On Monday night (September 28), punk icon Jeff Rosenstock made his late-night TV debut by roaring through “Scram!” on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Like his indefatigably sweaty live shows, it was an energetic affair. Backed by his masked-up band, Death Rosenstock, the kinetic front-person shouted, clapped, and perspired through the three-minute rager, with Black Lives Matter written on his face covering. Bassist John DeDomenici was green-screened in, giving the rendition presence a trippy and occasionally unsettling punch. There was even a lightly subliminal message to buy his new album, No Dream. To hear Rosenstock describe it, the three-minute remote performance perfectly fit the hellish year 2020 has been.
“We live in fucking chaos hell. I want to be honest about us living in chaos hell,” Rosenstock tells MTV News.
Rosenstock has spent the past five years steadily yet forcefully emerging from the punk underground to become the voice for an anxious, exhausted crowd determined to not let them win. His 2016 and 2018 albums — Worry. and POST-, respectively — became life-affirming salves for expressing fury and weariness in the Trump era, irresistibly hooky and blistered with rage; mere days after he surprise-released No Dream in May, the country (and then the world) exploded into mass demonstrations against police brutality, vigilante violence, and racial injustice.
“Scram!” soundtracks this year, even as it dates back to the POST- era, written about “leftist anarchist types basically fucking up Lindsey Graham’s lunch.” “When Lindsey Graham was out to eat, people would go and be like, ‘Fuck you, Lindsey Graham.’ Then I was like, that’s awesome! Because these people are ruining thousands and thousands of lives with their bigotry, with their racism, with their tricks into keeping the income gap as wide as possible [and] taking advantage of the working class,” Rosenstock says. “Then the other side is basically just like, ‘If you can’t have a polite conversation with us, then we are not going to listen to you.’ It’s just like, what the fuck? Fuck you, man.”
This year, Rosenstock raised thousands of dollars through Instagram-livestream performances benefitting The Bail Project, the First Nations Development Institute, and various other progressive activist organizations across the United States. With the live-music industry shut down, Death Rosenstock’s joyously deranged ceremonies had to be scaled down to cozier solo livestreams. Jeff yelled his voice hoarse and pounded acoustic guitars. The stave diving and communal moshing were replaced by jokes and emojis in a scrolling chat. “In all of them, the thing that resonated with me was just people goofing off in the chat and people who were happy to see their friends, or people who were happy to talk to their online friends in a way that doesn’t feel permanent, like a comment on a Facebook post or an Instagram post or a Tweet or something that somebody could get back at you for,” he says.
As live music continues to be experienced through screens, livestreams, and remote performances on Seth Meyers, Rosenstock talks to MTV News about that experience, releasing a set of more mellow material as 2020 Dump, and this chaos-hell year’s potential extraterrestrial silver lining.
MTV News: This Late Night performance is going to be a way for people that don’t know you to get to know you. What does it mean to get that distinction now at this point in your career?
Jeff Rosenstock: I don’t really know what any of it means, you know what I mean? It’s just exciting. It’s cool. I know that we’re on it because Seth is a fan, which is a cool thing. It makes me feel like we got to this spot on our own, not because — this is how I imagine it all works: Somebody gives Mr. NBC $50,000 and is lik