Interview: Bomb The Music Industry! Play Final Farewell in Brooklyn – Live from the Mosh Pit

Photo courtesy of John Ambrosio

Photo courtesy of John Ambrosio

The tickets for Bomb The Music Industry!’s final show sold out in pretty much less than an hour, so they added a final show before the final show because fans were really bummed…and then that one sold out pretty fast too. On Sunday, January 19th, The Warsaw in Brooklyn quickly reached its 1000-capacity limit, as openers Laura Stevenson and The Cans, Cheap Girls, and Andrew Jackson Jihad all rocked killer sets. Afterwards, Jeff Rosenstock, lead singer, creator, and slacker of Bomb The Music Industry! walked on wearing a white Smiths shirt (soon to be part of a sweat t-shirt contest). I couldn’t help but think he’s either a really smart guy or just doesn’t give a fuck (or both?), as the band screwed around while the crowd got angsty and riled up, kind of like a shaken unopened soda bottle.

Bomb The Music Industry! Interview

“Aight, let’s do this. Hi, we’re Bomb The Music Industry!” Jeff said as he strummed into “Campaign For A Better Weekend,” the opening track from BTMI!’s last release, Vacation. The crowd immediately merged into a giant wave, pushing and smushing forever forward, leaving room for probably another 1000 people in the back of The Warsaw. The crowd cheered and off we went into a glorious mess of a night, of beers and shoes being thrown, of kicking and pushing and moshing and skanking.

Jeff warned that they would be playing a lot longer than they were supposed to and he wasn’t lying. Bomb The Music Industry! played two sets that night, covering almost every single song that any BTMI! fan wants to hear for a total of around 40 songs, unless you include the countless attempts at covering Rage Against The Machine and Papa Roach that seemed to happen with more frequency as more drinks were imbibed by the band. The first set featured favorites like “(Shut) Up The Punx!!!”, “Jobs Schmobs” and “Hurricane Waves”, which had the crowd in a frenzy, frantically jumping around and screaming, while slower jams like “Saddr Weirdr” and “The Shit That You Hate”…also had the crowd frantically jumping around and screaming. And that was the feel of the night – wild, frenzied and for many fans, reminiscent of the good ol’ times.

The only respite from the madness came half-way through the show when the band took 15 minutes to break and drink more. But that ended just as quickly as it came, as Jeff and the gang came back on the stage with the crowd-favorite anthem, “Get Warmer.” The second set consisted of a lot of older jams, and a lot of beers and tears, on stage as well as in the crowd. Jeff took drunken moments to address old friends, to yell at crowd surfing fans and even to call out his dad, who was sitting way back in the balcony, safe from harm. “Hey Dad! You’re a poser!” he yelled, and then made the entire crowd go silent so we could hear the response. “No, you are!” yelled Jeff’s dad, which was followed by an “OOHHHHHHHHHHHH!” from the sea of punks.

At this point, they were just having a killer time on stage, so drunk off fun..and beer…that they ocasionally forgot lyrics and riffs to songs. But no one was mad, because most fans owed Bomb The Music Industry! a lot. And I’m not just talking about the money they didn’t pay when they downloaded all of the albums off their site for free (which you can still do today!). BTMI! brought people together, it gave strength to the punks and to the DIY community, and it created music that will be everlasting in every fan’s ears, new and old. As they finished their set with one of the first ever recorded BTMI! tracks “Blow Your Brains Out Live on TV!!!,” Bomb and all their friends joined on a stage for a sweaty, beer-filled final goodbye. But some fan’s just weren’t satisfied and chanted for “one more song” so Jeff rolled back on stage and said “Alright, but you’re not gonna like it.” And with that, Bomb The Music Industry! played their final, final song “Don’t Destroy Yourself,” sending the crowd into an odd calm, as I’m sure every fan scrolled through their favorite BTMI! memories in their head. Nothing’s forever dude, but is this really the end of BTMI!?

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We got to interview Jeff Rosenstock a few days before this show to talk beginnings, middles and ends. Here’s what he had to say:

Rukkus: So, it’s the end of an era I guess; How did Bomb The Music Industry! begin?

Jeff: I started recording stuff in my parents house, it was like 2004. I put it up as BTMI, it was like Christmas Eve, everybody left the house and i was feeling weird. “I’m gonna record a song, gonna put it up as this thing.”

Rukkus: So BTMI! wasn’t always what it is today, it’s gone through some evolutions right?

Jeff: Well, it started off as me. It wasn’t supposed to be a band necessarily, it was just me recording songs in my bedroom. And then a bunch of my friends were like OK we’ll play in your band. And I was really excited and we were like OK, let’s play a show and we were trying to think of the most fun way to do it. And originally we were just gonna bring gas receipts and be like, alright give us gas money, and we’re fine. We had like a thing of CD-Rs where like if you brought a blank CD-R we put it on the spindle and we’d give you one with the all the songs burnt on it and we were doing all the spray-painted shirts and stuff like that. And then we did that for a while, and then, the whole point was people could come in and come out and if they couldn’t tour, they couldn’t tour. If they could tour, they could tour. And then I started booking a tour and everyone was like, oh yeah I can’t tour. And I was like shit. And my buddy Rick Johnson…basically I was supposed to be with him and The Rick Johnson Rock and Roll Machine and he was basically “well you know, why don’t you just play with the beats and I’ll play bass and you’ll play guitar with me” and I was like alright.

But yeah, so he did that and that tour did super, super well and that’s where we met Matt Kurz who was also half of BTMI! for a really long time. He also does The Matt Kurz One (the first thing that got put out on Quote Unquote Records), which happened because that tour was going so well. Matt had this one-man band that’s just amazing and I wanted more people to hear about this so I put out that record cause I knew the stuff with Bomb, with all that stuff being online for free, worked really well. Maybe this will work for Matt and we’ll have donations, cause I don’t need to fuckin’ tell him he shouldn’t make money off of it. So that happened, then I moved to GA [Georgia] to try and build a real band out of it once it was going good. Oh shit, maybe this could be something–oddly enough, when I moved to GA that kinda’ didn’t pan out, but everybody started coming down there for tours and stuff and that’s kinda’ how the big group we have started getting together.

Rukkus: So now, 10 years later, you guys are calling it quits. Why?

Jeff: I don’t know. There’s a lot of answers–a lot of little answers to that. I guess a good reason is we’ve done everything we were trying to do. The goal was never to be a career-oriented band and do this forever. I think if the goal was to do this forever we would’ve done a lot of things differently from the start. So, I think to kind of treat this band like that would be kind of antithetical to the whole band a little bit. But we were having a good time, which is why we kept on doing it. Then Matt was moving to Australia, so that, and it’s kind of stressful being on tour 4-5 months out of the year (that’s great), but then the rest of the year is kind of weird–working weird production jobs, trying to do freelance temp shit. You know you’re always kind of hustling and that’s just a weird way to live, half of your year..for..forever. OK we could either try and rebuild or be like OK we did it. We chose the latter.

Rukkus: What is one of the best moments of BTMI?

Jeff: Oh, I was trying to think about this the other day. I mean we’ve gotten to do like international touring and stuff. The last tour we did which was with The Smith Street band we went to Australia, and they booked a tour in the summer in Australia which is our winter. And it was just along the coast so it was just beaches everyday. We would just play a show and have a bonfire on the beach and just like drink beers and smoke weed and hangout. Let’s wake up the next morning, go two hours and do it again. That was really amazing, those are the best people.

We were with the sidekicks on tour once. And we were playing in San Diego and we didn’t know anyone in San Diego to stay with so I said something like, why don’t we just go to Tijuana tonight, it’s not that far. Everyone was like ‘ahhhhh ok.’ So we got a hotel on the border of Mexico, like as far south in America as you could get, and we walked across the border at like 3am in the morning and we’re like lets just hang out in Tijuana and see what it’s like. We met these really nice girls who were like ‘hey what’s up,’ they were college students from University of San Diego, but they lived in Tijuana–from Tijuana. But yeah, we just drank til like 5 in the morning and then they led us to this crazy – it seemed like Hostel or something – they took us to this crazy parking garage and it was like OK we’re just gonna get murdered, that’s cool. And they opened the door to the parking garage and there was this traditional Mexican dance party happening inside–it’s like 6 in the morning at this point. But yeah, that’s a good one. There’s been a bunch of little things that have happened.

Rukkus: What’s one of the worst things that’s happened?

Jeff: I don’t know. I don’t really…umm, its just the little things. Like I played this show once in Gainesville at this punk collective. Something like 100-150 people came and it was like 8 dollars for tickets. And at the door, they had a breakdown of exactly how they’re gonna pay everybody. Which is weird, I’ve never seen that at the door. But they were super punk, wanted to be super transparent. And I was like OK this great, this is fuckin’ awesome, I’m gonna be able to pay rent, this is awesome. But at the end of the night they gave me like 200 bucks – well they left, gave my friend 200 bucks to give to me – I was like I don’t know what just happened. And I wrote them a letter saying ‘I noticed that you guys took a bunch of money that belonged to me, if you feel like I don’t deserve to make that much cause I’m just one guy that’s fine, I would like you to donate the rest of the money to this charity, I don’t think you deserve it either.’ Never wrote me back. And that was that.

So that’s an example of little kinds of things that happen on tour, just kind of discouraging. Sometimes you work with punk rock people who just don’t care about you. At the end of the day, they’re thinking about how much money they can make. Or you play a house show and you show up and it seems like the people who are booking you at the house show don’t want you there. Or you play a big venue and everybody’s just like shmoozy and dicky and weird and treats you like you’re a piece of shit.

So it’s stuff like that but, that happens here and there, but we learn from that so it’s not really that big of a deal. This sounds like a cheesy thing to say, but there’s no such thing as a completely negative experience because now I know not to do those things. And those things that led me to have relationships with the people I have relationships with, and I’ve met so many good friends because a bad thing happened, so I was like OK, I can’t do it that way and now I have good friends. So yeah.

Rukkus: Do you think the DIY ideology is sustainable? I mean, even DIY venues are shutting down left and right so what does that mean for DIY artists?

Jeff: Well, I think DIY venues are also opening left and right. I think there’s two ways to look at it. Its been disappointing, I’ve read interviews with bands that I really like where they talk about like ‘yeah man there’s no way to do Fugazi anymore, you can’t do this DIY thing.’ I think that’s fuckin’ totally bullshit. It’s easy to cop-out and not do it and think that you’re not doing it because it’s not happening. But it is happening everywhere. BTMI! has been booking all ages shows without a booking agent across the country for a decade. And that’s because there are still places to do it. It gets hard in some areas, but it’s not impossible. I feel like if everyone had the mentality of just like OK we’re just gonna do this, we’re gonna make sure it’s cool, and not let that other world in here so that we have more life in the DIY community; I think if everyone put their foot down and is like ‘alright lets do it.’ Not even necessarily having to do DIY shows, cause like I was saying sometimes DIY shows are at somebody’s fuckin house where they have 12 dogs shitting all over the place and glass bottles are getting thrown at you. Well yeah, I’d rather play a venue if that’s the case.

But yeah I think doing it yourself is definitely sustainable; I think its more sustainable. If you’re talking about just dollars and cents, you don’t have to pay anybody else if you just figure out how to do it yourself. So, that makes it more sustainable to be able to help everybody in the band pay their rent, eat food and have a little bit of money when they come home from tour. Not only do I think it’s sustainable, I can’t imagine how else to do it. I guess, give other people who are more experienced the work of being a booking agent so that you play better tours, or have a manager who reaches out to labels. But I don’t know, all that stuff seems like a crapshoot to me; if you’re gonna take a crapshoot, might as well take a crapshoot where if you succeed its like ‘fuck yeah I did this’ and not like ‘fuck yeah, Brian my publicist did this.’

Rukkus: You studied Music and Communications in college? Any advice for budding young musicians or any advice for people studying music and communications?

Jeff: DON’T study music and communications. Don’t like reach for the carrot of ‘hey I can design my own major and do what I like.’ I mean, I don’t know, whatever. I learned some stuff. I read some books. For people in bands, I say just fuckin do it. I can’t tell you how many people have told me over the years that this isn’t going to work out, this is a terrible idea, this is stupid, you’re doing this wrong, you need to do it this way. I guess just because I’ve never been career-oriented with music, I’ve been like, OK well I don’t care if it fails, I was just gonna do this, this way. And a lot of those things that people told me were the wrong thing to do, ended up being the right thing to do. So I’d say if you’re in a band do it cause you like it, and work hard on it cause you like it. Just enjoy it and don’t let negative assholes try and fucking bring you down, cause you’re not part of their club. ‘Cause there’s already a ton of people who are part of that club, it doesn’t need anymore people.

Rukkus: So is this actually gonna be the final farewell? Cause I’m pretty sure I went to one of your “last” shows.

Jeff: WE NEVER SAID IT WAS OUR LAST SHOWS. People have said that. We put a thing up a year or so ago, we’re just like, ‘hey guys it’s gonna be winding down, so if you haven’t seen us you should see us now cause it might be your last chance.’ Well, we said our San Francisco show is our last San Francisco show; our LA show is our last LA show. But I know we did one at Death By Audio with Smith Street Band and so many people were coming up to me like, ‘hey please don’t let this be your last show’ and I was like OK yeah this definitely is not our last show, I know we’re playing in December already, it’s already up on our Facebook page.

Rukkus: But now this is it?

Jeff: Yeah. I don’t know what the hell I’m gonna do in like…I don’t know. This is it as far as…we don’t have any plan to do another thing right now. But you know, if something came up that was impossible to refuse then it’s impossible to refuse. I really do wanna play a show when we’re like 50 years old, 60 years old; when we’re like way too old to be doing this. I think that’ll just be a really funny thing to do. I saw Gang of Four and they’re all really old and they were amazing. The singer looked like a science teacher and was just like hopping around the stage. It was great. Yeah, I wanna be that band.

Rukkus: Looking forward to that in like 30 years.

Jeff: Yeah like as old as we can get and still play.


Rukkus: What is your favorite record of 2013?

Jeff: Deafheaven – Sunbather. That record is just fuckin..just like…I don’t know, I put that record on and once those drums kicked in–I was like listening on Spotify and once the drums kicked I was just like HOLY SHIT, and I went online, bought the record immediately. Why have I never heard of this band? And I looked it up and everybody – this was in November, so it wasn’t on the best of lists – but everybody gave it a 5 star review. What the hell’s wrong with me, how didn’t I notice this?

Rukkus: Who is your favorite band to tour with?

Jeff: I don’t know. There’s a million. Smith Street Band, Sidekicks, Cheap Girls, Andrew Jackson Jihad. Those are what I can think of right now. Shinobu.

Rukkus: Drink of choice?

Jeff: These days, I’ve been lame. Just drinking vodka sodas with lime because I’m old and hangovers hurt a lot. I like whiskey a lot. And my drink ticket drink of choice is a pineapple with vodka because it makes you feel like you’re on a beach. And bartenders always look at your really funny. They’re like ‘I guess, yeah I guess the drink ticket can get you that if that’s what you wanna get.’ I’m like, yeah, please. A splash of cranberry too maybe [laughs].

Rukkus: Describe Bomb The Music Industry in four words without using the words Bomb The Music Industry.

Jeff: Umm….uhhhhh…..uhhh Fun. Weird. Good. Friends.

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Article by Arpan Somani

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