Today’s Feature – August 11-12: Rooney

August 14, 2008 at 1:07 am (Today's Feature)

Today is a big day for PensEyeView.com. What began a little over a year ago with no start up cash, no leads, no direction and only holding to the concept of “every great idea starts with a pen, paper and a vision,” now celebrates the 250th consecutive feature. That’s a new artist, a new story and new reason to believe there is real art still out there, every 48 hours. No breaks, no misses. I wish we would have counted how many emails we’ve had with artists or how many late night phone calls. Even better I wish we kept all the emails from the doubters early on that said we are “out of your minds… there is no way you’ll able to find people every 48 hours.” Blah, blah, blah. Well, we are out of our minds but we’ve gotten this far and don’t plan to stop. It’s the support from the readers, and most importantly the art community worldwide that has allowed us to remain successful and consistent. We won’t let you down. So, when the time came to decide who would be our 250th feature, the vote was unanimous after seeing today’s feature, a young group of “music heads” and real artists, who have made a big impact on today’s music scene.

Rooney, that 5-piece rock act out of California has pulled off something many veteran bands never find a way to do; something that sets them apart from the pop, alternative and rock groups that just seem to keep crawling out of the woodwork. I’m talking about a sense of mystery about them, a trait of secrecy, something the makes people keep taking notice. Whatever you want to call it, Rooney has it and they’ve been working it for nearly a decade.

Sure, the mystery wasn’t always there, but the talent was. They saw their debut album go nearly gold out of the gates with two successful singles, primed to come back with a follow-up record that would reflect what they learned from their debut… however that didn’t happen. Not right away anyway. A collection of “lost records” were created over several years leaving fans and critics alike wondering what was happening with Rooney – would a new collection ever be released? Had their time come and gone? Most certainly, an air of mystery engulfed the 5 artists.

But finally, on July 17, 2007, “Calling the World” hit the streets, a combination of Rooney’s melodic songwriting and dynamic playing that didn’t disappoint. The record led to shows with Incubus, Jane’s Addiction, Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, Weezer and eventually a performance at Baltimore’s Ram’s Head Live! where we here at PensEyeView were lucky enough to catch up with them. Want to learn just how Rooney “manages to capture elements from the past four decades and make them sound modern today?” Jump into the XXQ’s for it all.

XXQs: Rooney (Taylor and Ned)

Walter J. Zalis (WJ): We were really excited to have a chance to meet up with you tonight. Thanks for taking the time. So, what do you think of Baltimore?

Taylor: We’ve been in Baltimore a few times before. Nice town. Did some bike riding, some running today. Went to the bookstore and mall right on the water… A bunch of good historical things too. I wandered into some old buildings. I saw The Washington Monument. I was impressed by all the history. We don’t get that in LA.

WZ: Going back to how it all started, how did you first come together?

Taylor: We started out pretty young, during high school – there were two neighboring high schools. Me and Louie, the keyboardist and I went to one and then Robert and Matt went to another. Ned was out of school but living in LA. We just met naturally, no adds, or anything, we just all kind of came together. We started playing pretty casual at first – covers and then original. Then we started playing out at clubs until we got signed. It’s been the same guys ever since.

WZ: That was back in 2002, right?

Taylor: Yeah, back in 2002 we got signed. We started playing in 1999.

WZ: What influenced you originally to start playing music?

Taylor: Growing up, I was heavy into Nirvana at first, which was a big breakthrough for me. But then I realized a lot of the other 90s alternative rock that came simultaneously as Nirvana and afterwards wasn’t as high quality as Nirvana, so I realized what I liked about Nirvana was that they were supper aggressive but super melodic. That led me back to like 60’s British invasion – Beatles, Kinks, The Who, Yellow, Sabbath, Alice Cooper – anything that had some rocking attitude but good melody as well. And obviously everyone’s taste spans all kinds of bands and I’ve noticed today that there are bands that draw particularly heavily from one influence. Like they’ll really be into The Velvet Underground or something and it shows in their singing style and songwriting style and it shows in their clothes and everything. But it’s cool that is shows the span from the 60s to 70s the 80s, 90s, hard, pop and everything in between. So, we are borrowing from so many influences which I think gives us more depth and potential longevity to make music. It’s not like the guys that meet at a bar and say, “You like the Velvet Underground? I like the Velvet Underground! Let’s do a band just like that!”… It’s counter common.

WZ: There’s a phrase floating around your sites that Rooney “manages to capture elements from the past four decades and make them sound modern today”. How have you gone about doing just that?

Ned: I think that just goes back to what he was saying, we don’t necessarily try to remake old albums. It’s about taking our influences, combining them and making something new. We tried using live takes in the studio and put a lot of restrictions on us, like they had back in the 60s, but we realized quickly that’s not the best way catch our live show on an album. So, if you listen to both our albums you’ll see they are quite modern in production style. We still have great harmonies and performances as the classic artists and know how to play really well, but we use ProTools and modern technology to capture sounds. We think it still sounds organic but don’t always stick to all the retro ways.

WZ: Speaking of the album, it has been some time from that past album to “Calling The World” came out, how did it feel to finally get it out?

Taylor: I don’t know if you heard about the two lost albums?

WZ: I did, can you tell us more?

Taylor: We made two other albums in between and they were both shelved and we’re going to release them in later times. We’ve made four albums, released two. We hope to put them out online only, fan club only, shows only – some form of release- not as heavily promoted as our next album but so we can add that much more to our repertoire and live show. It felt really good to get something out. The length cycles of albums is something we find unhealthy and it is definitely frustrating. We want to put out music every year. We are actually on the anniversary of “Calling The World” and so it’s about time for us to go home and think about new material. But this tour has been really great. We’ve been to Europe, all around the states, good opening bands, the shows have been really fun. But we are getting to the finish line and want to get some new songs going.

WZ: If we were to walk into your studio right now, what would we most likely find?

Ned: A pretty good collection of vintage gear and records we’ve acquired over the years. We’ve never had a place to keep it all but we’ve managed to keep it all. Louie has a lot of vintage keyboards and organs. Taylor has a cool amp collection. I have quite a few drums and things. I mean, we’ve been together for over 9 years and we’re all really big “music heads”-

Taylor: Gear heads!

Ned: Yeah, “gear heads”. One day we hope to have our own studio where we can house it all. I think that is when you can really turn stuff out. Right now, we’re trying to just collect mics and stuff so we don’t have to go to another studio and we can do it our own. Plus record collections too, everyone has a lot of that stuff. And naked pictures of girls all over the walls, you know. (Everyone laughs)

WZ: Inspiration, right?

Ned: Yeah! (laughs)

WZ: When you sit down to write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

Ned: I think it’s changed over the years. It’s always been Robert as the chief songwriter in the band. I think early on in band it was “get together and work out the songs”. It became over this four albums that Robert will make his own kind of demos and then we’ll arrange it in the studio. But in the future we all hope to be contributing more. Taylor and I have been writing a lot and we all have our own kind of way to do things. I think for he new album it will be a lot more of pulling the demos together. With “Calling The World” we only made the record, after all those years of waiting it only took like 3 weeks to make. We just ripped them out really quick.

Taylor: We have a system with our producer where we don’t do any pre-production or rehearsals. We just send demos around and kind get our show of hands about songs we want to work on. Then Ned and Matt start coming up with a rhythm foundation of what the songs is going to look like and once that happens, everyone just goes into their own heads and comes up with their own parts and we start layering. By the night, like after dinner, Robert will do the vocals. Usually it’s about a song every day and a half… take out any ideas we don’t like, then start cutting drums for the next song.

WZ: It seems very spontaneous –

Taylor: It’s an awesome tradition from the 70s and stuff, like Elton John kind of stuff. You get up in the morning, show everyone the songs and start cutting it right away. It takes a certain level of musicianship and a certain level of knowing what the band’s style and sound is. It comes naturally to us. No one really is ever banging their heads against the wall and stuff. The song leads the way. It’s just about writing the best songs you can and pick the songs everyone wants to work on. We don’t second-guess too much. It also has a lot to do with our faith in John Fields, our producer, he’s like a sixth member in that way.

WZ: What can fans expect from “Calling The World”?

Ned: It’s as catchy as the first record for sure. We just went for it… I think our idea for every record is to just go for it a little more in terms of boldness, arrangements and parts. I think there are moments on this album where there is an interesting keyboard sound or unique vocal, guitar solo or drum fills, that are more featured and pronounced. A little more “balls out” and not just playing a safe background for the vocals… Shit coming in an out. There are things you will notice on your first, second, third, or twentieth listen of the album that you may not notice before.

I think when you see the cross section of the audience in age and gender there is something for everyone. I mean, we get teens and early twenties and some thirties, girls and guys, parents… everyone has a different favorite part of the album. There are a good variety of songs. More so than the first record, more diverse and I think we’ll do that plus more on the next record… Maybe even switching up lead singers, more contribution, more diversity.

WZ: There is a huge list of great bands you’ve been able to play with. Has there been any big influences you’ve been able to borrow?

Ned: Yeah, you definitely pick up stuff from every shows. We’ve done big rock shows, big pop shows. Even if it’s behind the stage stuff, like who you want to work with or how things work. But on stage as well, there has been some cool stuff. Like with The Strokes tour, it was pretty early on in our career but it was good because they were another young band at that time and at the peak with their first album doing a headlining tour, it was pretty awesome to be around that.

I mean we were doing a festival in Europe the other week and getting to see “Rage Against The Machine” on the side stage, that was pretty insane. It was like ringing a bell from our childhood, you know. I mean we remember every one of those super riffs. Taylor was like, “Oh shit! That song!” I mean like song after song. We did the Audio Slave tour but to see them as 3/4s of Rage again live, it was a different experience for us.

Taylor: No two bands run the same tour the same. I mean, it’s like a family. I think, we started touring so young and opening for bands that were so much more seasoned than us that we started to do detective work. We’d spy on them and checked out what they did. Every f—king thing, the dressing room, the crew – where they get them? How much do they get paid? What they do before the show? What they do after the show? And I think over the years we’ve found our footing and how we want to do things.

It was hard being the “wet behind the ears” band because we were never on an indie label -we signed with a major right away. We had pretty comfortable accommodations and I think it feels good to be more seasoned and mature. I think there are some younger bands that look up to us and how we function on the road. It’s a lot of time to put on the road but it also goes back to wanting to put more records out. Half a year on the road, half a year at home. It’s not the case. We’ve played over 200 gigs since this record came out, probably like 250 or some. It would be an interesting statistic to know. We’ve become that band that tours consistently when the record comes out.

WZ: Has road life been a good for you?

Ned: Yeah, I mean we’ve done it so many ways. I mean, shitty vans and shitty hotels. A train tour in Europe and it was an amazing experience. Every band is amazed by that story. We bought EuroRail tickets and every morning we’d get up in our hotel, 5 or 6AM, load up our stuff in cabs, go to the train station, wait for a train, load it up and sit there and try to get some sleep before the next country. We did that for like 5 weeks. Now though, we are in the states on a big tour bus with air conditioning, headlining our own shows with good sound. I mean there’s not much we can complain about that.

WZ: Did you get any sleep those five weeks?

Taylor: Well, it makes you real grouchy. (Everyone laughs)

WZ: Having traveled all over, is there a place you think is the best to play live?

Ned: We’ve been to Japan for this festival and that has been amazing. Then our song went #1 in Germany for a month, so all our shows in Germany have been great. Holland, Italy, France, England… Back in the states of course. I mean, you have Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, LA, where we’re from is always good. It’s just been a good last couple of months of touring.

WZ: What can fans expect for tonight’s show?

Ned: We’ll play a mix of songs. Maybe a cover, draws people in. The old folk love them.

Taylor: It’s different now. I mean when you first start out you are just learning. Now we’re playing the whole album, a handful of the first record, some B side…

WZ: Any rituals before you go out there?

Ned: Yeah, we usually get in a huddle and say a little chant, sometimes it’s short, sometimes long if it’s a big show.

Taylor: No one is real into meditating, it is more like a sport’s team huddle.

WZ: Is there an up and coming band right now you think we should all be looking into?

Ned: There is a great band out on tour with us now called The Bridges – a great live band. Taylor has been mixing their album. They are a family of five, from age 18-24 maybe. Just great.

WZ: Anything we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Rooney?

Ned: We’re all part Jewish.

Taylor: We all over analyze our careers way too much.

Ned: We have way too many band meetings.

Taylor: Way too many band meetings.

WZ: Very cool. So what’s next for Rooney?

Ned: I think we’re going to go home, relax, and get some creative time. Looking forward to the next album. We have too much material, which is a good problem to have. And then just finishing up this tour.

Taylor: We are going to be the official band for the upcoming “Critics Choice Award” – playing like little session between winners and some interviews… Which we are looking forward to. One of the movies is “Iron Man”, so we’ll get to play “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath which will be cool.

WZ: Well, thanks for taking the time to meet with us today. We are looking forward to the show in a bit.

Ned: Thanks man, it was nice meeting you guys.

Taylor: Yeah, we’ll see you out there. Take care.

For more information on Rooney, check out www.Rooney-Band.com

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