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“It’s gotta be Chickenfoot,” Chris Farren deadpans. I’ve just jokingly asked the 32-year-old indie singer-songwriter whether Antarctigo Vespucci — the band he formed five years ago with fellow punk-rock hero Jeff Rosenstock — is the greatest supergroup of all-time. It would be, Farren concedes, were it not for the immortal combination of Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith.
“I feel like we’re neck and neck with Chickenfoot,” he reiterates. “Maybe we get Satriani and Hagar in Antarctigo, and Jeff and I just leave. They can do it. That would be cool.”
Perhaps it is overly grandiose to describe a band composed of two funny, humble, everyman (i.e. barely famous) rockers like Rosenstock and Farren as a “supergroup.” But in the time since the duo’s 2015 release Leavin’ La Vida Loca, they have become two of the most beloved and respected artists in punk. While Farren, who led the Florida band Fake Problems for eight years, broke out in 2016 with his full-length debut Can’t Die, Rosenstock put out a modern classic of the genre, WORRY., that same year, and subsequently gave one of the most memorable performances in recent years at the Pitchfork Music Festival.
But Rosenstock and Farren always intended to return to Antarctigo Vespucci, a fuzzed-out power-pop outfit that’s sweeter than Rosenstock’s anthemic and politically incisive solo work and noisier than Farren’s usual melodic fare. For the upcoming Love In The Time Of E-mail, due out Friday, Rosenstock helped Farren work through a stack of demos with titles like “The Price Is Right Theme Song” and “Breathless On DVD,” sharpening the hooks and teasing out their tuneful melancholy.
In separate interviews, I talked to Rosenstock and Farren about their partnership, and why making music together is a good excuse to hang out.
In the time since the previous Antarctigo Vespucci record, you’ve both have done quite well with your own solo careers. Why was now the time to reunite?“
Jeff Rosenstock: We’re always talking about it. We always start talking about it while we’re finishing up the last record. We come up with the record title, I feel like, while we’re working on the previous record, just goofing around. I think we’ll always make Antarctigo Vespucci records because we like working together.
Chris Farren: When we started doing the band, it was just such a big moment for both of us personally. It’s just something that’s very sentimental and special to us. To continue doing the band is a way of honoring that, and it’s also just getting to spend time with each other. Because when you have this lifestyle, it’s hard to hold on to friends, you know?
When you guys started the band in 2013, you didn’t really know each other, right? What made you think this collaboration would work?
CF: I wonder sometimes if it would have worked in any other circumstance. Like, same people but at a different time in our lives. I like to think it would, but the main thing that was really huge for both of us around that time was, we were experiencing our bands that we started when we were teenagers breaking up. And we were the songwriters of those bands, and in many ways, the leaders of those bands. There was this kind of feeling of, do I want to keep making music?
JR: I very vividly remember him walking up the stairs to my apartment and thinking, “Oh wait, I don’t know Chris very well.” And he had the same thing. But once we started, it was really easy, creatively. It just made sense right away. We would just take a demo of his and try and see what we could do with it.
CF: It was the first time in so long that I had been like, “Let’s just make something for fun.”
JR: And Chris is really funny. For me, hanging out with Chris, it was like, “This is great!” We had a really, really good time. It was kind of instantaneous.
How would you describe your interpersonal dynamic?
JR: I don’t know that we’re that dissimilar. He likes getting dressed up. I’m not much of a getting dressed up kind of guy.
CF: When we do Antarctigo records, we will spend a few days before we even start actually recording just listening to music and talking about things that are exciting to us, or things we’ve discovered or old things we re-listened to and fell in love with. One of those things for Jeff was Madonna. We just listened to “Like A Prayer” a lot and we were like, “let’s see if we could make this song called ‘Breathless On DVD’ do the things that ‘Like A Prayer’ does.” We studied that song and picked out things we liked. Like they drop out in the verse and it’s just pretty sparse, and then the chorus kicks in with all the drums.
JR: Chris comes in with really good pop songs. I think sometimes it’s not clear to him what makes sense in this pile of songs, and that’s something that I really like doing, being able to be like, “Hey, maybe these 10 fit together.”
It sounds like Jeff in a way works as both a bandmate and a producer.
JR: Chris will come in sometimes with 30, 40 demos and I’ll listen to all of them and just be like, “Hey, I think that these five or six were the ones that jumped out to me.” Basically, we’ll just kind of be like, “Hey, what should this song sound like? What do we want this to be? What would make this feel like a cool song to us?”
CF: I just trust him because I’m a fan. I was a fan of Bomb The Music Industry!, and I’m a fan of his songwriting and production style in general. There’s trust that comes with that. I often am not very precious with songs if I’ve agreed to enter in a collaboration. I love the belief that songs are infinite, even though most of the time it does not feel like that, especially when I’m trying to write songs.
Is it overly reductive to say that Jeff is the punk guy and Chris is the pop guy?
JR: Yeah, that’s kind of true, but I think that I just have more of a toolbox for making loud, obnoxious, noisy, fuzzy stuff. With Fake Problems, Chris made all their records in studios, so he had that in him. But we both are fans of each other. Chris likes stuff that sounds crazy and noisy and f*cked up, and I listen mostly to pop songs. I think both of us are always trying to do the other thing.
CF: I could go even more reductive and say that Chris is the “caveman simple melody guy” and Jeff is the musical genius. I write as simply as possible most of the time, to try to get a point across, and Jeff just has such a wide breadth of knowledge of music. So many very technical things that I don’t really know about are just so natural to him.
JR: It’s not like Chris comes in with the poppy thing and I’m like, “Let’s fuck it up!” I’ll be like, “Let’s try to make this chorus ridiculous! Let’s try to make this bridge so that it’s insanely catchy! Chris, come up with some good sh*t, I know you can do it.” Because we both basically want this to be a super noisy pop band.
Love In The Time Of E-mail is out on October 26 via Polyvinyl. Buy it here.