#AdHocLifeAdvice with Jeff Rosenstock

#AdHocLifeAdvice with Jeff Rosenstock Illustration by Anna True

In #adhoclifeadvice, we ask artists we love to answer questions from you, our readers. This time around, Brooklyn via-Long Island songwriter Jeff Rosenstock, formerly of Bomb the Music Industry!, waxes philosophical about perfectionism and juggling musical influences. Jeff Rosenstock plays Warsaw on April 19 and April 20 with Bad Moves and Martha – tickets for the first night are still available.
 
 

stripped-down, and those limitations can

lead to cool creative stuff.

There’s a million ways to approach

songwriting, and everyone does it in their

own way. I feel like as long as you’re

making the stuff you want to make,

you’re on the right track.

@localfuckwit: Jeff! How do I get

over my crushing fear of imperfection

and free myself to make bad

things shamelessly?

First of all, there’s a big ol’ difference

between something being imperfect and

something being bad. I often think about

the first tape my old ska band made and

the whole batch of Long Island ska-punk

and pop-punk tapes and CDs that were

kicking around in the mid-’90s, when me

and my buddies were in high school.

Some of them seemed like the best thing

I’d ever heard, but some of that shit was

FUCKING BAD to me at the time.

Recently, though, I’ve started wondering:

If I’m listening to something and laughing

about it, doesn’t that mean it’s bringing

me some sort of joy? If so, how bad

could it truly be?

Nothing you make will ever be perfect,

and most popular records are full of

imperfections. I always find energy to be

more important than precision. I heard

an interview with Kim Deal where she

talked about punching in some pitchy

singing on a song, even though Steve

Albini said, “Don’t re-do it; it sounds

good now.” When she sang the right

note, it sounded WORSE, and she was

like, “Damn, Albini, you were right!”

When we were working on

Tentative

Decisions

, Mike Yannich showed me

Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone

(Master Take, Piano, Bass),” and the

bass is ALL SORTS OF FUCKED UP

AND ALL OVER THE PLACE. I think

there’s a lot of mystery and intangible

magic in art, and once you start thinking

that you know anything about how

anyone else is going to perceive it,

you’re fucked.

Ultimately, I’ve found it freeing to

recognize that you’re the only one

who will hear the bulk of your mistakes.

If someone else is like, “Yo, this sucks,”

maybe you just didn’t communicate

your intent—the sick thing you’re trying

to make—clearly and accurately.

@localfuckwit: Jeff! How do I get over my crushing fear of imperfection and free myself to make badthings shamelessly?
 
First of all, there’s a big ol’ difference between something being imperfect and something being bad. I often think about the first tape my old ska band made and the whole batch of Long Island ska-punk and pop-punk tapes and CDs that were kicking around in the mid-’90s, when me and my buddies were in high school. Some of them seemed like the best thing I’d ever heard, but some of that shit was FUCKING BAD to me at the time. Recently, though, I’ve started wondering: If I’m listening to something and laughing about it, doesn’t that mean it’s bringing me some sort of joy? If so, how badcould it truly be?
 
Nothing you make will ever be perfect, and most popular records are full of imperfections. I always find energy to be more important than precision. I heard an interview with Kim Deal where she talked about punching in some pitchy singing on a song, even though Steve Albini said, “Don’t re-do it; it sounds good now.” When she sang the right note, it sounded WORSE, and she waslike, “Damn, Albini, you were right!” When we were working on Tentative Decisions, Mike Yannich showed me Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone (Master Take, Piano, Bass),” and thebass is ALL SORTS OF FUCKED UP AND ALL OVER THE PLACE. I think there’s a lot of mystery and intangible magic in art, and once you start thinking that you know anything about how anyone else is going to perceive it, you’re fucked.
 
Ultimately, I’ve found it freeing to recognize that you’re the only one who will hear the bulk of your mistakes. If someone else is like, “Yo, this sucks,” maybe you just didn’t communicateyour intent—the sick thing you’re trying to make—clearly and accurately. Maybe they just didn’t understand what you’re saying.
 
Oh yeah—99% OF PEOPLE ON THIS PLANET DO NOT GIVE A FUCK THAT YOU MAKE ART. That’s the most freeing thing of all. At the end of the day, you’re just spitting your truth into the void, so the least you can do is fearlessly spit your truth like no one is listening.
 
@espedromi: Jeff, what advice would you give starting songwriters who play different kinds of music:Stick to one genre, be a Frankenstein artist who plays a variety of styles, or create multiple alter egos for each kind?
 
In the somewhat terrifying words of Shinobu/Simpsons drummer Jon Fu, “DO WHAT FEELS GOOD!”
 
Music is a safe space for you to explore whatever the fuck you want, however the fuck you want. If that means you want to start six different bands six playing different styles, go for it! Once you start having too many projects, you might find yourself spread a little thin, but that’s okay! Having something exist in a spark is better than never trying.
 
[Alternately,] you could try to [figure] out how to make a bunch of weird puzzle pieces fit together into a record or a set list in a way that feels wide and dynamic. Even if it doesn’t work, that could be a good place to start understanding how your different styles work together. I’ve also been in a few bands that are kindastripped-down, and those limitations can lead to cool creative stuff. There’s a million ways to approach songwriting, and everyone does it in theirown way. I feel like as long as you’re making the stuff you want to make, you’re on the right track.

Oh yeah—99% OF PEOPLE ON THIS

PLANET DO NOT GIVE A FUCK THAT

YOU MAKE ART. That’s the most freeing

thing of all. At the end of the day, you’re

just spitting your truth into the void, so

the least you can do is fearlessly spit

your truth like no one is listening.

@espedromi: Jeff, what advice would

you give starting songwriters who

play different kinds of music:

Stick to one genre, be a Frankenstein

artist who plays a variety of styles,

or create multiple alter egos for

each kind?

In the somewhat terrifying words of

Shinobu/Simpsons drummer Jon Fu,

“DO WHAT FEELS GOOD!”

Music is a safe space for you to explore

whatever the fuck you want, however the

fuck you want. If that means you want to

start six different bands six playing

different styles, go for it! Once you start

having too many projects, you might find

yourself spread a little thin, but that’s

okay! Having something exist in a spark

is better than never trying.

[Alternately,] you could try to [figure] out

how to make a bunch of weird puzzle

pieces fit together into a record or a set

list in a way that feels wide and dynamic.

Even if it doesn’t work, that could be a

good place to start understanding how

your different styles work together. I’ve been in a few bands that are kinda

stripped-down, and those limitations can

lead to cool creative stuff.

There’s a million ways to approach

songwriting, and everyone does it in their

own way. I feel like as long as you’re

making the stuff you want to make,

you’re on the right track.

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