24/7 VALENCIA: You are coming to 16 Toneladas in Valencia on the 13th of June, one of the many European cities that you will be playing in for your Hell Mode Europe 2024 tour. It has been six years since you embarked on your last European tour, is there anywhere that you are particularly excited to return to or visit for the first time? 

JEFF ROSENSTOCK: I’m definitely excited to come back to Spain, our last European tour was the first time we had ever been here, the shows were awesome and it made us want to keep coming back. Spain is so much fun with all the drinking espressos at 10 PM and staying up late, all the little snacks you get with your beers. Everyone we’ve met there has been so nice. It’s also going to be cool to go to Toulouse because we’ve never been there before. Lisbon was insane last time so we’re psyched to come back. Honestly, the whole trip seems like it will be a blast – I feel like we’ve slowly found our audience over the last decade playing Europe and I’m really excited to play some good shows for our people over there.

With all of your musical projects over the past couple of decades, it really seems that you have a passion for music and making it accessible to your fans. Whether it was certain musicians, friends or family members, who was your main inspiration to make music and approach the music industry in the way that you do?

There’s a handful of people I admired growing up – Mike Park, Ian MacKaye, Kathleen Hanna, Steve Albini – because they saw music as something that should be accessible for everybody, not controlled by major labels, tastemakers or corporations and affordable enough for everyone to enjoy it. It was really heartening to see people making amazing stuff and having success with that mentality at a young age because the world really tries to teach you that your ultimate goal should be to commodify your passion so you can monetize it, and I just never related to that. Over the course of my music career I’ve met a lot of people from playing shows all over the world who feel the same way and I really cherish those friendships.

What is your favourite song to perform and why?

Ha, I suck at answering this question. I don’t know. “SOFT LIVING” is a long song with lyrics I like singing and it’s easy on my voice so that’s always welcome, and “ILLEGAL FIREWORKS AND HIDING BOTTLES IN THE SAND” has kind of the same vibe where it gives us a minute or two to be chill and catch our breath then let loose with a bunch of guitar shredding at the end. “YOU, IN WEIRD CITIES” is fun because the live version these days can go from the punk song you hear on the record to doom, noise, shoegaze, slowcore, post-rock, a sax solo, or even some really gross jamming. We never really quite know how it will end up live, admittedly it sometimes ends up bad, and I love the uncertainty and spontaneity of that. But I’m only saying these songs because you asked; it really changes night to night and depends heavily on what energy the audience is sending back to us. For example, if “SOFT LIVING” isn’t going over well, I don’t care how much my voice appreciates the rest, it’s four and a half minutes long and I’m like “oh man, we gotta get out of this one!”

You have recently finished scoring the music for the Emmy nominated animated series Craig of the Creek and movie Craig before the Creek. How different were the creative processes compared to writing your typical music? 

Oh man, it is completely different. My songs often take a lot of time to develop, there’s a lot of writing, rewriting, thinking it over, waiting until the right riff comes to me, making a demo, listening back and trying to adjust it until the song eventually sounds like what it sounds like in my head. Craig of the Creek is fucking chaos – it moves so fast, there is no time to overthink details, I am not beholden to any instrumentation and the show shifts vibes so frequently that within the span of two minutes I could have a bunch of different cues that are powerviolence or ska or anime or lush and cinematic or surfy or sad and sentimental.

Then when it’s done and I’ve poured the concentration of my heart and soul into this it gets shipped off and I start from scratch and do another one immediately, one after the other, as fast as I can so I can get back in the van to tour. While that all sounds hard, the great thing about the show was how emotionally expressive it was, from the writing, to the animation, to the acting… I didn’t have to think “how do I feel today and how do I express it” which is the bulk of the hard work with songwriting when you’re 25 years deep. I always felt like I was set up so well by my crew that my job was to just laugh hysterically watching this beautiful cartoon, try and ride the wave as deftly as I could and stick the landing.

Your concept of playing infinite shows in Brooklyn at the Warsaw venue is interesting. What prompted you to do this or did anyone in particular inspire this concept, and how many shows are you going to be playing so far?

So for as long as I can remember, I’ve been trying to play a free summer show in New York City. Since I lived there, I’ve seen so many great bands for free over the years (Deerhoof, The Roots, The Thermals, The Hold Steady, Ted Leo a million times…) and I wanted to be a part of that! But the thing is, no one ever wants to book us on them. I was trying to think of another fun thing to do in New York in the summer, even though the weather is d i s g u s t i n g. Our last two shows in New York were in places that were hard to get to or expensive shows where we were support, we recently played a show in nearby Jersey City which sold out in a day that tickets were reselling for $200 and we hadn’t played Brooklyn in forever. So I was also thinking, what’s something we can do that everyone will be able to go to, since we can’t get one of those cool free outdoor shows. I’m enraptured by the legend of The Clash playing Bonds 17 times or whatever in New York City, so I was just like what if we do our version of that but at The Warsaw which is a really special venue to me – my old band reunited there, Bomb the Music Industry! played our last shows there, I got married there, it’s a block from where I used to live and I know the staff. We’re at seven shows so far, we thought if we sold five it’d be a major win so right now it’s beyond our expectations!

How does your new album Hell Mode differ from your last album Ska Dream?

I mean, the main difference is that HELLMODE is an album of original material and SKA DREAM is a remake of our album NO DREAM but all the songs are ska. If we take that out of the pile, I’d say NO/SKA DREAM is a lot more pop-punk influenced and the song structures are often more conventional verse-chorus-verse-chorus stuff. With HELLMODE I tried to just ride the vibe wherever the song wanted to go and liberate myself from what fits that pop song formula, and the result is more songs with linear structures, more room to breathe, choruses that happen only one time, quieter moments and louder moments. There’s nothing really quiet on NO/SKA DREAM, the intent was to make my version of a bunch of pop bangers. I think both ways of writing are cool and have their merits – I love a tight sub-three-minute power-pop song – but these days I’ve been less fearful of openness, space and length and I think HELLMODE reflects that.

 ‘DIY music’ has been a huge part of your career, especially with your project Bomb the Music Industry! What is your opinion on the state of DIY music in 2024 and do you have any advice for musicians who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

I think DIY music is still where it’s at. Make music with your friends for fun and not for profit. I think that is a timeless way to enjoy life and music is a gift for allowing us that. I feel like my finger is less on the pulse of what’s happening now because I’ve been so busy with cartoon shit and the band has been kind of in a whirlwind that has swept us away from our DIY house show roots, which is bittersweet but an experience we all know we’re lucky for. But generally speaking, I don’t think that was ever the goal for us, certainly not for me. We all just like to play music with our friends, including with each other. I guess my advice would be to keep that in your heart while making music and try to hang on to whatever flexible employment you can so you are able to do some touring but still make money when you get back. If your musical project gets boring or feels like it’s adding sadness to your life, move on and do something else. You can always return. If along the way you somehow get an opportunity to do things on a bigger scale than you imagined, think long and hard before you decide to do it. If you decide yes, work as hard as possible trying to make the best stuff you’ve made in your life and if that yields success, respect how much luck that takes, remain grateful and treat everyone with as much kindness and generosity as you possibly can.

Interview by Polly Watton

Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’




C/ Ricardo Micó, 3



Thursday 13 June 2024

21:00h (doors) / 21:30h (concert)

Advance ticket 15€(+gg) (,Discos Amsterdam, Discos Harmony, DiscosOldies); 19€ at the box office (Ticket office subject to availability)


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