Jeff Rosenstock breaks up Bomb the Music Industry and goes solo
When Jeff Rosenstock decided to give away his band’s albums for free on the Internet in 2006, people thought he was crazy. But that band, indie-punk-ska-electronic maniacs Bomb the Music Industry, became one of the biggest-drawing DIY punk bands in the country, and the subsequent success of Bandcamp would suggest he was ahead of his time.
In January, Rosenstock baffled fans again by breaking up Bomb the Music Industry, just when things seemed to breaking for them in a whole new way. Amongst other things, they’d been selected to cover the Weeds theme song in the show’s final season in 2013, alongside the Mountain Goats, Steve Martin and Aimee Mann.
Clearly, he has no interest in doing things just because “that’s the way they’re done.”
“I think a lot of conventional wisdom is a bit of a red herring,” says Rosenstock. “All of the stuff that I have done, I haven’t done to go against the grain—it’s because it makes sense to me. It’s like, ‘why isn’t everybody else doing this?’”
Rosenstock wasn’t impressed by the cool factor that became attached to what was originally his dorky bedroom solo project.
“It seemed like we were a cool band once it stopped. Once people didn’t have to go see us live anymore, they could say that they liked us—that’s when we started to be a cool band,” Rosenstock says. “We were still fighting to do whatever we wanted to do. We were still a band that was getting ripped off by promoters on our last tour, and had shitty shows. We didn’t get that many reviews for [their last album] Vacation. We never felt like we were a cool band.”
Ending the band made perfect sense to Rosenstock. By that point, they really were a band, not just his project. He didn’t want to start swapping out members or dishonoring what they’d all accomplished together by milking the brand.
Their last couple of shows in Brooklyn drew a ton of people, and a lot of media attention, but Rosenstock has already moved on, releasing the solo album I Look Like Shit, which is similar to Bomb the Music Industry’s crazy eclectic punk sound, but darker and moodier.
Now he’s just finished recording his second album, and is setting out on a string of six West Coast dates, the first shows with the backing band from his new album: John DeDomenici, bassist for Bomb; Mike Huguenor, guitarist for San Jose post-punk band Hard Girls; and Kevin Higuchi, drummer for San Jose/San Diego ska group Whiskey Avengers.
“I just want to keep making good things that people can like. That’s the only thing I worry about. I don’t ever want to half-ass it, or put out something that I’m not 100 percent proud of at the time,” says Rosenstock. “With I Look Like Shit, it was a weird record, but I was 100% proud of it. It makes me feel good that my life is not going to end because Bomb the Music Industry ended.”
Unlike the new record, which was recorded at a real studio (Atomic Garden in East Palo Alto), I Look Like Shit was made much in the same way as the first Bomb the Music Industry album, Album Minus Band—alone in his bedroom. It was released with no real intentions of it going anywhere, but Rosenstock’s fans loved it.
“There’s a lot of stuff that you start thinking about once you turn 30,” he says. “My whole goal is always to be as honest as possible, and I think the longer I write songs, I go deeper into myself—there’s a lot of dark things in there,” Rosenstock says.
The new album is yet to be released, and he’s fairly certain it’ll be a Jeff Rosenstock solo album, though it could be a new band altogether.
“Honestly, if it wasn’t for those last Bomb shows, I probably wouldn’t be going out to record a record at a studio. I probably would have released what I made in my bedroom,” he says. “There were people at those Bomb shows that were talking to me and saying, ‘don’t stop playing music.’ I don’t need to throw up any more roadblocks.”
Jeff Rosenstock performs at 8 p.m. on Sunday, May 12 at the Crepe Place in Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10.