Arts & Culture

Pwning The Music Industry: An Interview with Jeff Rosenstock AKA Bomb The Music Industry

Who knows how most people get into the music that they do these days?  MTV has all but gotten out of the music business.  Mainstream radio is unquestionably terrible and practically the only place to buy CD’s is Best Buy.  … Read More

By / May 26, 2010
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Who knows how most people get into the music that they do these days?  MTV has all but gotten out of the music business.  Mainstream radio is unquestionably terrible and practically the only place to buy CD’s is Best Buy.  What’s left is the Internet, the blogs, Pandora Radio and Jason Schwartzman’s Celebrity iTunes Playlist.  There is no common thread on the Internet.  There is no mainstream.  As a result, recommendation, association and word of mouth have become powerful tools.  People have no choice but to seek out their music.

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Bomb the Music Industry, and it might be because it’s nobody’s job to and make sure that you have.  If the music scene is a big house party, Bomb the Music Industry are hanging out in the kitchen with enough beer to last the night, making jokes, causing ruckus and having a blast.  Meanwhile, the people upstairs trying to get laid, the kids waiting in line for the bathroom to sniff coke, and the people smoking on the couch are all beginning to wonder what’s going on in the kitchen and whether they might be missing out on the real party.

BTMI was started by Jeff Rosenstock in 2004.  He posted a few songs he’d written and recorded onto his website.  The songs had a melodic punk rock sound with the occasional ska influence as well as electronic drum and synthesizer programming sprinkled throughout.  These elements by themselves make the band’s sound interesting and unique, but it’s the songwriting that makes BTMI something special.  The song structures are more complex than the bands they draw from or the bands to which most would compare them.  Rosenstock’s songwriting sensibility is infectious, often revealing itself slowly, growing into something bigger and grander than one would initially anticipate, more comparable to the songwriting style of Brian Wilson, Joe Strummer or Isaac Brock than that of Blink 182 or Fat Mike.

Then there’s the kicker.  The music is all one hundred percent free.  Jeff has been putting the band’s songs on his website for free download since their first record.  At Shows, the band brings a computer, stencils and spray paint.  If a kid wants a BTMI CD or shirt they need only to bring a blank CD or T-shirt to be burned or spray painted on the spot.  Fans who know how to play any BTMI songs are also invited to bring their instruments to shows and join the band.  Jeff has also started Quote Unquote Records, a digital label where bands like Chotto Ghetto, The Riot Before and Cheap Girls, release their music, donation only.   Even without BTMI, the bands in Quote Unquote’s current lineup make up for some of the most talked-about bands punk scene.

Six years after Bomb the Music Industry’s inception they have recorded five LP’s, the two most recent released by Asian Man Records.  The band is getting to the point where they pack basements a little too tightly, the word of mouth beggining to echo beyond the DIY punk community.  Their situation is comparable to the one that Against Me! was in a few years ago, a band with very specific DIY ideals, a number of great records under their belt, and a huge fan base with great hopes for them and what they will do next

It’s not hyperbolic to call BTMI pioneers of the digital music age.  They stand as an ostensible answer to the question, can a band survive and make music successfully in an age where digital music is of such little monetary value?  Will people donate money for music if they don’t have to?  Forget about bands like Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails who have taken a similar route but with major label PR money already under their belt. What about the underground?  Jeff has shown that it’s possible to make it work, and more importantly that we live in a time where doing it yourself is not only an important and prevalent idea, but one that is, perhaps, superior to the alternative.

To “bomb,” something, according to the movie Style Wars is to put one’s mark on it.  That being the case, naming a band Bomb the Music Industry, in itself may seem like a grandiose statement, but all things considered, in Jeff’s case, shit’s been bombed.  I sat down with Jeff at a café in Brooklyn for his account of how it all went down.

Tell me about your parents, what are they like?

Well, my mom is Jewish, and my dad is German Catholic.  Everyone always think that Rosenstock is a Jewish name, but it’s German catholic and they’re like, “Oh so you’re Christian,” and I’m like, “No,” I’m Jewish,” and they get confused.  So it’s was definitely a different upbringing.  I saw both sides.

What do they do?

My mom was an art teacher and she retired a few years ago.  My dad is a lawyer.

Have they heard your music?  Have they been to any shows?

Yeah they were actually just at the show at the Knitting Factory.  It’s funny because we play a lot of house shows and they always get a little bit bummed out when I’m like, “Don’t go to this show, you’re not going to want to come to the John Bosch house.”

Do you think they are proud of you?

I think they’re proud of me.  I think they are proud and confused.  They are both kind of on opposing sides.  I know my dad is kind of wondering when this going to turn into money.  My mom is like, “It’ll be fine just be an artist.”

How do they feel about the fact that you do everything for free?  Do they fight you on it?

They give me shit about it all the time.  They came to see us when we played with Rancid and they were just like, “You know they make a lot of money on those T-shirts.  I know you bought T-shirts when you were a kid.”  Even when were not talking about it my mom will suddenly be like, “Look, I know a guy who embroiders t-shirts for fifty cents a shirt.  You could have embroidered shirts!”  But you know fuck it they’re not in a punk band, they don’t know what I’m doing.”

Embroidered T-shirts could actually be really cool.

My parents being in a punk band could actually be really cool.

Tell me about your relationship with music throughout your life.  When did you start playing music, what did you play?

I got into music when I was a kid, I had a baby sitter who used to come around and put on MTV and Bobby Brown’s, My Prerogative would come on and I wanted to be Bobby Brown.  I’d run into the backyard and start dancing like Bobby Brown.

Humpin’ Around?

When Humpin’ Around came out I think my parents were bummed that I’d gotten into Bobby Brown.  Every Little Step I Take and My Prerogative, those aren’t filthy songs, but when Humpin’ Around came out I think they were like “aw shit.”   I was really into that super pop R&B shit like En Vogue, SWV and Bobby Brown… Color Me bad a little bit.  But I also really liked Metal, because I had another baby sitter who’d come over with White Lion tapes and Slaughter and stuff like that so I guess it was a cross between really liking Paula Abdul and death.

But when I was a kid one of the first CD’s I had was a Mr. Bungle CD and I also had a Deicide CD.  I remember going over my buddy’s house around the corner and his brother was in college and he had all these Violent Femmes CD’s and stuff like that.  So that’s how I got into music.

What about playing music?

I don’t know.  I had a natural ability to play guitar and piano and shit like that.

When did you discover that?

I don’t know.  I was really, really young.  I was like five or six probably and I used to play La Bamba on the guitar.  My dad had a little guitar and I would always pick it up and kind of like bang on it.  So my parents got me a little guitar and I figured out how to play La Bamba on it.  I think that was when I figured out, “Hey, I could do this.”  Then, when I was in elementary school and junior high, I didn’t really have a terrible amount of friends who didn’t just want to come over because I had a Nintendo, so I would just hang out in my room and listen to Green Day records and figure out how to play them.  That’s how I started to play and write my own songs.

Is Green Day the first punk band you listened to?

Yeah, I also liked Biohazard.  When I heard Nirvana and all that shit I really liked it because it was noisy.  I don’t even remember what it was that I liked about Green Day.  I remember thinking that they had funny voices and funny accents and I liked the cover art with Ernie on the back in the mosh pit.  I liked they cursed a lot and the CD had no advisory sticker.  I remember I liked them and then the Woodstock thing happened and I was like, “holy shit!”  After that, everything that I ever wanted to do completely changed.

Where did you go from Green Day?  Personally, I remember hearing from MTV or somewhere that Green Day was punk and buying the first Punk O Rama and hearing all of these other bands from there.

Yeah, same, it was that first Punk O Rama comp, the green one.  It was because of Offspring.  I did the Epitaph thing a lot more than I did the Lookout! thing just because Epitaph had better produced records.  I wasn’t ready after listening to Green Day, to take in Crimpshrine right away.  But I was definitely was ready to listen to NOFX and Down by Law and Rich kids on LSD.  I remember really liking Rich Kids on LSD, hearing that song on the Punk O Rama comp and thinking, “This is the best thing ever,” and I couldn’t find that record anywhere so I ended up getting a NOFX record instead.  Then I just did what every kid did back then which was look through the “thank you” list to find more stuff and that kind of thing.  Definitely NOFX, Rancid and Bad Religion were the bands I went to after Green Day.  My buddies were all listening to The Germs and The Ramones and I remember I thought the Germs were kind of bullshit.  I even thought Black Flag was kind of bullshit and I was just like, “this is just noisy, they’re not doing anything.”  The stuff they were singing about was nothing that I was into, I wasn’t going to drink a six-pack, I was a little kid!  I didn’t understand Sex Boy or Forming or anything.  Then somebody had the Operation Ivy Record.  I remember listening to it in somebody’s basement and just sitting there and reading the lyrics and being like “Oh fuck!”  From that point on I was listening to stuff more like that.

It was funny because when I was a kid and starting to listen to that stuff, I was also listening to Marilyn Manson and Korn because I thought those were punk bands too.  I had no idea.  I wasn’t a skater and all the punk kids in my school were skaters so I didn’t have anyone to help me understand this concept of punk rock.  My concept of punk rock was, people who like punk rock are the skateboarders who like…call you, “faggot” and kick you and push you when you’re walking down the hall because you’re not punk rock.  That’s what I thought punk rock was and I was like, “this is stupid.”

You never skateboarded?

I can’t.

But I mean you never tried or faked it?  That just seems to come with the territory.

I tried but I can’t.  I still can’t ollie to this day.  Sean from Andrew Jackson Jihad wants to make a skate video and as a skit in between stuff will be him teaching me how to ollie.  I also can’t dive.  Those are two things that no matter how hard I try I’ve never been able to do, ollie and dive into a swimming pool.

But I can play La Bamba when I’m five!  Not a good trade off.  I wish I could ollie.

Can you tell me two or three bands or people that influence you most right now as a songwriter specifically?

I’m going to say, and it might sound lame from a punk rock perspective, but definitely the new Titus Andronicus record.  That’s the first record I’ve heard in a really long time that I’ve just been like, “Oh shit.”  It’s the kind of thing you listen to that and your like, “I gotta step it up.”  It’s this sixty-five minute record with ten minute songs that I don’t get tired of with huge riffs and really good lyrics.  I really like that record a lot.

I also really like LCD Soundsystem, which is kind of lame, but the way James Murphy can just write really great songs out of thin air….  Everyone of those songs, if you don’t like it you’ll end up liking it and they have really interesting structures that sound kind of off the cuff, but you can tell that the dude has worked like a year straight on each record.

Also all of our buddies, Sean Bonnette from Andrew Jackson Jihad writes really amazing songs, Laura Stevenson writes great songs, Ian from Cheap Girls, all of them are really super talented, which is really exciting and terrifying.

You used the word “punk rock” pretty unabashedly, and you call BTMI a punk rock band.  What exactly does that mean to you.

I think it’s what you make of it.  When I think about punk rock I think about it as doing what you want to do and doing it yourself and not worrying about having a big successful single.  I think about treating people right.  I think about Asian Man Records and Dischord Records, stuff like that.  That’s what punk rock means to me.  Also having a sense of humor.  It can be loud, or weird, it doesn’t really matter how you approach it as long as you’re doing what you want to do and not really caring what other people think, that’s punk rock.

You guys joke around a lot in your songs.

My sister is actually a playwright and I just saw one of her plays a couple of days ago and I think it’s funny how both of us have a way of writing mostly in jokes, but jokes that end up being really sad in the end.  That’s how I roll.  I guess it’s that old defense mechanism coming out.

I want to ask you about Against Me!.  I read an interview with Tom Gabel recently where he refers to “punk rock,” as “Just another label, another club.”  I’m not trying to get you to talk shit, and I know this may sound weird to ask.  I know you used to really like them, and consider them an influence.  So, I think it’s worth talking about.  Do you still listen to them?  Do you like the new stuff?

It’s no secret to the public that Tom Gabel feels like he’s been rejected by the punk scene that he really cared about ever since they signed to Fat and got their tires slashed.  So I can see where he’s coming from.  I don’t personally like New Wave or White Crosses and not because they signed to a major label.  I was actually kind of excited to hear what their major label record would sound like.  I thought the direction they were heading in, with bigger arrangements and stuff on Searching For a Former Clarity, seemed a lot more dynamic.  I thought the major label release would be something crazy with like orchestras and horns and crazy shit going on.  I was a little disappointed that instead they became a more focused and polished rock band.  But that’s just me.  I think a lot of us were like, “Yo, Against Me! is this band that plays loud and hard every night and they don’t even care how many tickets are counted at the door!  I could do this too!”  I guess seeing them sign to a major label was a little disenchanting but, I mean fuck, who am I?  What do I get to tell that guy what to do?  I think they’re going to do what they have to do and it’s really nobody’s… I don’t know, not to say it’s nobody’s business because it meant a lot to people but… I have no official opinion on it, but I think one thing that is really interesting about it is that everyone seems to always be talking about Against Me! signing to a major label which I think is a cool thing that people are talking about and acknowledging the fact that signing to a major label isn’t such a great thing anymore, which  I don’t think people would have to said as much of an extent when Green Day or say Seaweed were signing to major labels.

Well, it’s different now.

It is different now.  It’s different in the sense that indies and majors are playing a on a more level playing field, it seems like.  But at the same time I’ve never had a million dollars put in front of me and been told, “hey would you like to do what you’ve been trying to do for the rest of you life and have all this money.”  I don’t know what I’d do in that situation, I’d like to think that I wouldn’t take the money but who knows man?  It’s a sad fact of capitalism that everybody always needs to have money and live somewhere safe and have put food on the table and you gotta do what you gotta do.

Okay, I think it’s a good time to ask this.  Why do you give your music away for free?

Just to say “fuck you” to Against Me!

No, I didn’t expect Bomb The Music Industry to ever really be anything.  I was in this band [Arrogant Sons of Bitches] and we were always selling T-shirts and re-pressing records and we had this one EP that was doing really well and we were on tour with just that one EP for years and years and we eventually put out a discography.  This is 2004 and it’s all stuff that I wrote in 2001, so I just really wanted to put out more music and it seemed like merchandise got in the way of that.  So when that band took a break I figured I would write a song, put it up my website and call it, “Bomb The Music Industry,” and it’d be free because I didn’t want to have anything to do with the RIAA suing people EVER, and I thought that was a good way to permanently separate myself from that bullshit.  That is something I really cannot get behind.  I think as far as if someone ever put that million dollars in front of me, I’d be like, “not if you’re going to sue fuckin kids.’  Yeah, so I just wanted people to hear it.  I just wanted to write songs and I wanted people to hear them.  And people liked it and were responding to it, so we went with it.  I think people felt the way that I did which is that we were paying too much money for CD’s and if you want to find something online, if you want to find and support a new band, that doesn’t make you a criminal.

Were you downloading music yourself?  Were you using stuff like Soulseek or Bit Torrent?

I was using Napster.  I was using Audio galaxy.  I had all that shit.  That’s how I got into Dismemberment Plan, or The Arcade Fire, or The Rezillios.  All those bands whose records that I did eventually buy and have done my best to support, I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.  The Wall only has six CD’s in their listening station and the radio wasn’t playing anything new, so the only way to find new music was to read about it.  Them suddenly there was this wealth of resources to find new music.  If I hadn’t downloaded music illegally, I wouldn’t like most of the music that I like.

I think being into Punk and hardcore might give people a different perspective as far as pirating goes.  I think it can be more helpful to underground bands than hurtful.  In a way, you sort of represent that.

That’s weird because I think don’t that the sense of entitlement in the pirating community is really valid.  It’s like “Oh fuck you dude you just want to download as many records as you can because you can and you just want to download as much as you can and listen to the first song once and that’s it.   I think that’s shitty.  I download music because I really like music and I want to hear more music and I don’t have a whole lot of money.

You do a record label, Quote Unquote Records that is entirely digital.  All the music is free on the website with the option to donate.  Tell me about the process of putting out a record on Quote Unquote.  How does it differ from releasing a record on a normal label?  What do you have to do to release a record on Quote Unquote?

I have to do very, very little to release a record.  The main thing I do is just quality control.  I think Quote Unquote represents a specific circle of buddies and if you like one band on the label you are probably going to like the next band.

How do you find the bands?

We’re all friends.  I’ve known Chris from Chotto Ghetto for 7 years.  I’ve known Jeff from Pegasus XL since we were like 15 years old.  Matt Kurz lived around the block from me when I was a kid.  More recently I’ve made friends touring.  There’s just a lot of bands that have been extraordinarily kind to BTMI that are also great bands that I just wanted people to hear more of and if me putting them up on my website can help more people hear them and get them a little bit of money then that’s awesome.  I know it’s done good things for some bands.  I know that the last Cheeky record was supposed to be on Don Giovanni, Cheap Girls are on Paper or Plastic now, Laura Stevenson and the Cans and The Wild are both Asian Man.  Bands are using that to get to other places and I think that’s great.  I’m really happy to be a part of that because I think that all of those bands really deserve to be the bands that people are paying attention to.

Yeah, I was really surprised to go on the Quote Unquote website and see how many of the bands that are on the label are the bands that people in the punk scene seem to be really excited about right now.  Laura Stevenson, Cheap Girls, Riot Before, these are some of the bands that are most talked about in the DIY punk scene.

Yeah it’s weird how that happened with Cheap Girls and The Riot Before, how they’re both really being talked about a lot right now.  It was really neat to see that happen.

Do you have to deal with legal stuff?  I mean, you do everything under Creative Commons right?

Yes.

So you put it up on the site, you deal with server costs… is that it?  I mean, do you record bands?

I do some recording.  I recorded the last Wild record.  I record Laura Stevenson and the Cans.  Originally the idea was everybody would just put their money in the pot, now I do some accounting and pay out bands for what they’re donated.

Do you think there is a chance that other labels will start to conform to what you guys are doing?

You have Band Camp which is a website where anyone can put up anything, and it’s got more options than Quote Unquote does.  Obviously Radiohead and Trent Reznor did it.  I don’t know if I see it as something a major label could adopt as their idea for everything.  I think they were late on mp3 technology and now there just selling it all for a buck a piece.  I don’t know what they’re going to do.  I’m sure they have something up their sleeve.

I think of Against Me! and when I first got really into them, and I found out they were on Plan it X Records then I went out and listened to everything on Plan it X, which made up for so many bands that I then started to like.  That seems exactly how it’s worked for you guys.  It seems like now that, that association of the bands on your site being bands you like, is now more powerful than PR.

Yeah, I hope so.  I know that we aren’t big on trying to shove shit down people’s throats.  I think it’s the idea of buying that one record and reading the liner notes and finding out what bands they like and what bands are on their label and listening to them and finding out about other bands because of that.  I guess I’d want to think Quote Unquote is the new version of that, we’re all kind of under this one umbrella and hopefully if you like one thing you’ll like something else.  Even though I don’t think any of us really sound the same, which I like a lot about Quote Unquote, but hopefully just the idea, which is, I think they all write really good songs.   At the very least they’ll give it a shot as opposed to, “Hey here’s this band’s MySpace page.  They played with Lemuria once!”

In a way I think that’s what punk is, looking for something more than what’s put in front of you, looking through liner notes to find new bands instead of just listening to what’s on the radio.  It seems like that has seeped into major or mainstream consciousness more these days.

Well it’s because indie rock is like the big fuckin thing now.  And that’s all based on what blog is talking about what band and what this one important person likes.  It has a lot to do with PR noticing that and capitalizing on it.  But I think it all kind of starts with someone liking some small band and that snowballs into something.

Bomb The Music Industry is you, playing and writing songs, and the band members change sporadically.  This seems to very common right now, bands that are sort of the brain-child of one person, who may sometimes play solo, but usually with a fixed or revolving band.  Some examples are, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Frank Turner, Mischief Brew, Against Me.

Do you miss doing the other way?  Is there ever weirdness doing things this way?  Do people wanting to play a bigger part or write songs with you?

There’s never any weirdness with anyone because everyone got in this once it was already my thing.  Also everybody knows that I’m down to try other things out, but I’ve just been working at this feverish pace the whole time.  Tom writes songs and is in a hardcore band.  Mike writes songs and does a solo thing.  And it’s really flattering, but I think everyone likes the way I write songs and I don’t think they really want to fuck with that, which is a really nice, that your friends trust you to build a skeleton so you can work on the rest together.  As far as song writing stuff goes, for the last record me and John worked on bass lines together and me and Matt worked on bass lines together and we have been writing more as a unit.  I love being a band and not being the main dude, that shit’s sweet.

You strike me as a pretty modest dude, so I would think that it could put you in a weird position.

They never make me feel weird about it, and I’m never really a dick about it.  We’re all just always down to make it sound as good as it can.  If there’s something I want to be in a song, I’ve thought about it ten million times.  “You know, this has to be here because it’s counteracting this and it’s going to come back up here.”  I think no one wants to hear that argument.  I think everyone just kind of assumes at this point, “Alright, you’ve thought about this, we’ll let it be.”  Which is good because it doesn’t make me feel crazy.

At shows, you guys bring a computer and burn CD’s for anyone with a blank who asks.  You also bring stencils to spray paint t-shirts.  Always free.  In doing this at shows, have you ever felt animosity from other bands?  Have you ever gotten the stink eye from bands you’ve played with?

Yeah.  Definitely starting out, people gave us a hard time about not having shirts.  People still give us a hard time for it.  Like, for giving music away for free, they’re like, “Who the fuck do you think you are, you don’t take this shit seriously?”

Wait, they see it as you not taking it seriously?  I would’ve thought they’d be afraid you were making them look bad.  Like maybe they were worried about looking like capitalists.

Well maybe they were afraid of looking like Capitalists at a punk show.  But they are capitalists at a punk show, and a punk show is a capitalist affair.  You’re paying money to get in you’re buying your beer.  I’d like to think we provide a very small respite from capitalism.

How do you envision your audience?

Terrifying people.

You once gave me the impression you thought they were mostly young.

Yeah, I don’t know.  I don’t know how old anyone is anymore.  I’m 27 if I saw someone walking down the street, they could be 15 or 40 and I’d have no idea.  I don’t think it’s exclusively younger, but we have all ages shows.  I think a lot of bands in Brooklyn don’t step it up and do all ages shows.

I think of bands like Fucked Up or Pissed Jeans, more or less punk bands, who have this young adult Brooklyn bar-crowd fan base and Vice Magazine parties, and it seems like you guys exist in this entirely different realm and I’m not really sure why that is.

I think it’s because we don’t have a PR, person.  I really have no Idea.  Also, I think if your band has five percent ska parts you’re automatically not going to be cool with like ninety percent of the people that listen to music. I like that we have that fuck you to everybody that thinks they’re too cool for something.   I don’t know why people gravitated toward Fucked Up.  It’s awesome that people really like that band.  I have no idea how that makes sense, but it totally rules that it does.  It’s a shame that I know that we’re never going to be a part of that kind of thing.  At the same time I still get to be around while Ted Leo and Los Campesinos and Fucked Up are playing really good shows and I get to go see them, so I can’t really complain.  I also think the thing we’re building, or that Good Luck or Cheap Girls or Laura Stevenson are building is just as good and I think in two or three years, if there is any justice, that’s going to be the kind of thing that people are really loving on the internets and blogs.

This might make you feel strange.  But on the internet, on message boards and punk related websites, when BTMI comes up, which you guys do a lot, in fact you seem to make up for a lot of the entries on Punknews.org or…

A lot of kids on their computers like BTMI.

Yeah.  One thing I found, on message boards in particular was this sort of unabashed reverence for you personally.  I found quotes like, “Jeff Rosenstock is God.  Jeff is the coolest kid in the punk scene.”  It’s strange.  Do you have any thoughts on that?

I have no fuckin idea.  For my entire life I’ve been the least cool person in the punk scene…but I am god.  I don’t know, maybe they are talking about someone else.  I have no idea.

You think maybe people see you as approachable or accessible.  I mean do people come up to you and talk to you at shows a lot?

Yeah, but I used to go up to bands and talk to them all the time at shows, there’s that openness with punk rock.  I don’t know.  I mean, it might be kind of apparent that I was not the cool punk rock kid in high school but more the kid that got picked on in high school.  Also, something tells me that the people on the internet and on message boards might have a slight nerd factor to them, and maybe they pick up on the nerd factor in me with my tumblr page and my drum programming.

You said that, at first, you didn’t think BTMI was really going to be anything, so you just put the stuff up for free.  Do you ever feel locked in?  Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you did it the other way?

Yeah, of course.  If I, in some way, was doing what I’m doing now and was earning a decent living, that would be sweet.  But the idea behind BTMI was not to think of music as a career path but to think of music as music.  So I think we are locked in to doing things the way we’re are doing them because doing it the other way would be totally antithetical to the entire point in the first place.  That doesn’t mean that I as a person haven’t changed in the last five years like everyone does.  Of course I wonder,  “What if I didn’t try to do this when my band broke up?  What if I tried to do something more traditional?  Would I be more stabile financially?  Would I have an easier time paying rent?  This apartment I’m trying to go see, would I be able to show them pay stubs from my record label and have a good credit store instead of having my friends write fake pay stubs and having to fudge my credit score?”  But I also think that if I hadn’t done it like this, a lot of people wouldn’t have heard it and I wouldn’t have been able to go to Europe and be friends with the people I’m friends with.  I never regret it at all.  Everyone always thinks, “what if I did this that way,” but I never regret doing things the way I did.

Tell me about the donation factor on the Quote Unquote website.  Do people donate?

Most people don’t donate, but the people who do usually donate more than the asking price.  People sometimes donate 50 or 100 bucks.  At the same time 20,000 people downloaded Scrambles in the first month and we got 70 donations.  But, I don’t’ really give a shit, because that mean 20,000 people downloaded a record I wrote, and some of them might have liked it and that was the whole point.

If Fat or Epitaph wanted to sign you guys, and they were cool with you having the website with free downloads, would you consider it?

I guess I can say this now because I don’t fuckin give a shit.  Apparently Fat Wreck Chords was interested in us.  I sent someone, so who knows if it ever actually got to them, but I sent I guess the liaison between me and Fat Wreck Chords, a zip file of our new demos which was titled, “Watch out we really don’t like cocaine.zip.”  I never heard back from them.  So that’s how we dealt with that situation, like a bunch of assholes.

What’s with the anti-cocaine thing?   All over the records there’s this constant display of disapproval for cocaine.  I’m not advocating coke but I’m curious about why you guys mention it so much.

I just think it’s such an Axl Rose glam rock drug, like get that shit out of punk rock man.  I don’t have fifty bucks just to piss away, fuck that.  Also, we’ve all had friends that, because of drug abuse, are really fucked up now or dead.  I’ve definitely grown a little less vigilant against other people doing anything.  But still, go to the Guns N Roses show with that shit.  Also, I don’t like having to wait on line for the bathroom for five minutes in between each person to pee.

You guys have been playing much bigger venues.  Do you think your shows translate to the bigger venues?  Do you prefer them to the basement?

I hope they translate.  We never really play those kind of places before we have to play them.  It seems like we are the kind of band that’s always in the smallest room possible for the amount of people who are coming to that show.  There’s certain places in Boston or Brooklyn where we can’t play the smaller venues because it’s too tight.  The last tour we did with The Cans, our worst show had at least 40 people.  We got to play at the Bottom of the Hill and there were 200 people.  It’s been amazing.  I think we’ve learned to tour smarter also.  We did a tour once where we only played places we’d never played before which was a really dumb idea.

What would you like to do next?  What would you like to accomplish?

I really have no idea.  I think I would like to write a musical with my sister, but that’s the only plan I really have.  I’d just like to keep doing what I’m doing until it doesn’t seem exciting anymore.

One thing I like to to write about, is people involved in the DIY punk scene and how they bring that into other facets of their adult life, jobs, relationships etc.  Do you think growing up in the punk rock affects the way you’ll do things as an adult?

Yes.  I’ve quite jobs because of people being treated poorly.  Any job I’ve ever have I try to put the same enthusiasm or good feelings that I put into punk rock.  I just always try to have a positive outlook on things and do right by everyone at that office, or restaurant, or whatever.  I just try to be part of what’s going on.  There’s definitely places I wouldn’t work because of the ideals I have.  If I was ever done making music, whatever I would do I’d approach with the same ethics I’ve built over the past 10-15 years, because it’s not just punk rock to me, it’s my life.