4 Aug
Chicago's Netherfriends take a love of touring to the next level

When we first heard about Shawn Rosenblatt’s (aka Netherfriends) goal to record a song in each of the 50 states, we figured it was just another low-end stunt to garner hype in a post-MySpace universe. After all, so many have tried similar experiments before and so many have failed (perhaps most famously Sufjan Stevens and his 50 States Project, who only made it to his second state, Illinois, before hitting it big and leaving the project discarded somewhere in a ditch on the side of the I-94). But when we heard Shawn’s music, and his sincere vow to get it done, we had to find out exactly how serious he is. “Starting April, I will be without a home for one year. It seems the easiest way to get to all 50 states in one year is to avoid the paying bills and rent and make different parts of the country my home base,” explains Shawn. “I plan on touring a ton and being broke forever.” Now that’s a laudable goal if ever there was one. After 2009’s Calling You Out EP, Netherfriends retreated to the small town of Apple Valley, Minnesota for seven days, recorded nine tracks, and that became his debut full length, Barry and Sherry (named after his parents). Gaining steam after a slot on this summer’s Pitchfork Music Festival, Shawn is all about achieving his 50 Songs 50 States goal. Listening to tracks like “Bret Easton Ellis Novel” and “Lead You Through the Misty Fog of Milwaukee Ave”, it’s clear Rosenblatt has a powerful knack for ear worm pop melodies, interwoven harmonies and articulate narrative lyrics — his atmospheric folk/synth-pop just might have the potential to carry him there, and beyond. Keep up with his adventures and progress, and if you want to help out, buy Barry and Sherry on iTunes, or simply volunteer your house as a recording studio — he needs all the help he can get!

So how did this idea come about to record 50 songs in 50 states? What odds do you give yourself to accomplish this lofty goal?
I was sick of touring with no purpose and I record all of my music very quickly. I really wanted to kill 2 birds with one stone by writing and recording a song in each state and tour in each state. I also gave up my apartment, because I planned on being based around the country for the next year to make touring easier. Not too sure about the second question… I set up this project with all intentions to accomplish it in under a year. I started 3 months ago and I have 22 states done.

Watch the “Bret Easton Ellis Novel” stop animation video below, and hit the Jump to read the full Netherfriends Q&A…

Bret Easton Ellis Novel from Shawn Rosenblatt on Vimeo.

“I was hanging out with some art institute students who were living that rich kid, cocaine snorting, pill-popping life style. I felt like I was living in a Bret Easton Ellis Novel.”

Tell me a bit about your band – is Netherfriends basically an alias for you, or are there other people in the band?
Netherfriends is a band that consists of rotating musicians. I am the only steady member and do most of the recording. The only other semi-steady member is Justin Fernando, although he doesn’t tour, but one day he hopefully will. I am a touring fiend and it’s hard to get the same musicians on the road when everyone has day jobs and a real life.

How many states do you have booked yet, as in places to crash, play, etc?
I finished 22 states on the East coast and some of the Mid-west. I have a tour booked to head west to Seattle and playing Alaska in September.

How are you gonna get from place to place? Will it just be you, or a whole band traveling with you?
Rotating cast of musicians. I have a Philadelphia Netherfriends line up and right now I have a drummer named Michael Whelan from Ireland playing with me for the next 3 months. We might just be a two piece or we might pick a 3rd person up along the way.

What’s your favorite foodstuff to eat on the road?
I cook a lot of food with a mini propane cooker on tour. I usually cook outside the venue. We save a ton of money by cooking and not going out to eat. I also had food stamps for the last 6 months, which was incredible!!! (Feel free to bring can goods to our shows, the food stamps ran out.) We cook a ton of burritos with beans and veggies.
I like the vegan Amy’s can pastas and love cooking the Indian dishes that come in a package from Trader Joes.

What’s the item of comfort you miss most traveling/touring?
I miss certain Chicago things or people, but I can’t think of any items. I usually feel extremely comfortable on tour. I think that’s why I am permanently on tour.

What was the first piece of music you heard that blew your mind, or the first album you bought, or both?
My dad liked a lot of amazing music and has an incredible record collection (his taste lately hasn’t been the greatest), but he played me Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody when I was a kid and it blew my mind. The first concert my parents took me to was Meat Loaf at Radio City Music Hall. There was a giant inflatable bat that flew through the crowd.
When I started the 50 states project in April, I crashed at my Dad’s place for a few weeks and he played me a couple King Crimson albums that really impressed me. I just need to get him into current music that isn’t Coheed and Cambria or Breaking Benjamin. YUCK.

So what was more exciting – getting discovered by Pitchfork, or The Onion?
Well, I still haven’t been “discovered” by Pitchfork….

If you had to pick only ONE thing, what do you have to say is the absolute worst part of couch surfing?

Have you ever had to sleep in vomit, or other excretion-covered couch?
I am sure I have… but can’t think of an instance.

Tell me a good story about Barry and Sherry. Do they have faith in you?
Ha. I have to chose my words wisely, they read my interviews now. I am also having a really hard time coming up with a good story about my Mom and Dad together so I will give the fun facts. Barry: Did science experiments with hissing Cockroaches for his Bronx Science high school science project, once was chosen randomly to help the DEA at the airport test a drug sniffing dog by having hash shoved down his pants
(the dog didn’t sniff it,) saw Black Sabbath in a tiny auditorium at the New Jersey beach when he was 15, and graduated from Columbia University in only 3 years.
Sherry- Met OJ Simpson when she was younger and has his autograph. My Dad is really excited for me. My Mom is really nervous and not thrilled with the name of the new album.

Bret Easton Ellis Novel. Is this a metaphor for your life? Do you live a life of casual hedonism?
No, (thank God) I was hanging out with some art institute students who were living that rich kid, cocaine snorting, pill popping life style. I felt like I was living in a Bret Easton Ellis Novel.

Any shout-outs?
If only I was on TRL…

Lastly, if you were lost in a supermarket, in what aisle would we find you in?
I tend to look at the ice cream section for a long time debating if it is really worth the money. It usually is.


Aug 9 – The Project Lodge – Madison, WI
Aug 10 – Vaudeville Mews – Des Moines, IA
Aug 11 – The Slowdown – Omaha, NE
Aug 12 – Staging Grounds – Rapid City, SD
Aug 13 – The Nestor Tavern – Fargo, ND
Aug 14 – Top Hat Lounge – Missoula, MT
Aug 23 – Sunset Tavern – Seattle, WA

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