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JEFF ROSENSTOCK - Interview

I wanted it to feel like acceptance. Saying acceptance makes it feel a bit stiff, when really the vibe is like, f*** yeah everybody, hell yeah, and if you can’t get down with this, f*** off...

Interviews
Interviews
JEFF ROSENSTOCK - Interview
COSMOS.PRESS

COSMOS.PRESS

Date
January 30, 2024
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14 mins
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COSMOS.PRESS

Tell us a bit about Jeff Rosenstock.

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

I used to live in New York and now I live in LA.

I am in a band with my friends that is under my name Jeff Rosenstock. It was a weird decision to call it that at the time, wasn’t really sure what to do, that’s what we went with, seems like it worked out. So that’s cool!

Every now and then, When I am like what is Jeff Rosenstock? Well, the band is a group of friends and we’ve all been friends for a very long time that made a record together called ‘We Cool?’. Shortly after that we started getting label interest and interest in doing tours.

We were just like - alright well s***, let’s see where this goes. Now we’re all still doing it and feeling really stoked.

I personally am also a composer and I’ve spent the last 7 years or so making music for an animated series on Cartoon Network called ‘Craig of the Creek.’ We recently did a movie where I did a score for and my time on that show just wrapped up last week.

COSMOS.PRESS

Can you talk to us a bit about your most recent album, ‘HELLMODE,’ which did crazy well on Rate Your Music and in my opinion was one of the best albums of 2023.

(Fantano giving Jeff Rosenstock's HELLMODE his number 1 album of 2023 (00:21:07))

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

I am just happy people like it.

I feel like with every record lyrically speaking, going to places that feel more vulnerable to me. There’s always a little bit of fear when you put it out because you’re like, ‘okay is this where everybody figures out like oh this guy sucks.’

Conceptually, it’s hard to say it has one concept or anything. It was really about feeling everything all at the same time.

Especially over the last couple of years...

a lot of it was written during the lockdowns of the pandemic, a lot of it was written during this crazy wildfire season, a lot of it was written during the George Floyd protest era and then the aftermath of that, we watch videos of police beating up protestors, firing rubber bullets at them, shooting tear gas at protestors, candle light vigils, and the aftermath of that was we got more money going to the police, instead of less.

It was all written in that turmoil.

Personally, just having moved towards the other side of the country, and into a more comfortable situation for lack of a better term. From going from trying to do odds and ends jobs to having an actually thing that I am doing all the time that pays for my life. You know a job, with a composing job and just trying to understand that while also experiencing a world that is unfriendly and chaotic.

But, also filled with good people somewhere, and just being like man, the f*** is going to happen. I don’t know if it ever lands on anything.

I try to just talk about bigger feelings and questions, like the future, forgiveness, success, and how it all gets kinda tilted by the lens of this capitalist nightmare that we’re living in.

COSMOS.PRESS

Tell us a bit about the track, ‘HEAD’ off that project.

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

It was longer for awhile, a lot of it was a specific reaction to a thing I had seen in 2020. When we were voting by mail, it was being reported that it was an untrustworthy process and mailboxes were being removed from the street.

Me and my wife run a small record label and a small mail order business with our band. The post office going down for that reason seemed so clearly fascist. The fact we had this new person running it and talking about making it should be profitable when it’s this public service.

That song’s not about that - but it was a tipping point for me. As there were many, and there are many, that ended up in this flood of anger about the situation. That one turned into good lyrics I thought and happened quick. I was like oh cool here’s a song.

It’s kinda hard to talk about that stuff because it feels like white noise or it feels like you don’t really know everything about it necessarily. How could you? How much of it do people keep secret, and how much false information is there when you’re trying to find real information?

I’m often hesitant to get as explicit as it is in that song. That day I was just like, f*** it let’s go. There was a whole verse about the post office shit, that just eventually didn’t make it. I wanted my friend ‘Linqua Franqa’ who’s a rapper, I wanted to ask them to rap on it - to do another verse.

The song in my mind was getting way too long, so I took away that verse.  

COSMOS.PRESS

I saw your show in Denver, really solid!

The flag you had as a backdrop, I love it. You have to tell me about it.

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

There’s not much to say. I put out this 7 inch before our first studio record, it was called the summer 7 inch. If you got it, you also got 7 extra songs digitally, and a 45 adapter to go in the center of the 7 inch.

I never had an idea for it, but I already sold them all haha. I was like ‘God I don’t have anything designed.’ It was very last second. I ran it past a friend or two and said, ‘what do you think, is this fine?’ Eventually, I made stickers of it because someone was like, ‘you should make stickers.’  

It’s taken on a bit of a life of it’s own. I know we’re all really proud and stoked to stand in front of it. Because I get nervous about everything, when I first made it, I didn’t want anyone to take it the wrong way because of the 666 or take it as a bit or anything.

I wanted it to feel like acceptance. Saying acceptance makes it feel a bit stiff, when really the vibe is like, f*** yeah everybody, hell yeah, and if you can’t get down with this, f*** off.

We like the vibe, we like the flag, we’re excited people like the flag, those are our people, we understand each other.

COSMOS.PRESS

When I see shows (and I’ve seen so many), you don’t have to do a ton with stage design to make it look really cool.

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

Thanks for saying that.

COSMOS.PRESS

It doesn’t have to be a grand environment, the fact that you have that backdrop and some lights, I think it looks really nice. It very much fits the vibe of the band.

COSMOS.PRESS

Taking a 180 from HELLMODE, you just finished up ‘Craig of the Creek,’ and you said that was a seven year process.

Can you tell us a bit about that?

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

Back in 2016, if I am remembering correctly, I got an email from this guy ‘Ben’ who was like, ‘I’m making a Cartoon pilot, I used to work on Steven Universe, are you interested in doing the music for it? I am a big fan.’

I was like get the f*** out of here, this guy’s got to be lying to me, haha. He wasn’t lying to me.

I got to do the music for the pilot. It got picked up and I did five seasons of the show and we did a movie. I kinda had to learn pretty quickly how to technically score a show. Did a lot of YouTube watching. Did a lot of researching. Did a lot of kicking, screaming, and throwing things.

Eventually, I kinda figured it out. I got to make the music for what I believe is a really beautiful, funny, chaotic, anarchic, kind, show. It's really sweet. I haven’t seen anything like it in my life.

I couldn’t believe I was asked to work on something on such a large scale that was televised globally, and I get to make my punk s*** for it. As it went on, they were pushing the animation making it more anime, making stuff looking more cinematic / movie style.

It caused me to push myself and make things that work with an orchestra, things that work without guitars, figuring out textures with synths, drum machines, and they gave me a giant canvas to explore everything I ever wanted to explore with music.

Everyone was really supportive and kind for the movie. Our band did the soundtrack for the movie, also our friends Zack from Pup and NnamdÏ came up and did cinematic percussion with Kev. We had Jer and Matt who played in the SKA dream band do horns, Franz do accordion, there’s orchestras, there’s Taiko ensemble, and this whole big freaking thing with all these signers on it.

It was just a trip. It was crazy to do something like that. While still trying to make a punk record. The show to me feels very punk and I always want to keep that in my heart when exploring that stuff.

COSMOS.PRESS

Since you were able to explore so many different mediums, trying all that orchestral stuff & synths.

Do you think it’s going to change how you make music going forward?

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

I’ve been asked that a few times, and I think yeah, but not in the way it seems.

Having written something for strings and an orchestra and having that played back by an actual f***ing orchestra, and hearing that was cool. I was like oh that’s what this would be if I tried a string virtual instrument to do it, wow sick. It’s given me interest in exploring that if the music calls for it.

The ways it pushed me also is that it’s a very energetic show. It nudged me towards keeping things fast and punk within the music I am writing for the band. Very regularly I am trying to see if I can fit a blast beat in here, I’ve tried to sneak a blast beat into episodes for so long. I think at some point they just gave up and were like, ‘he’s going to keep trying to make this power violence s*** in this show, let’s let him.’

It goes both ways with it. It’s been cool to explore it all. I think I have more skills in a lot of things that I didn’t have before. With that said, it gives me more appreciation for a simple song that would sound good if you add a guitar and just sang. You don’t need any other stuff.

It’s expanded it with both ways.

COSMOS.PRESS

A lot of the tracks for the soundtrack are really short form.

Was that approach to crafting a song of that length interesting?

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

It was interesting putting the sequencing for the soundtrack together because a lot of it was short little bits of music throughout.

The movie moves really fast, the longer pieces were a bit slower, sweeping, and cinematic. I didn’t want the soundtrack to feel like that because that’s not what the show feels like. There were a lot of these short bursts. I tried to treat it as if it was a hardcore or punk record with short little bursts coming in here and there on songs.

I don’t think it would nudge me towards making short music, it actually makes me happy when I can take 3 and a half minutes and make a song. Instead of trying to make something that fits in a scene you know?

COSMOS.PRESS

I would think that balancing and producing music for a kids show vs. producing HELLMODE, having those different themes would be hard to do those simultaneously.

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

Why do you think?

COSMOS.PRESS

Just because the subject matter would be different.

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

Something I love about Craig, is that the thing I am feeding off is so positive.

I get to write music from that place, and usually lyrics tend to come from a more negative place sometimes. Music always comes from a pretty positive place for me. At that point you’re done and you don’t put the thing on top that the world is falling apart.

It’s really heartfelt and it kinda keeps me open to connecting with those emotions. It helps my music. I am regularly in this mindset of trying to communicate emotion or trying through music to make something resonate. That’s what I try to do with my music too with HELLMODE songs.  

So in that way, it’s not really that different. You know?

COSMOS.PRESS

For your Denver show, you had a massive holographic sticker on your guitar that said, ‘Chris Farren is perfect.’

Can you tell us a bit about that and your friendship with Chris?

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

Chris is great, he’s one of my best friends. I think our friendship to me will always feel really special. We started making music together in our band Antarctigo Vespucci shortly after Bomb the Music Industry broke up. While Fake Problems was in a holding pattern and seemed like it might have been breaking up (that was his old band).

It’s easy to lose your confidence in those situations. Just to be like, ‘okay I did my thing, it did what it’s going to do, I got to get to life, I don’t know if I am ever going to make music again.’

I did that, maybe I’m done.

Chris and I started making music together really shortly after those two moments for the both of us. It was really just a positive and encouraging environment to make music. We were really proud of that first EP. I thought it turned out great for two people who didn’t really know each other and not really even know what the idea was going to be.

We both just took a chance on this situation. It turned out really special. We’re still friends and we both try to get each other on each others’ records.

COSMOS.PRESS

I like how the expectation was let’s see where this goes.

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

Yeah, we didn’t know. It just seemed like it would be fun. I just knew I liked Chris.

It was cool. I hope he feels the same about me, it was really encouraging and special how open he was to the ideas that I was pitching for lack of a better term.

I try to be too, that’s the kind of environment I like to make music in.

COSMOS.PRESS

What’s next for Jeff Rosenstock?

JEFF ROSENSTOCK

As a band we go on tour to the UK and Ireland. Following that we’re on tour in March and April. A lot of touring and a lot of shows this year.

Not being beholden to the Cartoon Network schedule kinda opens things up, allowing us to play places we haven’t in awhile.

I am finishing up admin work from the last 7 years of my life. It’s very bittersweet and I’m really sad to not be making music for Craig of the Creek or having that back and forth relationship with the show. I’m going to miss that a lot. I am very grateful for the experience to work on something where there was so much encouragement going around for everyone.

But now, I am done, so IDK, I am going to sit around and make some demos, and see what happens there.

LINKS: Bandcamp - Website

COSMOS: Jeff Rosenstock - Event Recap

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