Photo courtesy of Polyvinyl
It's been over a year since the Pittsburgh City Paper last chatted
with Jeff Rosenstock. Since our last chat, he's begun scoring Cartoon Network animated series Craig of the Creek
, been touring endlessly and released a new record called Post-
connected on the phone with Rosenstock to chat about his busy schedule, maybe chilling out at some point, and writing music for TV.
How's your year been so far?
The year has been good, the year has been busy. Been on the road a lot, and then when I'm home I've been working on the show Craig of the Creek
, writing music, and then back on tour. It's been a busy year, but it's been exciting because a lot of things turned out in a way that I didn't expect them to turn out. Craig of the Creek
ended being a real-ass show, and our record ended up not disappearing because I put it out for free. It's been a really lucky year, and I'm a little busy, running real hard, but it's alright [Laughs]
Do you ever reach a point in the year where you're like, "I actually really need to relax right now"?
That happened in June of last year when I came home from a year on tour, and threw up for the first time in 17 years and was in bed for a week. I lost a bunch of weight and was kind of just super exhausted. And then I went back on tour in July [Laughs]
, and I told myself that in 2018 it was gonna be different, I was going to keep it real chill, and this is the busiest I've ever been in my life. So, yeah I tell that to myself all the time, but I never quite do it.
It's always easier to say you're going to take it easy than it is to actually take it easy.
Whenever my fifteen minutes of whatever are up, I'll have plenty of time to take it easy, so I may as well try and enjoy this right now and do a good job at everything as best I can.
What if your success and notoriety lasts more than the proverbial 15 minutes?
Me and my wife have this conversation like once a week, where I'm like, "Am I scheduling all of this the right way?!" and she's like, "I don't know!" If this is something that is gonna last, I'm gonna keep trying different approaches to scheduling things, and when it doesn't work quite right I'm like, "That was fucked! Maybe next year I'll be better!" She's like, "Yeah, cool!"
Speaking of notoriety, watching the Pitchfork Festival where you announced how much money they paid y'all to play was a really big moment. Did you plan to do that ahead of time?
It was spontaneous, and if you've ever seen any of our performances, it may surprise you that none of that stage banter is scripted [Laughs]
. We don't plan anything. I knew it felt like, we're playing "Festival Song" at this big festival, I'm gonna have to say something. I wanted to make a point about something, but then I felt like I was being a real stupid shithead making a point, and so I just said how much we got paid and thought "This'll be weird and uncomfortable!" and I thought it was going to get me into more trouble at the end of the day than it did. It turned out to be a thing everyone thought was funny.
I wish that monetary transparency was more present in the industry anyway.
Cardi B talked about how much she made to play Coachella! It's sick! It should be more transparent. I talk to my musician buds about that a lot, like we should talk to each other about how much we're paying other people, how much we're getting paid, because who the fuck fucking knows! Like, there's no central idea or transparency anywhere. I wonder if people who go to shows know that merch gets more expensive when you start taking merch cuts. Like when people are like, "Man, this band sold out! Their shit is like $25 now." I wish it were acceptable to have a sign on the table that said, "Venue is taking this percentage of the merch tonight," but you can't put them on blast like that because they're letting you play there. And if you aren't playing there, where are you gonna play?!
Plus if people are talking to each other about how much they make, then musicians can get a better scope of whether they're being paid equitably.
And then you know how much to ask for! I remember that being a thing when I was doing freelance graphic design, trying to find that sweet spot of what feels like an affordable price but also what doesn't seem like I don't know what I'm doing because I don't charge anything. Finances! [Laughs]
This article is just going to be all about financial advice from Jeff Rosenstock.
That's a terrible idea!
Are you still living in New York?
Speaking of terrible financial advice, yes I am still living in New York City.
Do you think you'll ever leave New York?
Yeah, I think I'd like some space. But we're on tour so much it's hard to figure out how you feel about anything. It's strange. At the very least, I feel like where I live right now feels like a home, so that's nice.
Switching gears a little bit, I'm curious if your songwriting style changes when you're working on the music for Craig of the Creek as opposed to your personal music?
The way that it changes is that I'm trying to capture someone else's feeling instead of my own, which is a big thing. The seed of the idea is that I have to find the common ground between me and [the characters] or whatever. It's really fun to get into that and to explore different sides of myself with music. It's cool because I get to be creative and try things, try different arrangements that I couldn't with a live band. And I don't have to write lyrics! That's easy. That's so much easier than having to write something important to say that's worth saying that nobody has said yet in the way you can uniquely say it, or whatever. Instead of writing long songs, I'm writing things that are 20 seconds long.
There's a lot that is different about it. It's really fun. I really like it! When it's going well I'm just so stoked. It's such a good show! I feel really lucky the thing I have to watch six thousand times over is something that's put together by such funny people, amazing artists who all really care about the show. You can feel it when you're watching it. It's really fun to collaborate on something with a bunch of people who I barely know, who are all making this awesome art. It's fun to have an infinite creative scope.
Is writing songs about these characters' experiences rubbing off at all on your own music?
I wish it would, so I could stop writing about myself [Laughs]
. I think there's a thing that I've noticed so far in things that I've written since the last record and while the show is going on, is that right now it's coming to me super fast. I think it's actually having the opposite effect, having to write in a certain number of frames into a certain character's feelings, so that restriction being lifted when I have time to write my own music has ended up in me writing a couple two and a half minute long pop songs. It's giving me a lot of creative juices for this other side of my brain I don't spend a lot of time indulging in anymore.