For nearly 20 years, Jeff Rosenstock has been making music his way on the outskirts of the record industry. Starting as a teenager in the late-’90s punk-ska outfit Arrogant Sons of Bitches, Rosenstock re-invented himself in the mid-’00s as a DIY outsider with Bomb the Music Industry!, which started out as a lo-fi solo project and slowly morphed into a loose-limbed collective of musicians intent on distributing music via free CD-Rs and resisting any financial support from corporations.
Over time, as Rosenstock has built a following via constant touring, he’s inched ever closer to the mainstream. In 2015, he released his second solo record, We Cool?, on SideOneDummy Records, the L.A.-based indie punk label known for putting out albums by the Gaslight Anthem, Flogging Molly, and Title Fight. The association continues with the new Worry, a sneakily ambitious 17-song opus that successfully melds Rosenstock’s wide palate of influences, which include the Clash, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Beach Boys, and, yes, ska groups like Less Than Jake.
Lyrically, Rosenstock is an ebullient narrator, addressing both the personal and political with equal parts humor and anger. While Rosenstock can be acerbic when addressing corporatized music festivals (“Festival Song”) and police brutality (“The Fuzz”), he’s equally self-lacerating when the subject turns to the rigors of life as an aging punk.
Uproxx recently caught up with Rosenstock via phone to talk about Worry, which comes out Oct. 14.
You turned 34 last month. Was that a big deal?
I don’t know. It kind of all just feels like 30 at this point. I know turning 30 was pretty nice because I felt like during my 20s there was just this vibe of, ‘Oh fuck, what the fuck am I going to do? When am I going to start treating life seriously?’ I figure a lot of musicians go through that because you do have such a strange lifestyle that people just don’t understand.
Then, when I turned 30, I’m like, ‘Cool, I’m already just doing the thing I’m going to do. I don’t need to worry about this and stress out so much about this anymore.'”
Worry‘s lead-off track, “We Begged 2 Explode,” appears to address a person judging an unconventional, rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. You have that line, “Stop sneering at our joy like it’s a careless mistake.”
You can just see people drifting into different lifestyles and starting to actually, you know, get their shit together. I think with that song, I’m just kind of swirling around: ‘How is life going to be okay for the next couple of years?’