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The Arrogant Sons of Bitches photographed by Samuel Gursky

The Arrogant Sons of Bitches



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Hometown: Long Island, NY (USA)

About:

OCTOBER 1995: Jeff Rosenstock's friend dies playing chicken on his bike against a truck. Joe Werfelman and Jeff go out to hang out with some girls a night or so after it happens and tell them "we're a band" and start playing Green Day songs on an acoustic guitar. That Friday instead of going to the funeral, Jeff and Joe get together and start the Arrogant Sons of Bitches.

1996: Jeff and Joe spend a bit of time getting the band off the ground and writing songs, trying desperately to combine the songwriting prowess of Everclear and the brutally hardcore intensity of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Songs like "Slice O Life", "Realistik", "Asshole" and "And" are written, recorded on a tape recorder and never heard by anyone. Several bad performances are made for friends in basements and bedroom.

Patric Santiago and Chris Valentino enter the fray. A greatest hits tape is thrown together, including the hits mentioned above, and given to our guitar teacher to play the church's annual "Rockfest." Because we planned on covering a Crimpshrine song, we threw their song on the end of it and said it was us. We still didn't get to play and apparently that wasn't believable.

After recovering from getting turned down at Rockfest, The Arrogant Sons of Bitches play their first real show in my parents' backyard with current members of Taking Back Sunday, Bomb the Music Industry!, The Matt Kurz One, Sevenwiser and a Jewish Nirvana cover band.

1997: Even though, for some reason, we won't let him play instruments, John DeDomenici starts showing up to practice in Patric Santiago's basement. It will take months before we "let him" in the band, even though it is very clear that we don't have a bass player. Joe Werfelman meets a young but still six–foot–plus Chris Baltrus in Catholic school as well as a young buck named Joe Vazquez. Chris starts playing bass and we start playing shows at community centers. Pat, who for some reason has not hit his big growth spurt yet, looks like he's twelve years old and has to remind people that he is in fact fifteen.

Pat's mom makes him quit the band because we broke into his house to get our amplifiers. Probably a good decision as I think he's a professional soccer/golferer now. Joe Vazquez steps in on drums and offers to record our wonderful band. Chris Baltrus, Chris Valentino and John DeDomenici are still not "IN" the band. Joe, Joe and Jeff record the very first recording of "I Pissed in Your Mountain Dew." A hit that will be recorded two more times and somehow get progressively worse.

1998: Chris Baltrus walks into my house and tells me that the new Bouncing Souls record sucks thus starting ASOB's good musical influences. We acquire new drummer Bryan Cohen and start getting serious, writing songs like "Plaid Girl" and "Jared Cohen Can Suck My Cock." We decide to take our newfound prolificness back to Joe Vazquez's garage and record eight songs, later to be referred to as the integrity tape. We called it that because all of our friends in bands generally had all their friends come see them at every show and they seemed huge. Our friends didn't come see us, because we were really bad. We considered this Integrity. Shortly before this recording, this dude named Dave who was three grades ahead of me and friends with cool kids started coming over my house and playing Mario Kart with John. He played trombone and said he would be cool playing with us. Shortly after this recording, Bryan and J. Werfelman would start punching each other in the face at practice and he would soon leave the band.

We played all the hip old haunts: Q–Zar, Scotty Dee's Coffee Shop, even at an outdoor festival with emo tastemakers Inside. Without a drummer, John DeDomenici steps up to the plate officially making him part of the band. He even played a show the day he got his tonsils taken out. Our brother band Nothing Rhymes with Orange recently recorded with this metal dude named Goo and we decide to go in and make our first album. It was something like $500 for 4 songs, but since our songs were short we convinced him to let us pay $1000 for 12. This is after we cut "Animal" from the track list, due to it's whopping six–minute length which includes a three–minute bass guitar solo/intro. Shortly after this, Mike Costa starts pulling double duty as drummer for both Arty's Taxi and ASOB. We are stoked to have a drummer who knows how to play the drums, but not stoked to have a drummer that lives thirty minutes away and has no car.

Built to Fail is released by this dude Zach and Breaking the Law Records. We under the impression that the CD is being pressed, when in fact it is just being made with xeroxes and CD–R's. We throw some kind of hissy fit and declare that once we sell all these CD's, we'll release the record ourselves – like for real! Built to Fail is later self–released, still xeroxed but NOW with on a cavalcade of brightly colored paper including the iMac edition (translucent/neon green, blue and purple) and the Take Off Your Pants and Fail edition (red, yellow and green with two different bonus tracks on each.)

1999: Serious doors start opening for ASOB. Shit, we even played a show in Jersey. We get started on four more tracks to add to Built to Fail making it Built to Fail + with our friend Perry Carbone in his parents' basement. The recording process is quite long for four songs, people forget parts, but we all smile and smoke cigarettes where our parents can't see us. I get mono and finish the recording process the moment I'm better with some pretty gnarly vocals. This is later released only on rare odds and ends CD–R's distributed to street team members and at random shows where we decide to burn off four or five discs. The Long Island ska/punk scene starts to really blossom at this point and we play shows with new friends Channel 59, Sprout, Microwave Orphans, Who Cares and WCF like nobody's business. We even start playing shows with bigger bands; Edna's Goldfish, Catch 22, The Toasters and Step Lively all throw us a first out of ten slot on a show here and there. Arty's Taxi throws us another member named Eric Bucello, who plays the shit out of the trumpet and brings our horn section to FIVE players. SKA.

Since BTF was recorded, Joe Werf, Chris Baltrus and myself had started writing a bunch of songs – both together and separately. After re–recording "Fuck You" for a compilation at Runaway Records with the wonderful Jestrebzski family in August, we decide to hunker down in December for the real deal full length record, Pornocracy, a process that will take about one year.

2000: This was our first experience of being in a recording studio with a theoretically unlimited amount of time. Whereas a less ambitious (read: smarter) band would probably use this time to hone their sound, we used it trying every single trick we could in the studio. Guitars were turned up to eleven, even when they sounded bad. Vocals were pitch–shifted because we could. Hair was dyed every color of the rainbow. Lyrics were scribbled on fat porn and taped to the windows of all the recording booths. All of our friends at the time, although they possessed no particular interest in the band, came down and hung out there a lot and a lot of them appeared on the record, including JT from Sprout. It was a fun but it cost a lot of money and took forever. The goal of mixing was to make it louder than most other CDs. I think scientifically we ended up doing this, but we didn't understand how to do it properly so we get a nice mud sound for a bunch of the tracks. The original mix of "...and the flame dies out again" breaks my car stereo.

The record is finished in June, and most of us are finally out of high school and ready to make the band happen full time (read: college.) Chris Baltrus ends up going to college in Delaware and we steal our THIRD Arty's Taxi member, Joe Bove on the bass. Months are wasted trying to put an eighteen–minute track of our friends and us goofing off in the studio before track one. I guess we really liked Blink or something. The album is finally released in the fall, and we play a really fun CD release show with our frenemies Racecar Breakup.

The first rift starts developing slightly when John, Bove, JT and Chris Valentino are all involved with both Racecar and ASOB full time. Shit, most of them were in THREE bands full time. We all talk and quell the discontent temporarily. Chris Baltrus and I start demo'ing tracks for our next record, Three Cheers for Disappointment which will see its release something like five years later.

2001: The year starts out with us recording one of our favorite songs, "Built To Fail Motherfucker" for a compilation. We also play a handful of shows off of

In August we're about ready to go on our sparsely booked tour in a Winnebago that Mike Costa's father has lent us under the condition that we fix anything we break. In an effort to shake things up, most of the band quits and the remaining members live in the Winnebago for three days in front of my parents house. The remnants of ASOB play a show in upstate New York on a driving range with a new band featuring members of Shabooti. I turn to my girlfriend and say "if this band ever gets big, I want to you kill me." This band ends up being Coheed and Cambria. And to be fair, they did lent me a guitar amp.

We don't talk for a while 'til that thing with the buildings happen, and everyone was nice enough to see how I was doing living in New York. I start writing songs again, and Mike Costa calls me up about an offer to open up a show for Thursday but that falls through. I try to make a NEW ASOB with some friends from school including Tim Ruggeri (Channel 59/WCF/Tall Hands), Jon Rossman (Everyone Else) and Chris Taylor (hey, i miss you! where you at!) but trying to play fast punk songs quietly in practice rooms while lectures are going on just doesn't work. There is no band for a while until we get a call about playing a show with World/Inferno Friendship Society. I jumped at the opportunity to play with one of my favorite bands, and gathered together Mike, Baltrus, Dave and a few members of the High School Football Heroes and Premarital Sax. Only one of these guys ends up playing with us permanently. His name is Sean McCabe and later on in life I had to convince his mother that we do not drink alcohol on tours. We end the year with a show with W/IFS and a show at the Knitting Factory with Catch–22. It looks like we're a band again.

2002: I always thought that Built to Fail sounded like shit and we decided that it was time to re–record it with our friend Rob Spadaro at NYU. It didn't take long for us to learn that re–recording an old record is the dumbest, shittiest idea in the world. Although it sounds better, Built to Fail 2 never gets released and I'm not even so sure that anyone in the band even has a copy.

We much more successfully decide to record NEW songs with another friend, Eric Long, for his recording project at NYU. On 2" tape no less! This is all done for a 7" that ends up never being released, but ASOB is revitalized and we decide to record some more new songs and release an EP before we start working on our full–length again. Oh yeah, we bought a van for $3,000 and start to go away on weekends, to upstate New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusettes and more. We schedule a CD release show for All the Little Ones Are Rotting and our CD's do not arrive because the glass mastering facility needed to make another pressing of Aerosmith's Big Ones. When the CD finally arrives, we sit up late and fold each insert ourselves, laying the cases on saran wrap on dinner trays and torching them with a hair dryer to shrink wrap them. We play a battle of the bands at the Downtown and do very well – maybe it was cause kids liked our songs or maybe it's cause our friend Joey was dressed up as a banana. Whatever the reason, I think we win fourth place or something.

We start playing shows every weekend out of state and although we have NO idea what we're doing it's a lot of fun. At one of these shows a kid comes up to me and asks if we've ever thought of releasing our record on a label. I told him that labels don't wanna put out our records, and he said that his label wanted to and our deal with Kill Normal is born. Well, first we go out to breakfast with them in a rather British–looking joint in upstate New York. I'm pretty sure someone gets stabbed. Anyway, we end up re–releasing our EP with a bunch of extra stuff added. WOW.

Oh yeah, at one of these shows along the way it's Halloween and we decide to do traditional ska covers of Taking Back Sunday songs. Literally no one takes notice.

2003: The re–release of the EP has some videos, a live set, and more more more. We play a lot of shows around this time, opening up for Bowling For Soup, Count the Stars and other current hitmakers. We are at our skinniest and kissing lots of girls. We're not proud of this, but shit, we were in our earliest of 20's and drunk most of the time. Oh yeah, I think it is necessary to point out that this is the year that we REALLY start getting after it alcohol–wise. I mean, we got into it face first. For real.

With some help from friends and parents, ASOB starts financing a van that at the end of the day costs $17,000 (but would have cost $35,000 new! come on!). We all decide that we are really in this to win this and, armed with Big D and the Kids Table's trailer, book a big big tour out to the west coast, with Kill Normal booking our way back. In fact, JT calls us up before this tour and says "enough being a part time member, I quit Sprout and I'm coming on tour with you guys." Once we get out to California we find out that we only have one or two shows left and we have to get back home. We hang out at Dave's aunt's house while is many many many miles away from anything and get our shit together. We decide to use our connections in suicide prevention, sandwich artistry, horror films, hip–hop and bullshit to sneak our way into the Warped Tour.

It starts out pretty normally, we play outside of the Idaho Warped Tour when the show ends (with Kevin Lyman's permission apparently) and hope we can do it the next day. Of course the show ends early because of a tornado warning and we play powered by a generator while watching the tornado come down but fucking whatever, right– The next day, Flood and Scotty from Asbestos and Orange Peel say we can play acoustically at their booth and the hip–hop tent says we can play there electrically. We take the hip–hop tent, whore ourselves promotionally, a lot of people come and we're asked to come back the next day. The next day we played at a silver bus that our friends from Backseat Conceptions are running and Beret! are playing at. It goes well, and they invite us back again and we are all having a blast. After BEING NICE TO PEOPLE AND CLEANING UP AFTER OURSELVES THE PARKING LOT ATTENDANTS GAVE US NO PROBLEM. Shit, we even got to play real stages after a while. We went back home to return Big D's trailer, came back to Warped Tour again and a bunch of ass clowns had done exactly what we done but were being jerks about it. We were all thrown off the tour days later according to a note at the production office. We were listed three times on this notice.

We drove back home after spending the day in Houston at a bingo hall (oh yeah, and getting our trailer reported as stolen) and eventually met back up with the Warped Tour, invited by our friends at Backseat Conceptions to sneak in with them. According to a security dude, we played to 3,000 people in New York. The last day of Warped Tour was in New Jersey and we played the Ernie Ball stage. This was our first show listed on the Warped Tour. When we return to New York, it is decided that Joe Werfelman should no longer be in the band and I have to kick him out. I do so by writing him a letter, and to this day I agree that was a pretty shitty way to do that. We have a conversation the next day about it and he says that it seems like we're not really too happy and we're trying to be a band that we're not. I agree with him.

At this point Three Cheers For Disappointment is finished being written and we've already recorded a four–track version of it. We're ready to get started and we head up to Purchase to record with our friend AJ Quashee. We record for a few weeks and realize that we are playing like shit, the drums don't sound on time and we fucked up. We apologize to AJ for all of his hard work and go home.

I audition Sean Qualls on the guitar knowing that he's probably gonna be the guy who ends up playing guitar in ASOB. He joins and immediatly arranges a kick ass version of "2+2=5" for our Radiohead cover set on Halloween (to later be released as This is What Your Get. We book another tour (wait wait, this time it's a good tour with many dates filled.) Unfortunately, right before we leave for the tour, Joe Bove has a panic attack on stage and decides he can't really tour with us anymore. We all agree and Sean moves over to bass. We leave the day after Christmas I believe.

2004: We spend New Year's Eve in Florida, New Year's Day in the ocean and New Year's Afternoon in the tattoo shop. This is my happiest memory of ASOB.

We get back home, record some more jams and start working on releasing a "Complete Discography" instead of the same six songs for the past two years. The photo shoot is very cold. While in the van on this past tour, I somehow get Tomas Kalonky's phone number and call him up asking if we could jump on some of the Streetlight Manifesto shows coming up. He says "yeah, sure, if you call them up." We did and ending up doing a short tour with them, and later did a handful of shows with them and Big D and the Kids Table. Everything is going pretty well, we're touring a lot and playing with a lot of good bands but we're all still broke and it's starting to wear on us.

Steve Foote starts recording Three Cheers For Disappointment with us at Moontower Studios in Boston, Massachusettes and everything actually works. The thing about Moontower is that they have a million instruments AND they have a vending machine that serves beer, which really helps you sleep on a floor peacefully after a long day of recording. After a month or so we finish the bulk of the album and I go home to record the rest myself.

The grind really starts wearing on us as we're booking a tour, ordering merch, trying to talk to record labels, teaching James Lynch bass parts, trying to get bigger bands to like us all while having no jobs, living with our parents and really scrounging every cent we have saved up. We played a bunch of shows with The Know How and they invite us to do a three–way split CD to be released in Japan. Most of the band refuses to learn the songs at first, and eventually a small amount of effort is put forth. I remember Dave and I went to Best Buy together and Dave said he didn't wanna do the band if he felt this much pressure to make the tours amazing and I agreed and we decided to just try and have a good time this tour and see what happened. Being the depressed, alcohol–fueled individuals that we were, we decided to take an extended break in late September, I disappeared to upstate New York for a month and received a lot of phone calls about money owed to whoever.

In October, we played our last two shows at Mr. Beery's – one all ages, one 18+. Shortly afterwards, I started Bomb the Music Industry!, Sean started Bashi–Bazouk, JT started his solo project, Mike Costa started his solo project and Dave registered to finally go to college. I think we all hung out in a car right after I recorded the first Bomb the Music Industry! song and it was clear that we were all moving on.

2005: Except for one thing. Some people really wanted to see us. I mean, really. If you saw ASOB in 2005 then you were definitely in for a treat. We were getting paid between 300 and 1,000 dollars for these shows, didn't really like each other all much and drank WAAAAAY too much. When playing with our old friends the Know How in New Jersey, Dave drank so much that he actually fell over in slow motion on stage. Y'know, being a band for all the wrong reasons, all that. Whatever, fuck it.

Steve and I finally got together to finish Three Cheers. We learned that recording gang vocals with all your friends may create a "party atmosphere" for track one but will create a "miserable environment where no one can focus" for track two. We get it mastered for real, do real art and try and make this record that we worked on for years something worth having forever, and I think it ended up alright.

2006: We play three shows in the Northeast for the release of Three Cheers for Disappointment. Arguments over merchandise still pervade the weekend. After our last show at CBGB's, anxious to go out and spend time with each other, we sit at a table for two hours autographing posters for a contest bickering with each other. We try to book a tour to England, but half the band doesn't get passports. The CD release shows are our last shows for over a year and a half.

2007: We decide fuck it, why not play a last show with everyone. We close with an extra long version of "That's What Friends Are For" during which the sound guy yelled at us through the monitors, half the crowd seemed disinterested and John DeDomenici drunkenly fell off the stage. Yeah, that seems about right.

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