It’s Neil Young’s 74th birthday, and Jeff Rosenstock and Laura Stevenson have given all of us the perfect gift: A four-track covers EP, Still Young, featuring “Harvest Moon,” “After the Gold Rush,” “Ambulance Blues” and “Through My Sails.”
Rosenstock and Stevenson go way back, having grown up in the same DIY punk-rock scene in New York. They’ve known one another “since [they] were teenagers skankin’ our buns off in the same VFW halls, church basements and high school auditoriums,” as Rosenstock puts it (Stevenson is quick to clarify that she “did not skank”: “I was merely a spectator”). Still Young finds them taking on new roles and new sounds in collaboration. “I like hearing Laura play guitar and she convinced me to sing quieter than I ever have,” says Rosenstock, who credits Stevenson with introducing him to the songwriting legend.
In conversation, the two offered their thoughts on Young’s diverse oeuvre and his impact on their musical ethos:
Jeff: Seth from Polyvinyl has joked that I like “sad Neil” and I have claimed on multiple occasions that “I hate it when Neil rocks.” But I don’t. I love it when he does anything, because no matter what the project is it always feels honest and pure. He is a famous-as-fuck songwriter that could sell out a basketball arena at the drop of a hat even though he’s always sticking his middle fingers up at the world, his audience included. That’s the kinda shit we’re into.
Laura: I think it’s just so different when he rocks. I get that the two are such opposite ends of the spectrum but they still have the same underlying emotional content. I feel like Jeff and myself, as songwriters who grew up in punk rock, have a similar thing, where you can be very sweet and beautiful, and then at times, kind of ugly and heavier, but it’s always the same voice and the same intention at the end of the day.
The two recorded the EP this summer while taking a break from touring, and Stevenson and Rosenstock describe the project as just one of multiple collaborative EPs, saying that there will be more Young covers on the way:
Jeff: Laura and I have been talking about doing a few EPs of Neil Young covers for years. It’s an excuse to have fun making music together and we both like fun and music in case you missed it. ... We finally both had time away from the road this summer, Laura heroically made the trip down to my apartment (carrying an unborn child no less!! wow! grammy award!) in Brooklyn a few times and we’d feverishly lay down a bunch of tracks. ... I hope it’s not too long before we make another!
Rosenstock’s 2018 record POST- was a Paste favorite, and Stevenson released her quietly stunning fifth studio album, The Big Freeze, earlier this year. She announced in September that her new baby is “dropping March 27,” and she’ll be embarking on a tour with Adult Mom in December (tickets available here). Rosenstock recently announced a December residency at Brooklyn DIY venue Trans Pecos, during which he’ll be performing donation-based acoustic shows each Monday to benefit various charitable and social justice organizations, including Safe Horizon, Willie Mae Rock Camp, Educated Little Monsters and Black Lives Matter.
Listen to Still Young below, along with a 2014 Daytrotter session from Stevenson and a 2018 Paste Studio session with Rosenstock (don’t miss his folk-punk cover of Rilo Kiley’s “Portions for Foxes”).