Written by Mark Rabjohns
Many of you may know of a crazy New Yorker who answers to the name Jeff Rosenstock. Jeff has released more records than years I have been alive. He also has a tattoo of a slice of pizza on his left arm. Fuck yeah. His authenticity and passion for music is admirable, as is his ability to play such energetic back-to-back sets on a Sunday afternoon. We caught up with him for a chat after the final show of the Australian leg of his 'Last Minute World Tour' held at Foundry Records. We also gave Jeff a disposable camera to document the tour. You can check out the photos below.
Hello Jeff Rosenstock
How has the tour been?
The tour has been the best, so much fun.
Have you been to Australia before?
Yes, I came here once as Bomb the Music Industry!, then the whole band came here, I was here about a year and a half ago to produce the Smith Street Record ‘Throw me in the river’ which was also the first time I played at Wonky Donkey.
Favourite city/highlights of the tour?
I mean, the show at the Wonky Donkey was one of the highlights in my life in playing in a band. Just the fact that, I lived in a really small town [Forrest, Victoria] for a month and got to know a bunch of the locals who were all really really nice so it was really great to see them again. It was also really great to actually play music with my band there because the whole time I was just this weird New Yorker, who I’m sure they were thinking, “so this guy isn’t in the band and he isn’t recording music, what the fuck is he doing?” Also, to watch Smith Street play Throw Me In The River front to back, in the town that we recorded it, under the stars at the bar that we went to every night to chill out after recording was really, really special, its going to be a hard thing to top.
Has the tour taken a toll on you? (Physically)
I think every tour kind of does, I think the first few days kind of take their toll on me so yeah I don't know, at least at this point. I mean when we fly over to Europe it is going to get crazy because we aren’t that far in(to the world tour) we are only really 2 weeks in which to us isn’t that big of a deal. We just did a 7 week tour in the states this past Winter and by week 6 we were all like “fuck this” but after the first week of this tour, I think I have whiplash from head-banging too hard so I had to recover from that for a couple of days.
Who did you grow up listening to?
All kinds of stuff, when I was a little kid, I discovered heavy metal and RnB at the same time so I was listening to En Vogue and I was also listening to Anthrax and listening to Madonna and listening to Death. Then I found punk and ska and stuff, hearing (Green Day’s) Dukie for the first time, and seeing Green Day play at Woodstock for the first time, I thought “oh fuck, this is insane!” and I started branching out from there.
Can you recall when you went down the DIY road?
Every band I was always in was into the DIY road, I think when you are a young band you have a choice of whether or not you, actually you don’t really have that choice, but you have a choice if you want to do stuff on your own like press your own CD’s or book your own shows. Or if you want to try to send demos to people and see if they want to help you out and my bands were never good enough for anybody to help us out so we just kind of resigned to doing it ourselves, and by doing that at a young age, we discovered this really wonderful ska-scene in New Island and booked shows ourselves and all that stuff. So once we were in on that there was no real turning back and nothing else really made sense, it didn’t make sense to not do stuff yourself because it was more fun that way.
How many records have you put out in your lifetime?
I don’t know, do you want me to count?
Oh man, (lots of counting)
32 and another 2 records confirmed for this year. Oh, and the next Smith Street Band record will make it 35
What is the direction for the next record?
I thought it would be an interesting challenge because I’m not particularly good at it, but the goal going into it was to write both political songs and love songs, mostly because I wanted to see if I could do that. I guess the concept of the record is just the idea of whether it is possible to sustain any loving human relationship, in a world, more specifically in our country, where we live in a police state with a corporately, financially oppressive culture, where people are constantly convinced to vote against their own interests, by people who are selling them snake oil, who watch TV and people are trying to get them to buy shit and stay afraid and stay inside and the idea of whether or not it is possible to say “fuck it” to all of that, and actually fight through it to have real, meaningful relationships with anybody, that is not just through social media and all of that. So that is the vague plan for the record. And also it ties in a lot of gentrification in New York City.
Perfect for the next question; describe Donald Trump in 3 words.
Not worth it.
Going back to the Smith Street Record, in my eyes, that was the best produced record they have put out. Did you fly our your own gear for that record or did you use their equipment?
They used all of their gear, I brought out a sampler and a baritone guitar and a few pedals, but at this point, I don’t work with bands that I don’t like, I work with bands that I love and I want to make them sound as much like them and as good as they are, and as good as I think they are, and as much as I love them, I want everyone to love them as much as I love them. So a lot of it I think is just bringing that energy there and if someone is stuck on a part or its dragging or something, just be like, “I know it will be fucking sick if it is this way,” you know, that’s kind of more what I do. I feel like producing is working with the extra 5% which will either make a record feel special or make a record feel flat. I try to make it feel special.
Was there lots of live tracking in that record?
We used some live takes but ended up tracking most of the stuff in the house at Forrest just because those guys are very particular with their tones from song to song to song.
Is that what you do with your own bands?
No, when we recorded our record, we did it all in a room together with no headphones and just blasted our amps, but it is just different with everybody - depends on what they feel comfortable with. I think with their [Smith Street’s] next record they are thinking about more live stuff but it all just depends. Different things work for different people. I was super rapped with how that Smith Street Band record came out and I don’t know if it would have been any different live.
What are you going to do when you first get back to the US?
When we first get back to the US, I’m gonna tab out the most difficult guitar parts of the new record, and I think sing the whole record every day for 2 weeks and try to make the lyrics as perfect as I can make them, because we record in 2 weeks back in the studio, then we go on another tour, and then after that I might take a nap.