Dying Scene is incredibly stoked to be a part of the first Bomb The Music Industry Australian tour which kicks off next week and to celebrate we sent a pretty extensive set of questions off to front man, Jeff Rosenstock. Bomb The Music Industry! is a name synonmous with DIY so it’s only fitting that their first Australian tour would be the same and with a band of the same DIY ilk in The Smith Street Band. We delve into their DIY attitude, their live show, their work with important foundations like the Kristin Brookes Hope Centre and Jeff’s vinyl collection. Jeff also tells us about playing unsanctioned shows at Warped tour and his new venture, Really Records. Check out the full interview here.
Dying Scene: Bomb the Music Industry (also known as just BTMI) is widely known for their uncanny ability to reach their fans by going above and beyond the typical “do it yourself” attitude. Why was this “do it yourself” attitude applied by BTMI?
Bomb The Music Industry (Jeff): Since the beginning of any band I’ve ever been in it’s always been the same attitude: if you want something, you can either do it or find and pay someone to do it for you. There’s never really been booking agents or record labels knocking on our door, but that’s not a reason why we shouldn’t be making music and touring. I’ve been in punk bands for almost fifteen years now, and since we’ve all done so much of it ourselves, I know how to record music, book tours, be a graphic designer, deal with the pre-press process, be an accountant, drive long distances, set up shows in my town, and the list goes on and on. If we didn’t do stuff ourselves, the time spent learning that stuff would be wasted sitting around and waiting. Probably thinking about some bullshit like “our image.”
Was the band influenced by “DIY” hardcore punk bands such as Fugazi?
Fugazi was definitely a huge influence because they were one of the only bands who ever really pulled it off. They’re also great because they were all over the map musically but could still be considered a punk band because of the energy and ideas behind it. NOFX is another band that managed to pull off doing everything themselves big time. I find myself inspired more by peers nowadays though. If you think about it, there are a thousand little Dischords all over the world now. That’s pretty incredible.
Along with releasing your music for free on the BTMI website, you guys have released tracks through the Kristin Brooks Hope Center, founder of 1-800-SUICIDE, that draws attention to suicide prevention. Could you guys explain how you guys got involved with this foundation?
Plea For Peace and Subcity definitely got me into a lot of non-profits when I was younger, and when I was dealing with a lot of severe mental health issues. Years ago, there was a Plea for Peace show with petitions for 1-800-SUICIDE and I remembered thinking that I could contribute on that front. That led to a friendship between me and my bud Arielle who was running the Hopeline booth on Warped tour when my old band ASOB got stranded in Idaho. I dropped her a line, and I ended up helping out at the Hopeline and Plea for Peace booths for a few weeks while we scrambled to play unsanctioned shows inside the Warped Tour. It was one the most amazing and unique experiences of my life.
Years and years later when we were trying to figure out ways to “promote” Vacation, we were sending songs to music blogs and stuff like that. I discovered that a lot of these websites essentially just regurgitate the same press releases that a hundred other sites regurgitate, and it seems like the people with the big bucks get the better placement and it has nothing to do with music. So, when it came time to release a second track it seemed like if we wanted to release something through a business, we should do it through a business that brings good to the world. It is so incredibly important that young people have someone to confide in when it seems like their entire life is in the shitter, and unfortunately that connection is often not made with parents, teachers or friends. We hoped that releasing a song through KBHC would help draw some attention to what their doing so people know where to turn to.
When fans pay money to see their favorite band perform, they expect to see a 45-60 minute set of their favorite tunes. However, BTMI takes the live show experience one giant step further. Where did the idea of allowing fans coming on stage and playing their own instrument to their favorite song come from?
When we were kids Less Than Jake let some of us go up and play horns with them. It was the best and I think that stuck with me. Bomb the Music Industry! really started as a collective, and I think I felt “Well, why shut out people from the collective simply because we don’t know them?” As we have more and more songs, and such a solid line up it gets harder, but whenever we do it and it works it’s always the highlight of the night. We played this awful show (read: we were awful) in Amsterdam and someone wanted to play “Future 86″ on ukulele with us. He came up and played it and fucking killed it and it was like we the preceding thirty minutes didn’t happen. For a band that makes as many mistakes as us, it can make everyone forget how bad we were, which is good. It encourages us to keep fucking up.
You’ve done the fan contest with “Vocal Coach” where people could add their own lyrics. Approximately how many entries did you receive and did the band sit down like the judges of American Idol while making your selection?
It was daunting. We didn’t expect such a large response and we’ve actually been a bunch of boners about digging through the selection. Some of the lyrical content was, well, it was pretty rough. Like it made me feel like a bad human being for having anything to do with unearthing the words some of these submissions had. For the most part though, they were pretty good. A lot of them were pretty close to what I wrote as far as how the hook went. We really need to dig through the rest and announce a winner already. We’re the worst.
Where there any entries that really blew you away and that might of set the bar for the competitors in the contest?
Matt Wixson’s entry was fantastic, but I don’t know if we can declare him the winner ’cause we’re such good friends. It seems unfair. Spoonboy also submitted something but I’ve yet to hear it. There were seriously just a LOT of entries, and once the crazy mail-out for that record started and we immediately went on tour it was something like “Oh, fuck. We gotta listen to the rest of these already.”
Tell us about the venture of starting the new label, Really Records? Has it been a learning curve?
Oh absolutely. The mail-out for Vacation was enormous, over 1,000 pieces. We didn’t know what we were doing yet, I’d bribe like ten of my friends to come over the apartment for beer and pizza. Before that, I had never printed a piece of postage, folded one of these weird LP mailers… I still don’t know the best way to get them to the post office. The first promotional mailing we did for Vacation had a bunch of international pieces and I just figured “oh, my shipping program might not be able to figure that out… I’ll just have the post office deal with it ten minutes before they close.” The postal worker behind the counter basically yelled at me for the entire hour it took to fill out all the necessary forms. It was a nightmare, but I think it’s for the best cause I know what to do now… which is simple shit like actually having tracking numbers and folding the boxes along the perforations before making your final folds. My friend Eric from Night Owls told me that starting with Vacation was a mistake and that we should have started with something small, but I’m super glad we started with such a big project. It makes the other stuff seem a lot more manageable. I also have an incredible resource in Mike Park from Asian Man. If I wanna know what the cheapest way to send out a 7″ is, he’ll text me right back and tell me. He gives me the heads up on the best deals for supplies and stuff too. Pete from EJRC is also the same way, and both of them have introduced me to manufacturing plants which have led to discounts that I haven’t really earned. So I definitely had a real leg-up from my friends before starting this thing.
If you could put any artist on Really Records who would that be and why?
A lot of my “dream artists” are people who I’ve been friends with for a while. When the label started out the goal was to put out the new Good Luck, Andrew Jackson Jihad and Sidekicks records, but with Good Luck and Andrew Jackson Jihad it’s like, what? Am I gonna try and basically steal bands from labels that I really like and who have both been really helpful to me? Of course not. I think a lot of the challenge for me is going to be finding interesting bands that don’t really have a home. I also really wanted to put out that last Spoonboy record but the label wasn’t ready in time. That said, I think Heathers, Swearin’, Laura Stevenson and the Cans, Traveling and Saint Seneca are all super interesting bands and I’d really like to at least be able to do a little something with them before they break up or before I go broke.
The meaning behind the name of your band “Bomb The Music Industry” is pretty straightforward and we all know you’re here to stick it to the man. Has the meaning of BTMI evolved into something else since its inception?
The meaning of Bomb the Music Industry! hasn’t evolved into something else, but the band sure has. It used to be pretty much a free-for-all, any of our friends could come and play, and it could be fifteen people who didn’t know the songs all that well but were going wild or it could be me and Rick Johnson playing to a sequencer with a bunch of weird strobe lights going off. For the past few years, it’s been the same five people with five extra folks who play with us once in a blue moon… it’s pretty much always the five of us. Then I get stir-crazy and go on solo Bomb the Music Industry! tours but whereas it used to be me and someone else, it’s been me alone more recently. We also started selling merchandise, and over the past year we started selling shirts. I’m still not excited about it, but we’re all pretty poor and it’s hard to tell people that they can’t support our band, y’know? We put sweatshirts online and they were almost sold out in twenty-four hours and that’s a little under a thousand bucks that we now have. We’re lucky. We’ve started focusing more on Bomb because people WANT us to make more music. So it’s hella hard to turn down that money, when it essentially will let us focus on this for a little bit longer.
Even though you guys just recently released the new record “Vacation,” is there any new BTMI material that fans should be impatiently waiting for?
Nah. I mean, there’s a handful of weird covers I always wanna do and I’m writing some new songs, but it’s still at the stage where I don’t know what any of the songs mean. I like cohesive records and I don’t want to write the same thing over and over again. When I started writing Vacation I didn’t even know if it was gonna be a Bomb the Music Industry! record or what. It’s not terribly easy for me to write songs knowing that a certain amount of people are going to be waiting to listen to it and critique it, or say “this is like the last this” or whatever. So currently, I’m just trying to make the songs I am writing as good as I can make them, and then see if any of them fit together. There are still a few songs from Vacation that didn’t fit which I’d like to do stuff with. What’s good about us though is that we can go “Oh shit! Let’s do this!” and in a matter of days we can put it on Quote Unquote and share it with everyone while it’s still new and exciting to us.
As a vinyl junkie myself, it’s great to see bands like BTMI release their vinyl material on cool colored limited edition variations. Do you guys also collect vinyl music from your favorite bands?
Matt had a pretty good record collection four years ago, but I haven’t seen it since so I don’t know what he’s sold. I think my record collection is pretty awesome. My record collecting style is generally trying to find cheap old records or cheap weird records. I’m not much of an original pressing kind of guy, ‘cause I don’t have the money for that. I also try to buy any new music from active bands on independent labels that I’m excited about, and sometimes with shit like The Arcade Fire or Girls it can end up costing like $25 which is a bummer but ultimately worth it to me. That’s why we keep the prices as low as we possibly can though; I like thinking of someone walking into a record store, seeing our record and going “I can afford that.”
Are there any vinyl records from your favorite bands that you have yet to obtain because of their limited edition nature that you wish you owned?
I’d really like a copy of the first Specials LP. My future wife got me a copy for my birthday one year, and I lent it to a friend in Georgia, then moved out of Georgia and haven’t seen that friend since unfortunately. I’d love another copy of that. I also heard Lily Allen did a ska 45 and I’d like to just hear that if it exists. It’d be nice to have the Replacements records on vinyl, but that’s another situation where it’s like $20 for a reissue of the record and I just can’t justify spending that money sometimes… I’d like to find cheap copies of the early presses. That goes for most music.
You’ll be in Australia in a couple of weeks, what are you looking forward to about the tour?
Is “everything” too vague an answer? Being able to travel to another country for free because I wrote a few sad songs is probably the best thing about my life. Honestly. I’m looking forward to seeing a kangaroo, holding a koala, trying vegemite, going swimming, figuring out what the cheap shitty beer in Australia is and drinking too much of it. I also think that our keyboard player Matt might head out for a little bit, and another buddy from the states might join up for a few dates as well and it’ll be fun being in new weird situations with those awesome buds. Also, it seems on my days off I’ll be riding a moped through the countryside of Bali, so that doesn’t sound too bad.
Given it’s the first time in the country, what are you expectations of the shows and the tour?
The Brazil tour was terrifying and thankfully I was travelling with a group of really kind and fun people who made me feel like I’m at home. Playing for the first time in a new country with the iPod is really scary, because some people show up and are like “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS? I WAITED FOR THIS?” It was like that in the states when we did the first few iPod tours too, and then eventually when people started understanding that it’s not some karaoke thing, those iPod tours starting going very, very well. On the nights where people don’t have their guard up and open up to having a good time with me, those night are fucking incredible especially in new countries. I don’t know what to expect and it’s all really exciting. These new experiences are honestly what make life worth living for me.
BTMI is renowned for your live shows, if you can tell Australians to bring one thing to the shows, what would that be?
Bring a good attitude? Don’t try to fight me please? That happened a bunch on the last tour, a lot of weird macho aggression, someone even sprained my wrist at one of the dates. So don’t do that, ’cause I really need to be able to play guitar on this one. And don’t try to fight anyone else, or get too drunk and pushy. Just dance and have a good time. Everyone gets to have a good time. And come up and say hi if you wanna come up and say hi. I’m just a normal guy who has a pretty lucky situation. Besides, everyone likes talking about music, movies and books, right?
Are there any questions that you wish we would have asked or parting words for our readers?
The same question no one ever asks me.
Would you like $100? The answer is yes.
- Interview by Joel Brambila & Brittles RixonAdd Bomb The Music Industry to My Radar