The first time Bomb the Music Industry! played Salt Lake City in the fall of 2007 just so happened to be one of the worst days in Jeff Rosenstock’s life. “I had the flu, and I was having fever dreams in the van. It was snowing that morning, and I got woken up by a text message from a friend that said, ‘Yo, Radiohead just totally yanked your style, dude,’” he says. Rosenstock’s New York-based punk band had been making a name for themselves by employing a donation-based system to distribute their music on the Internet, so when Thom Yorke & Co. announced that they would be utilizing the same method for their 2007 album, In Rainbows, it was a huge blow to Rosenstock. Even so, Bomb the Music Industry! rocked the fuck out of Red Light Books that night with their spazzy blend of ska, pop-punk and ‘80s-style hardcore. The sweaty kids losing their shit in that basement couldn’t have given less of a fuck about Radiohead—Bomb the Music Industry! is what punk rock is all about.
Rosenstock started Bomb the Music Industry! in 2004 after the dissolution of his previous band, The Arrogant Sons of Bitches. “I was starting to get fed up with the idea of selling merchandise. I just didn’t care. It was something I felt there was too much emphasis on,” Rosenstock says. Completely taking the monetary aspect out of music, Rosenstock decided that he would give away the music from his next project for free on the Internet. “I just wanted to write songs and I wanted people to hear those songs. The easiest way to do that was to record them myself, then put them up for free on the Internet and not worry about losing money,” he says. Rosenstock recorded the first three Bomb the Music Industry! albums and played all of the instruments on them entirely on his own. The songs ranged from missives about the evils of the music industry (naturally) and our government, to odes about loneliness and the glories of a showerbeer, as well as some covers of Harvey Danger and Tom Waits.
Shortly after recording the first Bomb album, Album Minus Band, Rosenstock launched Quote Unquote Records to distribute his own music and music from his friends. The label touts itself as the first ever donation-based record label, and has released music from ROAR, Shinobu and O Pioneers!!! as well as Bomb the Music Industry! members Matt Kurz and Laura Stevenson, among others. “Not very many people donate versus the amount of people who download, but the people who do often donate more than we ask, usually. People send us nice notes and they’re happy that we’re doing it,” Rosenstock says. He believes that the popularity of Bomb the Music Industry! and their DIY ethic has helped other bands on the Quote Unquote roster gain exposure. “It started out as a way to benefit friends of mine, and it turned out really good for us,” Rosenstock says.
When it came time to record 2007’s Get Warmer, Rosenstock decided that he wanted Bomb the Music Industry! to be a touring band with actual members. He recruited several dozen of his friends from the New York and Athens, Ga. music scenes to record the album and embarked on a tour with a rotating cast of bandmates. Get Warmer was also the first Bomb record to be released physically and digitally on the same day with the vinyl and CD versions being released by Mike Park’s Asian Man Records. “Ethically speaking, Mike Park was a huge influence me from when I discovered ska punk up until now. He’s still a huge inspiration to me. He’s a great, great person,” Rosenstock says. After releasing two albums with Asian Man, Rosenstock decided to launch Really Records and release vinyl versions of Bomb the Music Industry! albums on his own. The first pressing of the band’s latest album, Vacation, sold out before its official release date, further proving that BTMI! fans are more than willing to pay for something they can get for free.
Vacation, released last July, is very much a summer record, showcasing the continuing evolution of Bomb the Music Industry!’s sound while maintaining Rosenstock’s incredibly honest lyrics. “Vacation is, without a doubt, the most positive Bomb the Music Industry! record, and it’s about people dying and car crashes and suicide and shit. I don’t think I’m good at writing about happy stuff,” Rosenstock says. Still, these tales of despair are laid over sunny soundscapes that simultaneously recall the Beach Boys, Screeching Weasel, Neutral Milk Hotel and Fake Problems, revealing further aspects of the BTMI! sound. “I do try really hard not to make the same record twice,” Rosenstock says. “I think any new music that I’m listening to will undoubtedly work its way in there, and not even new bands necessarily. It puts me in a different mindset when I’m writing songs.”
On August 16, Bomb the Music Industry! returns to Salt Lake to perform at The Underground with locals Problem Daughter, Show Me Island and Dr. Drug and the Possible Side Effects. Now that the band features a steady, five-member lineup, Rosenstock promises big things: “Sometimes we don’t sound like shit now, but it’s still a gamble,” he says. Come get sweaty. Come have fun. Come support punk rock.