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Rob Lanterman spends $$$ on tapes and Denny's biscuits and gravy

a chat with the musician (Shrug Dealer, Onesie) + Hidden Home Records founder

Once more with feeling, it’s The Molly Zone. Before we get into today’s interview, a touch of housekeeping…

This is a climactic Zone today—for it is the last rendition of this particular newsletter. But it is not the last rendition of my blog-style writing on the internet. Oh you bet your sweet bippy it’s not. Visit I Enjoy Music, at ienjoymusic.net, and you will see I have been very much blogging.

I started The Molly Zone at the beginning of last year as a way to re-kickstart my love of writing after several years of social video lunacy. And like halfway through last year, I realized I wanted to expand way beyond the particular chain-of-interviews theme that this newsletter is all about. So I’ve been listening to random music recommendations from internet strangers, and talking to comedians about their music taste, and to ambient musicians about how they made 300 pieces of music over the course of 5 years in total isolation, and writing pitches for your potential new favorite pop star, and trying to figure out what’s going on with James Blake’s crypto music platform. And that was all in the past, like, two weeks.

In short, I think I’m starting to really cook over at I Enjoy Music. I have even opened up the blog to guest posts! (Maybe you’d want to write one??) I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this if I hadn’t started The Molly Zone first. TMZ was definitely the kick in the ass I needed to get back on the “words” game.

I will send very, very occasional newsletters on I Enjoy Music, and the vibe will be très similar to TMZ, and so I will be porting over the subscribers from here to the new Zone in the next week or so. But if you’d rather not scooch from one content vehicle to another with moi, I totally understand. Just unsubscribe (which you should be able to do at the bottom of the email) and we’ll see each other in the next world.

Thanks for reading this humble newsletter. I started out interviewing Commodity Creature about his wild tuba experiments and ended up listening to a bunch of Eurovision songs, which feels right….

…NOW! The meat of the newsletter. Today’s interviewee, recommended by prior The Molly Zone interviewee Melody Henry, is Rob Lanterman!

Rob rocks out in beautiful New York City. Rob makes so much music, they should call him The Music Man. He plays in Shrug Dealer. He plays in Onesie. He co-runs Hidden Home Records. And most importantly, he just put out a solo EP in a very interesting format—a ziiiiine. The seven songs on Knock On Wood feature guest slots from artists like Kasey Porter of A Very Special Episode (who I interviewed for The Alternative) and Russ Woods of Eichlers (who I interviewed for The Alternative!) They’re all wonderfully raucous, raw, heartfelt indie punk tunes that, as you’ll see in the interview, have been quite a while in the making.

We had a great chat, talking about the pros and cons of running your own label, the legendary Denny’s value meal, and much more…

So you know Melody. How did you first link up, if you can recall?

I work at Econo Lodge a lot. I do doors there, sometimes I run shows. Her band [Phantom Signals] played there, and that's kind of how we met.

How did you start doing stuff with Econo Lodge? I was a little sad that I didn't go there sooner.

It's like my favorite place in New York. It’s the closest thing to a house show that I’ve found. I mean, I guess I have been to a house show here, but they’re a lot harder to find. I love Econo Lodge. It feels so homey to me. I got involved there because of A Very Special Episode—I run a label called Hidden Home Records, and I put out their last two records, so I was helping out and they were doing stuff there. The pandemic was lightening up. We were all getting vaccinated. At the time, I lived pretty close, so they asked me to come hang out while they filmed something for one of the bandNada livestream events. And now I'm there all the time.

So I know you're in a few bands and also have the label — but I first would love to ask you about your musical history, how you first started playing music, or even listening to music.

I was raised in a musical household, kind of, but it was mostly ‘90s contemporary Christian music. My dad liked The Carpenters, and I really hated the Carpenters, because of listening to them on road trips. It was that, or whatever was on Radio Disney. In the fifth grade, I was living overseas and going to international school and this kid would sing the riff for “Dammit” by Blink-182 every day at his desk. And I just thought it was so catchy. And I would hear the song “First Date” at school events as well, and I was just like, What is this? I started hearing the word ‘punk rock’ thrown around, which is funny in retrospect, because I feel like a lot of people view [Blink] as the most bastardized version of that. But that's how I got really curious about that term.

So I decided in the sixth grade that I wanted to play guitar and I wanted to get into that kind of music. I started downloading Blink-182 songs and Good Charlotte songs and then teaching myself guitar. I actually taught myself the riff for “Dammit” before I heard the song. I was playing it wrong, but that kid had such good pitch and he'd sing it so much that I figured it out. Then from finding that kind of stuff—mall punk, if you will—I went down the rabbit hole of Bad Religion and Rancid, and “what is emo?”, and then learning about hardcore. I kind of view it all under the same umbrella now.

I had a band when I was a little bit younger, 13, 14, but we only played one show in the drummer's back yard. We broke up and then I didn't play my first proper show until I was 17, probably. But by that point I was kind of a punk historian nerd guy. I just wanted to know everything. I knew all these bands. I was obsessed with knowing all of it.

Blink 182: ultimate gateway drug, I say.

They're the best gateway drug, I think, because they were very good at like repping where they came from. They were very good at name-dropping bands from their scene beforehand. If it wasn’t for Blink, I wouldn't have found Rancid, I wouldn't have found bands like Bad Religion or Descendents. They had the Atticus compilations, for Atticus clothing. That was a huge one for me. I found so many bands that are my favorites now through that Atticus compilation.

That’s why I feel like “gatekeeping” doesn’t really work. As long as you are curious enough to go up the tree, you'll find stuff that's more ‘authentic’. Not that authenticity even matters. Blink-182 still rocks.

They do. I finally saw them, pretty recently. I'd never seen them before, and I figured this would be maybe my only chance. It's more than I've ever paid for a concert. More than I ever intend to pay for a concert. But I just had to do it because that was the band for me, you know?

That's nice. I only have seen them once and it was with the Matt Skiba lineup which, you know, they were totally fine.

One of my favorite things that came from the label was actually getting to see Alkaline Trio, because I did merch for Ogikubo Station, the band with Mike Park from Asian Man Records, when they opened for Alkaline Trio in New York. That's my Matt Skiba experience.

So you’re in Onesie and you're in Shrug Dealer. Did I miss any current bands?

Those are my current bands. There's some joke bands that once in a while would do something, but I don't feel like any of them are active right now. Other than that, I do solo stuff under my own name. I just got my mixes back for an EP I recorded, like, six years ago with the drummer of the band Ingrown. He produced the whole thing, then it got put on the back burner. I'm putting out songs written almost ten years ago, and recorded six years ago.

They've been aging in a barrel. Like a fine wine, perhaps.

I don't know about a fine wine. It’s kind of a time capsule, a moment in time.

Does it feel weird revisiting, or just exploring, these songs again? Do you feel like you've changed as a musician since then, or does it hold onto an essential kernel of who you are as a musician, or a bit of both?

I think it's got to be both. I recorded them when I was barely 26. I'm 31 now. My writing style, it's changed. I'm influenced by other things, I’ve played in different bands now, so there's a lot more in my toolbelt.

When does it come out?

I don't know when it will come out. [ed. note - it is out!!] Actually, I'm doing something kind of weird for it. I'm going to do a zine for it rather than vinyl—mostly because I don't think I'm going to tour enough to support vinyl. I had my little sister draw artwork for each of the songs. And so I'm going to put it out in a zine format with liner notes and pictures.

That's sick. Have you done any zine-y things before?

No. Hidden Home has a zine that we've been working on for a million years, and we just have to pull the trigger on it, really. I'm always behind on whatever I'm doing, you know?

That’s the nature of having multiple things going on. There's always something that needs more care.

And I think a lot of musicians get caught up in perfectionism, and I definitely do that too. That’s what held this EP back for so long, on some level. It's harder than being in a band in that regard, because when you're in a band, at least in my experience, you don't get to overthink it as much because you're trying to appease everyone. You have people who are able to tell you when you're overthinking it, or people pushing you to make decisions.

That makes sense. Could you describe what Onesie is as a band, genre-wise or sound-wise, and then what Shrug Dealer is?

I'll start with Shrug Dealer, because it's kind of my baby. A lot of people would call it skate punk or technical punk. It’s that ‘90s punk sound, I guess, though I hope it doesn't sound exactly like that. We just wanted to play fast and we wanted to play in weird time signatures. That was the idea. We started being really influenced by bands like A Wilhelm Scream and Propagandhi, and then got weirder from there. That’s been my main band. It’s me and my buddy from Boise — I'm from Boise, Idaho, originally. We trade off on songwriting duties.

Then Onesie, I read today that “jangle pop” is what someone called it. I want to call it “indie rock.” When I first heard it, Jets to Brazil was something I compared it to…Jets to Brazil meets Built to Spill, maybe? The new album that just came out, which, I joined after it was recorded, is called Liminal Hiss. It’s out on Pillow Sail Records and Totally Real Records. It’s very power poppy, very guitar-driven, but weird song structures. The guy behind Onesie, Ben Haberland, is the core member. He's a weird writer, in the best way. We kind of had the same approach in Shrug Dealer, except Onesie is way slower. Shrug Dealer, the faster, the better. Onesie is the only band I've ever been in where I have to slow down.

I love that you have two options. You can really freak out, or you can chill out. That's nice.

Around the time I joined Onesie, that's what I was looking for. I was listening to a lot of Pedro the Lion, and I was looking for something to explore that side of my emotional expression, where I could be more reflective. Ben and me bonded on a lot of ‘90s punk. We both really loved the band Dillinger Four. And then he was looking for a bass player and I joined, and the rest is history.

I don't think I've ever gotten to ask this question to someone who has joined a band later on in its life — what is it like to come in as a newer member of a band and have to learn everything? How do you approach that?

I think there's two ways that bands do it. Sometimes bands will be like, Play this the way that you would play it. And then other times bands want people to learn the thing note by note. I'd say Onesie is in the middle of those two. I'm someone who likes to learn things note by note. I feel like I learn more as a musician when I'm kind of forced into playing something that's out of my wheelhouse. And how quickly you learn songs is obviously a big part of it, especially if you're coming into a band that's already established. I'm someone who luckily learns songs pretty quickly, and I retain them. It feels like one of the only things I'm probably good at, actually.

That honestly makes sense — if you can learn the Blink-182 guitar riff off of someone's singing, you’re probably good at learning things by osmosis.

I worked really hard with that stuff as a kid. Now I know that I have obsessive compulsive disorder, but I didn't [know that] as a kid. I'd sit in class and think about my dad's guitar. I'm like, okay, well, if the riff is played that way and it goes up this many frets, if I started on a different fret that sounded like this in my head and I went up that same amount, then it would sound like this...I remember trying to figure that out. I was a sixth grader, so I guess I got on it early. I wouldn't have time to do that as an adult, to train my brain to do something that tedious.

There is something about a younger brain being able to chew on stuff like that...

That's definitely part of that. And you get tired with all your responsibilities, and you also learn that those things don't really matter. But I think that adults forget that they can learn things and be bad at things. Like, if you want to learn how to do something, you don't have to be a pro at it the first time. The first time I wore contacts, it took, like, 2 hours. And everyone was really bummed out, but I was like 12, right? And I did it. I think you can learn new skills and become really good at them as an adult.

Yeah, you gotta kick the ego out of it a little bit. I'd love to ask about Hidden Home: how that got started, and what you do for it on a day to day basis.

It’s very on and off. I started Hidden Home in 2015 when I was living in Boise. At the time, I felt like nobody in my circle of friends within that music scene really believed in themselves, as far as putting our scene on the map or getting out there. And I'd always wanted to start a record label. I was really interested in that stuff as a kid. I was fascinated by Asian Man Records and Drive-Thru Records before that.

I worked with this black metal kid. He had run a label and one day I sat down next to him and asked [about starting a label]: “Well, what do you do for A, B and C?” He was like, “Yeah, if you want to start a label, just make a logo and start promoting people's records and putting them out.” So I drew the logo in a work meeting, decided I liked it, scanned it at my friend's house, and that's how that started.


I did my first release with my old band because I figured if I screwed anything up, it might as well be my band. I have screwed up a lot of other things since then. At one point I started building a lot of PR connections because I was trying really hard at it, and then other songs didn't do so well. Then we started getting into vinyl with some other labels that brought us along for the ride and showed us what was going on. And we've done a lot of vinyl since then. We recently did a tape for a band called Zookraught.

They are from Seattle, Washington, and the bass player is my old Denny's waitress from Boise.


Yeah. So when my buddy Russ from Shrug Dealer and I were both living in Idaho, we would go to Denny's after shows and she was always our waitress. My best friend Mike, who helps run the label with me now, was working at the Treefort Festival in Boise, and he was like, “Hey, this band blew my mind. You’ve got to hear them, it sounds like what you've been looking for.” And I was like, That's my waitress on the stage! I hadn't seen her in years. But yeah, they're just amazing. Very Pretty Girls Make Graves meets, I don't know, Bear Vs Shark, but it's very dance-y too. They just played Econo Lodge. It was the best time.

The power of Denny's. What was your order? Denny's was basically the only place I socialized at in high school, because I'm from Vermont and the options were kind of limited for late-night.

I think Denny's is a good one, especially when you can't go to a bar or something at that age.

But you're still up late because you're a hyper teenager.

Yeah. I was going to Denny’s probably ‘til I left Boise at 25. My order at the time was probably $2 biscuits and gravy.

Oh, yeah. The $2 menu….

Or, like, $2, $4, $6, $8…


if u know u know

I was all about it though. I didn't have a lot of money, or I was spending it on someone's tapes that weren't selling. So I got a lot of biscuits and gravy over there.

Hell yeah, I love it. Thank you for indulging my Denny's dreams. It's one of the great American restaurants.


Thank you Rob! Check out Rob’s Linktree for links to his projects. Thanks for reading this newsletter—see ya at I Enjoy Music.