Rooney Look To The Past For Pop Perfection On Debut LP

L.A. rockers say those who don't remember the past are condemned to make crappy music.

Not content to be flashes in the pop-music pan, Rooney have adopted a "one sound fits all" motto and hope to make music as timeless as that of the genre's past masters.

"The goal is that it should be potentially personal for every listener," guitarist Taylor Locke said. "If you listen to Bob Dylan, it's like a history lesson. For almost any time of your life, there's probably already a Dylan song that's about that, or at least you think that it's about that. Not that our record sounds like Dylan or anything."

Although there's no overt attempt to ape the onetime Robert Zimmerman on Rooney's self-titled debut album, due May 20, over-the-shoulder glances are thrown toward a bygone pop era — a time when hooks, jangly guitars, harmonizing backing vocals and choruses replete with requisite "ah"s were as bountiful as throaty growls and downtuned guitars are today.

"I was never interested in what was on modern rock radio," confessed singer Robert Carmine. "I have older siblings that turned me on to a lot of good music. It's really about not liking the people around you. A lot of people will conform or do what the others do or make themselves like what's popular. I think the music of the '60s and early '80s are great songs. It's really about well-written, well-put-together pop songs."

Rooney's first single, "Blueside," whose video is expected to surface Sunday, is the embodiment of that shimmering sound. A mid-tempo march drives the tune, and though it sometimes shakes the foundations, they never crumble completely. Layered harmonies and a vibrant chorus reinforce the crystalline production and retro-pop sensibility. The clip was directed by Marcos Siega (Alien Ant Farm, Weezer), and it depicts the band performing on the sand before rolling waves, which only strengthens some folks' comparisons to another California quintet, the Beach Boys.

"I wish people our age would listen to more songs of the past," Carmine added.

Carmine and Locke — who with drummer Ned Brower, bassist Matt Winter and keyboardist Louis Stephens comprise the band — claim the only two bands who've held any significance for them in their lifetimes are Nirvana and Weezer. It was the latter's Rivers Cuomo who gave Rooney their big break by inviting them to tour as Weezer's opening act (see "L.A. Rockers Rooney Get A Hand From Weezer, Britney, 'NSYNC").

"We're not retro-elitist snobs, but it's really tough to find bands that not only make a good reasonable record but an important record that's really good," Carmine said. "So after Nirvana and Weezer, it was time for a little history lesson."

Chapters Rooney covered while cramming for their debut included the Small Faces, Buddy Holly, the Shirelles, Ronettes, Searchers, Dave Clark Five and ELO. Much of the album was recorded over a period of two months last summer, but the aforementioned tour with Weezer and then a subsequent one with the Strokes, combined with some release-schedule changes, held Rooney's street date up for almost a year. Rather than get frustrated by the delay, the bandmembers saw it as an opportunity to hone their craft.

"It's a real privilege to not be forced to hand your record in the day you finish working on it," Locke said. "We had a lot of time to reflect. We'd go on tour and play the songs live, meet all these kids, listen to the rough mixes on our bus and talk about it. I don't think the mixing and even the photography and artwork would have turned out the way it did if we'd done it in a one-month block."

Fans can see for themselves whether the poring paid off when Rooney embark on their first headlining tour Sunday.

Rooney tour dates, according to Interscope Records:

  • 5/11 - Providence, RI @ Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel
  • 5/13 - Northampton, MA @ Pearl Street
  • 5/14 - Albany, NY @ Valentine's
  • 5/16 - Norfolk, VA @ Town Point Park
  • 5/17 - Charlotte, NC @ Tremont Music Hall
  • 5/21 - Atlanta, GA @ Cotton Club
  • 5/23 - Winston-Salem, NC @ Ziggy's
  • 6/1 - Philadelphia, PA @ The Trocadero
  • 6/2 - Axis Boston, MA @ Axis
  • 6/3 - New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
  • 6/5 - Chicago, IL @ Park West