A year ago, Jeff Rosenstock played a small venue in Brooklyn as part of a CAIR-NY benefit, where he debuted a new song called '9/10' about being high on the subway. He spent a week in upstate New York in solitude writing the record, in a double-wide caravan but had already been writing the music over the past year before that. “I felt like I needed to get away for a little bit and also to write the lyrics. I’m on a noisy street and I either have my tiny office where there’s a computer that I’m looking at all day long or I go walk around outside where it’s crazy noisy”, says Rosenstock.

What seemed like I Look Like Shit-era Rosenstock returning brought us something vital a year later on New Year’s Day: POST-, an album that speaks to the anxieties that come with the current political climate. His previous album, WORRY, looks into the dread that comes with knowing things are changing for the worse and demanding a call into action, but POST- is appropriately showing what happens when the worst is actively happening, yet carries a hopeful tone meant to uplift during tough times.

For Rosenstock, the past couple of years have been simultaneously rewarding and difficult. The anxiety he expresses is still very present, but he is finally growing from obscure DIY punk icon to mainstream legend. As soon as POST- was released, many raced to interview Rosenstock to discuss the album on every major music publication. When he’s not touring or doing press for this album cycle, he’s working full-time as the composer for a new Cartoon Network show, Craig of the Creek. To say it’s already been a busy year for Rosenstock is an understatement.

Even with his hectic schedule, Rosenstock squeezed in time to meet up at a local café near his apartment in Greenpoint to discuss POST- and how he pulled off releasing a free album on New Year’s Day as his first one for new label Polyvinyl.


When did you come up with the plan do release POST- on New Year’s Day, making your fanbase happy on one of the grimmest holidays?

I think I realized it was gonna make people happy on the day it came out. I had no idea what could happen. It's hard to put into words, but it just kind of felt like, "Yeah, this is, this should come out on New Year's Day." This should be like, "You wake up first day of the year. This is the thing that's here." I wanted it to come out even earlier.

I don't know, God bless Polyvinyl, they all worked on New Year's Day. They're just like, "They make us work at eight o'clock in the morning." It was like, "All right, fine," but, yeah, they all worked on New Year's Day. It's just kind of like, but, yeah, I don't know. That just kind of felt like the thing that I wanted to do for this record is, I wanted it to feel like, for me, just the idea of it: "We can accept that what happened happened, and we could move on from it, having learned, and also, we have to move on from it, in order to get up and fight, you know what I mean?"

You can't just, keep saying, that we're getting punched, I guess. At some point, you gotta be, "All right, they beat the shit out of me. I'm on the ground and bleeding, but I can't just lay here. I gotta get up eventually." So that's just kind of how I felt, to me.

When we spoke a year ago, you told me you had just finished writing songs about the anxieties that come after Trump’s win. When did you actually decide to turn this into an album?

Well, I just kind of, like, it started ... The way it started was weird. I was trying to take that into the habit of being able to write while I was on tour, because we were on tour for the last two years, and it's not something that I really know how to do. Or it's not something I prefer to do, I guess, like, "Yeah, live in the moment!" So this was just going to be a really low-pressure, like, free record, and I was writing songs. This is before we recorded WORRY, even, and I was just, "Okay, the next 10 songs that start writing on tour, those will be the next ... The next record's just gonna be those 10 songs. And I'm gonna figure out how to make 'em sound good."

And it was just kind of like, a weird challenge thing. Anyway, I recorded a lot of that stuff with this digital recorder, and that got stolen, when a car got broke into, outside Bottom of the Hill, in San Francisco. This is not when the van got broken into. Every time I'm in San Francisco, something terrible happens. Last time, fucking, Dan Potthast and his wife's car got stolen, at the show, outside the show. Their car got stolen! They almost brought their dog to the show.

I just kind of had a handful of ideas that I remembered, and a handful of things that I was kind of working on, and just like, it was all jumbled up there. I was in the city, and in my apartment, and just couldn't get anything figured out. And I was definitely feeling a lot of stuff that I wanted to write about, and so, my friends, Pete and Kara, have this double-wide trailer, very nice, double-wide trailer, in the Catskill Mountains. And I know they have it, and I was just, "Hey, can I just go up there for a week, and write?" They were, like, "Yeah, sure." So I got to, like, full up into the mountains, where it was snowed in. My car got stuck, driving in the driveway. I loaded all my fucking demos, my computer, my guitars and my keyboards, and stuff. I'd made a little demo setup. I just loaded it across the field, in the show, just, "Whoa, this sucks!" Just, going back and forth, and yeah, I just kind of sat down, and tried to make sense of a lot of things. Lyrically, it was just kind of, I don't know, wake up in the morning, and write about what I kind of felt like I wanted to write about.

Which is what it always is, but it's just kind of, like, hard for anything to take up any real estate in my mind, other than what was happening at that moment. Which was that, first week of the Trump presidency, and the Muslim ban had already happened. And I don't remember, it's crazy, because, now, I don't even remember the specific things. But, I remember, I had nothing on my phone, except for a New York Times app I took off the web browser. I took off Twitter, I took off Instagram, I took it all off my phone, took the Internet off my computer, just didn't have anything on there, because I wanted to concentrate, but I was, "I mean, I should still look at the news. That won't be so bad."

And it was kind of, the news is just, like, the worst. And it was just, "Oh, my God, it's like, fucking crazy, yeah." But that's kind of how all that, how the writing process went for it. And it was just like, up there, and trying to ... I felt like, I don't know, I felt super lucky that I got to do that. I still feel super lucky. That was just, very nice, to be able to do that, and also, just to be in a position where I have mental space to process things. Which I'm finding is more and more important, and less and less possible. And I think, without that, it's going to be really hard to respond to what's happening.

How does that even feel, when you're disconnected from everybody else and you're trying to grapple with everything that's going on?

Well, I mean, I didn't like, I think, trying to grapple with it, and being, kind of disconnected from it. I mean, here's the thing. I still feel as disconnected from it, like, being up there, and being down here feels kind of the same. I've been to protests in the city, a lot of the times that I've been home, it's disappointing. I see a lot of chatter on the Internet, and re-tweets, and sharing of articles, and stuff like that. But when it came to protest outside of Trump Tower, all night, after the Charlottesville candlelight vigil that happened in New York, there was, like, 80 people there, or something, you know what I mean? Maybe more than 80, but it wasn't, the streets are filled with everybody who's angry.

So, it's kind of like, it still feels a bit ... It's weird, it's weird to feel, I don't know. It's a hard thing to put into words, but I know we're all together, and on the same page, as far as, having an administration in which the core of stone is racism, and sexism, and classism, and all the things that I think are bad, and a lot of people ... kind of like, an easy call, to be, "Racism is bad. Like, duh. Of course." I think there's a lot of us on the same page, who are having a hard time connecting with each other, and that's kind of like ... so, it feels weird, but it feels like, I don't know.

It feels bad. I wish it felt bad to be up there, being away from all of it, and that's why, the second I got home, I played that benefit. I just came back, it was, "I gotta do stuff. I have to figure out stuff to do.” But writing the record, it's always the same vibe, which is just like, "What the heck can we say on it?", and I'm like, "Write about that, you know?"

I remember you saying something along the lines of “I didn't want to write something personal, because I've already said all I have to say about myself." So, but it sounds like POST- is a lot more personal than WORRY, since you open up about navigating your feelings throughout it. Were you okay with going back to showing this side of yourself?

I don't know. I mean, I think I just have a hard time not writing personally. And I still mean that, like, I feel, a goal I eventually have is to be able to write something that, to me, feels like, truthful, and honest, and emotionally effective, as a song, and something good that's, I don't know, I don't know ... it's like, I would wanna listen so, so that it doesn't feel like bullshit, but also, that is not just about me, me, me, me all the time.

I feel like I have a hard time with that. The goal would be to eventually be able to do that, at some point in my life. And I think I try with every record, and it always ends up to, turning into, fucking, me talking about my own shit. So, yeah, I think if I'll just ... it always just creeps in there, and I think it's fine. I say that I try to do that, but at the end of the day, I think, just like, whatever the natural thing that's coming out should be the thing that I follow, instead of trying to be somebody that I'm not. Like, not being, I guess, the fucking self-centered individual who I am, you know? I don't know.

It’s interesting though because now you have everyone wanting to know more about you and constantly asking for your opinion.

It's weird. I mean, I don't see myself in that light. I think part of that comes from Bomb The Music Industry. The whole time it's going on, we all have jobs, and we all go to work. I still have a good job right now. But I have a job right now, you know? So I think it's just, I don't know, I've been doing this for a long time. I don't particularly feel that I'm any more interesting now than I ever have been.

It's given me an interesting perspective on people that I've looked up to, when I was a kid, or just, bands that are like, or anything like that, which is that ... everybody's just kind of a person, doing their thing, and I don't know, I feel like, I don't know. It's weird having people want to know what I have to say, and I'm always crossing my fingers, and hoping, I'm saying a good thing, or the right thing, or whatever. Because, I don't know, I think what I want to say is, "Well ..." I feel like, I'm a lot more confident when I'm writing songs, than when I'm talking to people about that kind of stuff.

I remember last year at a gig, a guy kept moaning about how political it was. I hated that guy! But, do you think by being open about how important it is to be aware of all these issues, it can change the perspective of someone like that?

I don't know. I do know that people have reached out, and said that it's nice to ... because, I guess, a lot of the record is just to really reaching for the right things to do in this situation, like this, and I feel like I definitely have had a lot of people who are, "Yeah, I'm reaching for it, too. It's nice to hear that someone else is kind of having a hard time grappling with, 'Okay, I'm angry, but what we do?' Not, like, telling me what to do, but telling me that it's, 'You're not alone in feeling frustrated with that anger.'"

So, I don't know if I've gotten anybody to be more politically active, or anything like that, but ... And I don't know, as a person, I don't remember writing songs, and be like, "This is gonna get everybody to rally together," or anything like that. I feel like, that's a bit of grandstanding. That's not my fucking thing. I do know that people have told me, they feel a bit less alone with how they're emotionally dealing with this stuff, and that's cool, because that helps me feel less alone about it, too.

Like you said before, all about me, me, me, me, me. Yeah, so, I don't know. I don't know. I know I'm gonna fucking annoy people like crazy on our tour, to vote in the midterm elections, so that we get all those people out of there, we don't have an entirely Republican government, so we get to a place where every terrible idea doesn't just go through, with no argument. Back to a place where it doesn't take an enormous campaign for a pedophile to lose an election by 10,000 votes.

I think the small elections, and stuff like, or not the small election ... Midterm elections aren't small, but non-presidential elections are super crucial. So I don't know, I feel like, I kind of wanted to get started into talking about that with people, but at the same time, I know, when I was a kid, anybody telling to do anything, I'd be like, "Fuck you, don't tell me what to do." So it's tough, you know?

Right, I didn't even know that stuff was important years ago. Now after moving to the US and becoming more involved I can actually see how [midterm elections] matter too.

It's not on TV in the same way. It's not as entertaining as the presidential elections, because it's not ... I don't know. I don't know, it's just, it's not people you know. It seems like the presidential elections are celebrities are celebrities who are running against each other now, even when it was Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton running against each other for the Democratic primaries, originally. Other than, were, on talk shows all the time, you know what I mean?

Like, everybody, maybe both of them were already. It's just, kind of like, a weird thing. I think the midterm elections doesn't tap into that part of our psyche that wants to watch a reality show. So it's easy to forget the importance of it.

When you wrote POST-, you discussed that feeling of powerlessness and wondering if you’re doing enough. You’ve obviously used your music as a platform, so in a way you’re doing a lot to put in work to make a change. How do you feel now, a year later?

Well, I feel pretty much the same. I don't feel any better. But I do, again, like, I feel better that the midterm elections are coming up, and I really feel like, if we could get all together, and actually, just get one of them. Get, either, one part of Congress. Just get one thing. I think that'll be a good confidence boost, to get us to, "Okay, cool. All of this, everything that we've learned over the last year about how things are, like, it wasn't ... We didn't just hear about the stuff and get angry. We heard about the stuff, and did something."

And, the closer it gets to it, I think, maybe I'm just hopeful that, I am hopeful. I'm honestly hopeful that we're going to get people out of there, and we're going to show the people who fucking represent us, you know what I mean, that we're not going to be represented wrong. The bottom line. There's just good people, right now, who are not represented by our country. But that changes. If it doesn't change, I don't know, I'm gonna fucking drink a lot, and pass out. Then I feel like, "Uh-oh. It didn't work. We're fucked!"

I figure this is, like, a crucial turning point. This year, specifically, I think, is like ... that was part of, now I'm out on New Year's Day, just trying to start fresh, and shake it off, you know what I mean? Just be like, okay, 2017 was fucked, but I woke up January 1st, and shook it off, and put on my coat, and walked outside, and got down to business.

POST- is released in CD and vinyl on March 23rd via Specialist Subject. You can read our review of the album by heading here.