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Jeff Rosenstock On How He Turned Music Into A Successful Full-Time Career

Jeff Rosenstock On How He Turned Music Into A Successful Full-Time Career

A native of Baldwin, Jeff Rosenstock formed his first proper band as a junior high school student. That band, The Arrogant Sons Of Bitches -- also known as ASOB -- would go on to be part of The Warped Tour before disbanding in 2005. Rosenstock's next proper band, Bomb The Music Industry!, toured all around the world and would have music placements on Weeds and The Office. Along the way, Rosenstock would also produce recordings for other artists (e.g. Laura Stevenson, The Smith Street Band, Alkaline Trio's Dan Andriano) and start a record label, Quote Unquote Records; Quote Unquote is notably the first ever donation-based record company, having released music by Beach Craft Bonanza, Yuila, and Art School Jocks.

In 2018, Rosenstock released POST-, his third full-length solo album, via Polyvinyl Records. He is also composing the music for the forthcoming Cartoon Network series Craig Of The Creek. Rosenstock also regularly pops up in other bands and side projects, as he has done over the years with Pegasuses-XL, Kudrow, The Bruce Lee Band, and Antarctigo Vespucci. Simply put, Rosenstock's work ethic is to be admired just as much as his musical talent.

I had the pleasure of meeting up with Rosenstock at Konditori, near his Brooklyn home, for some in-person Q&A shortly before the Polyvinyl release of POST-. More on POST- and Rosenstock's other musical efforts can be found online at www.jeffrosenstock.com.

When did your career become a career and not just I’m making music for fun or working a minimum wage job just to be able to go on the road? What was the transition?

Jeff Rosenstock: I worked a job where I was driving a truck for a prop company and I really liked a lot of the people that I worked with, but my boss was just like historically unkind to everybody. It was for a lot of fashion magazines, which I just personally like take issue with. Like, body image issues being projected on young women, like from when they are like 12 until the moment life is over. On my 30th birthday I was like, “I am not going to work for them ever again.” I knew I didn’t want to do that again… I worked in an office doing graphic design at my wife’s job. They needed a freelancer, so I came in after Bomb broke up.

So I said that and I was doing production stuff with John [DeDominici]. He is part of this company that help set up the [Light The Night] night walk for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and I broke my foot while working there one day. It was weird, I went home and I couldn’t work. I just like ended up writing the rest of what was We Cool? because it was like kind of like a depressing weird ass time and I got through it.

While my foot was broken, I went up and saw The Smith Street Band with my broken foot and they talked to me about producing their record in Australia. And so, there was that and I was working in that office. Eventually they offered me a job, but I knew I had this Smith Street Band record that I was going to produce in Australia, I was about to go out to California to produce a Bruce Lee Band record. I was like, “I know I have to be gone for this stuff, so I can’t do this.” I was saving money while I was working at the graphic design job. I had a nice cushion to just kind of work on stuff and maybe just do freelance graphic design for a little bit.

We played the last Bomb shows after that. I made enough money just basically trying to make rent for that month without trying to dip too far into the cushion that I had built up from working at that other job because freelance graphic design paid good and I worked there for like seven months, eight months. I worked there for like what seemed like a long time, it is just more money than I used to, because usually I am getting $175 a day for a day rate for production stuff.

Anyway, I saved up money and then started doing that and then eventually between producing other people’s records and being on tour and doing graphic design, that was making enough to not have to dip into things for a while. Then we were on tour all the time and it kind of seemed like it all was working in term with each other. Then eventually, I was just working all the time. I was producing records all the time, I was touring all the time, I was doing graphic design all the time. I was doing all of that stuff non-stop because it was coming in. It was just kind of like, “Well, I liked doing this, it is putting a lot of pressure on the stuff. But at the same time if I do this I don’t have to like find another job.”

Not even having a job would have been a pain in the ass, but looking for a job is the worst. It is hard, you go into places and all you want to say is, “Hey, I am not an idiot and I am going to work hard and I know a lot of people are going to tell you that today, but I have worked with a lot of people and I know that most people don’t mean it when they say that. So yeah, I am not great at interviewing but if you hire me, I will do the things you ask me to and I won’t complain.” It was kind of like every job that I had that was a temp job. I would get offered actual jobs eventually because they would just be like, “Oh, so you’re not complaining and you are just doing your job.”

If I could avoid the hunt for a job, that would be ideal. So I was just working, working, working and putting out records and all that kind of stuff. Eventually that kind of bled into stuff and then once the Cartoon Network thing came along, now actually I have a job and also my band is doing well. So it is like I have two jobs, two like actual jobs, which is neat, it is cool. The band is weird because like I am basically an employer too, because I am paying everybody else and it is its own thing.

So you are working HR, too.

Jeff Rosenstock: Yeah, I mean, I am running a record label. It is just kind of like, “If I can make all of these little things…” I basically had five jobs that did not pay very well. I ran a record label, I had a band, I produced records, I was a graphic designer, and I would submit songs for stuff like that. I scored a small documentary about a tiny town in Montana, those kinds of things, really small stuff…

Basically my vibe for a while was, “I can have five jobs that do not do very well.” But all of those on top of each other, on top of the amount of money I make from Bomb The Music Industry catalog stuff, those pay my rent sometimes. That is so sick. But then eventually I had to stop doing those sort of things because Cartoon Network stuff and band stuff got really busy.

Not even having a job would have been a pain in the ass, but looking for a job is the worst. It is hard, you go into places and all you want to say is, “Hey, I am not an idiot and I am going to work hard and I know a lot of people are going to tell you that today, but I have worked with a lot of people and I know that most people don’t mean it when they say that. So yeah, I am not great at interviewing but if you hire me, I will do the things you ask me to and I won’t complain.” It was kind of like every job that I had that was a temp job. I would get offered actual jobs eventually because they would just be like, “Oh, so you’re not complaining and you are just doing your job.”

If I could avoid the hunt for a job, that would be ideal. So I was just working, working, working and putting out records and all that kind of stuff. Eventually that kind of bled into stuff and then once the Cartoon Network thing came along, now actually I have a job and also my band is doing well. So it is like I have two jobs, two like actual jobs, which is neat, it is cool. The band is weird because like I am basically an employer too, because I am paying everybody else and it is its own thing.

So you are working HR, too.

Jeff Rosenstock: Yeah, I mean, I am running a record label. It is just kind of like, “If I can make all of these little things…” I basically had five jobs that did not pay very well. I ran a record label, I had a band, I produced records, I was a graphic designer, and I would submit songs for stuff like that. I scored a small documentary about a tiny town in Montana, those kinds of things, really small stuff…

Basically my vibe for a while was, “I can have five jobs that do not do very well.” But all of those on top of each other, on top of the amount of money I make from Bomb The Music Industry catalog stuff, those pay my rent sometimes. That is so sick. But then eventually I had to stop doing those sort of things because Cartoon Network stuff and band stuff got really busy.

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