Closing out the week with an interview w/ NYC based indie R&B collective called The Rooks. The guys have been making the rounds touring throughout the Northeast exposing their smooth and sleek sound to a captive and waiting audience who is curious as to what the sound will bring them, especially those that are checking out the band for the first time. The guys were nice enough to sit down before their show last Friday at Copperfield's to talk about the group's early beginnings, plus their experiences recording music together, and where this dream takes them moving forward. Here is the transcript from our chat:
Give us your names and roles in the band?
Spencer: Spencer, I play saxophone and I sing.
Gabe: My name is Gabe and I play keyboards.
Garth: My name is Garth Taylor and I sing.
Connor: I'm Connor and I play bass.
Nate: Nate, I play the drums.
Graham: Graham, I play the guitar.
Talk about the band's early beginnings and how you guys all met?
Garth: Well we all met on Tinder which was awkward (Laughter). No, mostly all of us met at Wesleyan. Connor is new with us, and we love him and give him crap. (Laughter) Most of us went to college together, we played in a bunch of other bands on campus and in 2011, we formed this version of the band and after half of us graduated, we ventured into the city in the summer of 2012 and made it work for commuting and the whole thing, now we're in NYC playing and recording and having the time of our lives.
How would characterize your sound to those who aren't familiar with you guys?
Nate: One of the tags that we have been using recently is that it's something like Frank Ocean and J Dilla and Talking Heads getting drunk at a dive bar 20 years into the future. So there's some indie stuff in there, there's alot of soul, there is a little bit of hip-hop, and weird scraps we pick up from everywhere else.
What are some of your early individual musical inspirations that have influenced your playing style?
Graham: Early on, I was really into Allan Holdsworth who is a jazz guitar player, in high school I was really into prog rock and started playing with these guys that I got into, neo-soul, soul music, and R&B.
Nate: Speaking of the neo-soul stuff, that's been a huge influence for a long time: D'Angelo, Maxwell, Erykah Badu, that sort of thing. As a drummer, Questlove, J Dilla the producer, early on I was into alot of folk, indie, and pop rock stuff like that.
Let's talk about your songwriting process and how you guys normally approach the process?
Spencer: It's usually a mixed bag, on our last EP we had a few songs that were written by one person, or two people write something together and bring it to the group and everyone will flush it out. Or we'll have a case with one of the songs on the EP called "Bury Me Deep" where a couple of people starting writing it, brought it to the group, passed it around, and it touched every single person's hands before it came into the group, it's pretty mixed.
Nate: There's alot of editing work done too, so if even someone composed a song, we'll usually bring it in, chop it, so it is a very collaborative process even at its most individualized within the group.
You recently released your brand new EP "Wires" just a few months ago, tell me how you approached recording this effort and what the process and experience was like?
Garth: It was at an incredible studio near Walsh Street called Ingenue Audio with an engineer and producer named Mark Christensen, and compared to our first recording, we definitely experimented alot with layers, I think that's just been a progression in our recording process, just layering new things, vocals, keys, textures, and things of that nature, anything that can be layered will be layered. The whole process took about a year, we went into the studio in April 2014. we recorded demos of maybe 10 songs and we kind of took over from there and once we decided on 6 songs, we built it with mostly drums and bass first.
Nate: In the past, we've approached it as recording as a full band, then adding in overdubs. For certain songs for the most part we built from the ground up, and that gave us a bit more control over the working pieces. It was alot of overdubbing, alot of layering and arranging and rearranging, and scrapping and putting it back together and sort of assembling, so it was sort of a different approach but it was alot of fun.
Are there any songs off the new EP that you're most proud of and feel most represent the sound you were aiming for?
Graham: We've released 2 singles before releasing the full EP, "Secrets" and "Intermission". And "Secrets" actually won an Independent Music Award recently as a single so we're very proud of that and incredibly honored to get that award. We love playing pretty much everything off the new EP. we're really proud of it and glad it's out there.
What do you guys like to do for fun and excitement when not making music together?
Garth: Gabe and I are going to have a tennis tournament in a couple of days so we're training physically for that. Mr. Sampras has been practicing us hard. (Laughter)
Nate: Connor has been talking alot about his basketball skills. We haven't had the opportunity to go at it yet, but we'll see how that shapes up.
Connor: We love to catch some of our favorite bands play, catch alot of live music whenever we can, I know we're really excited for an upcoming show in New York with Chance The Rapper and Hiatus Kaiyote.
What are your plans after tour wraps up, any more performances or future performances?
Nate: Probably sleep for about a week, and wake up from hibernation. (Laughter) We actually have an upcoming performance in the city as part of an Immersive Theater performance called "Here We Dance", but it's based on a fable called "The Twelve Dancing Princesses". So that will be a really cool experience, it's a totally new thing for us. After that, we're going to be diving into the Fall touring schedule so we'll be doing a bunch of college dates, hopefully coming back to Boston sometime soon and we'll see where it goes. Everything is under 'Therooksband' so it's the same on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Connor: If you want us to play at your college, shoot us an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll love to come.
How has being in this band brought you guys closer together?
Garth: Well everyone sees how annoying everyone else is, (Laughter) so it makes you stronger.
Connor: This is actually the first time we're touring in one vehicle, and that's actually really great. In the past, we've been in multiple vehicles and calling each other saying , "Hey how have things been since the last time I saw you 20 minutes ago?" It's really nice to be traveling as one unit and spend some time together. We have a couple of days off on the tour to hang out so it's nice.
Nate: You adjust alot to the smell too.
Connor: I've learned that Garth can sleep at any moment, we get into the van and he's out immediately.
Thanks once again to the fellas of The Rooks for taking some time out to do this interview following their soundcheck. I had an absolute blast seeing them play at Copperfield's, watching them communicate with each other musically on stage, and the way the audience reciprocated that love really encapsulates the special magic that they have going on. For more on The Rooks, 'Like' them on Facebook over here, follow on Twitter right here, and visit their official homepage at this spot here for more in depth information regarding the band, including links to stream their music.