeling to them, they're like “I don't know if what I'm doing really means anything.” I know like a couple of tracks of POST-, but I have to say like anyone that's a fan of yours, would have to say the absolute opposite.
: Thanks, thanks. That’s nice.

But, also as your solo stuff has like progressed from WORRY. to POST-, it feels like a lot of the songs have gotten more like politically-charged– a reaction to like events in today's society.
: Yeah.

Is that partly an effort to make your stuff more meaningful or impactful, or is that just a reaction to what it is today?
: We Cool? is the first record that I did that I was doing a lot of interviews, and I was just tired of kind of talking about myself. And I was tired of writing about myself, which is usually just kind of what I do. I kind of like writing, and still I feel like... I was kind of writing my way through depression and anxiety and stuff like that.

So when I was working on WORRY., I was just trying to challenge myself to write more about stuff in the outside world that was kind of stressing me out, which made it end up being more political, which is, like… I've had a hard time with. Just you know, kind of stuff like  police not being held accountable for murdering people with racist motives, or even just people in general not being held accountable for committing hate crimes, or gentrification of my city, and stuff like that. Like those are the things that would get me kind of charged up and angry, or just feeling that energy and it felt like a productive place to put that was towards lyrics. A lot of the time [it] will come from negative energy within myself. Like I kind of was approaching it about the negative energy from the outside world a little bit, and then still some negative energy for myself. I’d love to write some positive stuff, but I’m having a really hard time with it.

I mean I think a lot of people appreciate that because it's not something that everybody does, and people really like that about your music. Stuff that's negative tends to be more raw, more powerful, and more impactful... and people connect with it because everybody else also has negative feelings.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah. You know, thanks. I honestly...I hope someday I can figure out how to not write negative stuff. Like, that's the real challenge.

I think with WORRY., I was trying to write, like, a nice record about what it means to be basically, be loved and have a relationship in this era. And it's messed up because I feel like there are a lot of external forces that try and drive you away from other people, and drive you away from relationships and from being nice to people while there's just like this… inescapable magnitude of capitalism just running everything, turning everybody into greedy monsters. Just like, the fact that gentrification makes it impossible for families to stay where they're living, you know? So it's kind of stuff like that, and [I’m] like, “I’m gonna write a record about love and how it’s never gonna possibly work!” You know?

Yeah, it's frustrating being positive like you said, but you are doing a cartoon. You're doing a cartoon on Cartoon Network. Now I know that it definitely has to be…
: Oh that just makes me think about negative crap about my childhood. Yeah, that stuffs really fun man, that stuff’s super fun, but I don't know. I feel like I'm always trying to get to the goose-bumpy place, whether it's music for that, or lyrics, or music for my own music, or producing, or anything like that. I feel like I’m always trying to get to the place that feels, like, heavy. So you could find the thing sonically that lifts that weight, you know what I mean? I don't know if I ever do, but I know that's what I'm always aiming for.

No definitely, definitely. Your music, although the lyrics, deal with some darker themes, the music—especially on the earlier stuff like “Nausea” and the piano heavy stuff from your first two albums—is really like bright and melodic, even if the lyrics might be worse. So you hit that mark, I think.
: Thanks, thanks. There’s a lot of ska in the new Craig of the Creek.

Jeff: Bringing ska back through a kids show.

You've done a lot of covers in the past…
: Yeah.

One of the covers someone mentioned was a 311 cover…

Jeff: Oh, haha.

...from a few years ago.

Jeff: Sure I don't know that counts, we covered 311 constantly.

What are some of your favorite covers that you’ve done?
: We did a Bikini Kill cover of a song called “Jetski,” and I was just happy with how that one turned out because I liked that song. It was long to cover it, and everybody kind of played on it from different locations, you know? Usually the way our band works is we had the record with Jack Shirley up in the Bay Area, or like I'll just do demos at home, but that was one where we kind of can't record on [our]  own, we all kind of came together. I was stoked about how that one turned out.

Yeah nice. As for me and Johnny (friend of Emo King, also in the room) here, obviously “I Don't Want to Die” is a classic.
: Oh yeah, that song’s great yeah.

And then “Holland 1945,” which he showed me last night.
: Oh with Sean [Bonnette]? Yeah, yeah yeah yeah that's always fun.

Yeah, Sean from AJJ. Yeah, it's really good too, yeah.
: Asian Man.

Yeah, bringing everyone together.
: Mike's just smoking a cigar over here…

Counting his money.
: Fanning out his single dollar bills.

So another lighter topic, in “You, in Weird Cities” when you talk about other people that you played with and that they're far away, but listening to their records [makes]s you still feel close to them, I actually misheard that lyric. For the longest time, until last night when I looked it up, I always thought the lyric was, “When I listen to your records, it’s like I’m making out with you.”

Jeff: I think a lot of people think it says that. That's a crazy thing to say, that doesn't make any sense.

I don't understand what the first half of the song is about, and I just thought it was like a love letter to someone who you really liked, and you listened to some of their records.
: Well it's kind of a love letter to my buddies in bands, you know?

But less making out more, more platonic.
: Less making out, more hanging out. Yeah, more hanging out on tour.

I mean, I wrote especially when I was just kind of like that. Oh, that song took forever to get the lyrics right, and I was in bed with a broken foot. After breaking my foot on a job and not being able do anything, and just kind of like being alone all day smoking weed and watching the Walking Dead, and not really enjoying the Walking Dead. Smoking weed, playing Candy Crush for five credits, while having to wait a half hour watching the Walking Dead, playing Candy Crush again, losing the five credits, smoking weed, and then doing that fore weeks and weeks on end. It was kind of a nightmare and my buddies’ records kind of pulled me out of it. Like listening to a Good Luck and the Sidekicks specifically… listening to their records and thinking about tour and stuff like that.

Mike: How’d you break your foot again?

Jeff: I fell off, a table collapsed. I was hanging a sign up while I was doing an event with John, just hanging up signage. It was for a cancer walk but I was getting paid so it wasn't like for altruistic reasons or anything, I just happened to be working that.

Mike: Sorry.

Jeff: Hey man, it's cool. I'm fine now. If I didn’t break my foot I wouldn't be here now, so it's all good.

Thank God you broke your foot.
: Yeah, I guess so. It was the worst, people in New York don't give a crap that you broke your foot. Like, hobbling around in the boot, walking to the subway, not giving me their seats, knocking me over. I'm just kind of like, “I love New York. This is great, this is awesome.” Nobody cares.

New York's great because you could be the craziest, most messed up freakazoid in the world, and nobody cares. Nobody cares. It’s like you're walking around screaming to yourself. It’s just like, “Oh, there’s another person, let’s go.”

Mike: Sounds like every other big city.

Jeff: Nuh-uh.

Mike: San Francisco.

Jeff: Nah.

Mike: We definitely have our fair share of crazy.

Jeff: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

Do you think San Francisco is nicer than New York?
: Hell no! I mean sorry I got around like four times in San Francisco. San Francisco's know. San Francisco, I love the city San Francisco, I love the people here, love the food here, but the police here are bad at… stopping crime. Crime and like you know…

Mike: Well we’re talking specifically about car break-ins.

Jeff: Well, smash-n-grabs here, I think four percent of them get caught?

It’s also decriminalized.
: Yeah it's just, it's a weird thing. It's like maybe when it's a big issue here, like with the class divide here, that there's all this tech money coming in and people with garages don't worry about that stuff so…

Mike: It's a big topic currently. Currently, we're trying very hard to to figure out how to stop the increase in car…

Jeff: Are they actually trying? What is their plan?

Mike: I’m not sure, but they’re trying.

Jeff: Haha.

Mike: It sucks. Yeah, I live in the South Bay in San Jose, so every time I have to drive to San Francisco for a show, my thought is, “Am I gonna get my window smashed? And what can I do to not get it smashed?” It sucks.

Jeff: You take everything out and just cross your fingers. Yeah, it sucks. It sucks to have all your stuff taken from you. I wish I had my guitar that I started freaking Bomb the Music Industry! With.

They took that?!
: Yeah…

I’m so sorry.
: Well, what can you do?

Alright so I'm taking a little bit too much of your time. I’ll hit you with a few more softball questions.
: Okay yeah. Please, softball time!

Jeff: I’ll turn every softball question into something dark and stupid!

Haha alright. so you mentioned you like the food here: what’s your favorite thing to get to eat in the Bay?
: Taqueria Cancún.

Taqueria Cancún?
: Yeah, yeah, it's the best, and it's still cheap and it's still good.

Alright, North Bay, East Bay, South Bay, or West Bay?
: I mean I gotta go with the South Bay man, my buddies are there. Does Santa Cruz count?

Mike: So we’re including Santa Cruz.

Jeff: We’re including Santa Cruz in the South Bay. Santa Cruz is like—

Mike: Jeff’s dream.

Jeff: That’s where my heart is, I love Santa Cruz.

Mike: He likes waking up and smelling the ocean air—that brings him some some sense of relaxation.

Jeff: It’s true. And I like my buddies in the South Bay. You know San Jose is an important place for me, you know? You know, Shinobu lives there, Sam lives there, Laura and Gilman there. Mike lives in Los Gatos… like yeah, a lot of buddies. You got Tofoo Com Chay, you got freaking Lee’s Sandwiches. You got La Vic. Yeah, I can make a bangin’ San Jose style orange sauce.

Mike: You don’t get your car smashed in San Jose either.

That’s good.
Jeff: Is that a positive or a negative? Sometimes you need a new window and you’re not ready to admit it to yourself.
Mike: Well I think East Bay, in Oakland, car break-ins are problematic too.

Jeff: Yeah, Kevin’s car got broken into at 6:00 pm outside of a restaurant that people were eating at.

Oh, that’s a bummer.

Mike: Yeah he got his passport stolen, his computer stuff…

Okay, so I’m gonna ask another question from the Facebook page.
: Don’t worry, we’ll make it about break-ins.

Oh haha, it’ll be about something completely different but then we’ll make it about break-ins.
: Haha.

So this will be off the record because I don't think this question is suitable for air.
: Oh boy.

Are your poops generally normal or are they more messy?
: We can talk about this on the air, I feel like. I don't poop for days at a time.

Mike: Really?

Jeff: Yeah, it's not good.

Mike: Wow.

Jeff:  I know that's gotta make you worry, huh?

Mike: That’s crazy.

Jeff: My poops are infrequent, but when they happen they could be either or. And whatever there is, I'd say like a 50/50 shot.


Jeff: They'll be either neat and nice, or it'll be somewhere like, “I haven’t pooped for days…”


Jeff: What about you, Mike?

Mike: Uh, definitely loose stools. And I know I talked to my doctor about it, he said it's not normal, but I got tested, everything was fine but… and also I usually go at least three times a day.

Jeff: Yeah?

Mike: Which is crazy.

Jeff: I was going like three to six times a day. I just gotta start running again.

Mike: Three to six times a day, but now it’s infrequent?

Jeff: Yeah infrequent!

Mike: So not everyday?

Jeff: I’m stressed, you know?


Mike: So stress causes it?

Mike, so has it always been loose?
: It's been, I mean, over ten years at least.

Jeff: It’s been loose for ten years, it’s gonna come out one of these days!

Mike: When it is firm I always look, I'm also a hypochondriac, so I’m always kind of looking…

It’s self diagnosis.

Mike: Yeah, so when I know it’s firm I’m like, “Oh, cool.” But yes, it’s rare now. My son who's eight, no he's nine now, yesterday he pooped and it was so big I just couldn't believe it. I wanted to take a picture and put it on Instagram, but it was so disgusting. But I was just like, how'd that come out of this little boy? Anyways…

Jeff: Yeah! Pretty cool.

Can I ask you one more question?
: Yeah.

Another one from the Facebook page.
: Okay.

Is there anything you want to say to the Facebook page?
: Hey, thanks for asking me questions about my poop!

Okay, now for the real last question, also from the Facebook page, do you think you've made it, and if not do you think you'll ever make it? Do you ever think you'll reach a point where you can say, “Oh yeah, I've made it.”
: Yeah this is like better than I ever thought anything would ever go. I mean, I thought I'd made it when we put out a record on Asian Man, and then I thought I made it when I was able to put out a record on my own. I thought I made it when we were able to go around the van and play shows in other cities you know? Those are all things that were just like, “Oh man, I can't believe I'm doing this.” And you know, I think every step along the way was surprising. I set up the bar real low for myself. I kinda didn’t expect any of this, so I don't know.

“Making it” I think is a weird term. I would never… uh I would never… I don't know I'm not working towards a thing. I'm just trying to make stuff that I'm happy with and have a good time with my buddies, and you know try, be smart about it when it starts doing good and starts making money, and just try to like be smart about it and not get in over my head with anything, you know? And I did get in over my head with too much work, so I don't know, maybe I'm not making it if I haven't figured it out.

Emo King: Well, thank you so much Jeff Rosenstock and Mike Park. Thanks for talking to me, it's been a pleasure.

Transcript by Kat Cone