TLD contributor Flora Theden talks to R&B/IndieSoul sextet The Rooks about their new EP, Beyoncé, and their upcoming show at Mercury Lounge.
If you’re looking for funky, vibrant, live music on the LES, you might want to check out The Rooks’ EP Release Show next Saturday night, where the sextet will play old favorites and debut songs from their upcoming EP, “Wires,” which they just finished recording.
It’s the NYC-based band’s first show at Mercury Lounge, but front man Garth Taylor says he’s seen some of his favorite groups perform there, and he’s looking forward to experiencing the venue from the stage this time around.
“It’s always fun debuting a new song on stage, especially for friends who have seen us before. As we finish recording our new EP, we’re excited about performing brand new tracks people have yet to hear,” he says.
The Rooks have gained recognition in the Northeast since releasing their debut EP, “Something You Can Take” in May 2013 and the popular follow-up single, “Twister” in January 2014. They recently finished a residency at Pianos on Ludlow Street, where they were the second highest grossing residency in the venue’s history. They’re known for a feel-good, melodic R&B/IndieSoul sound with the perfect mix of smooth vocals, saxophone and keyboard, along with jazzy bass, guitar and drums, that makes their music impossible not to dance to.
TLD: Where does your soulful sound come from?
The Rooks: Back in our college days, we bonded over our shared love of Soul, R&B and Hip-Hop, specifically artists like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, and J Dilla — music from that mid-90s era that took the old-school soul and funk foundation, brought new elements to it, and shaped it into a style all its own. As we continue to develop our sound, we work within that history, often time working in some of the indie aesthetic that has begun to take shape in today’s music
TLD: What are you listening to right now?
The Rooks: The group has pretty eclectic music tastes, so this answer always has the potential to be all-over-the-map. One thing we can always agree on is, we got 99 problems and Beyoncé is always the solution. In Beysus name, Slaymen. But seriously, a great thing about the music scene we’re a part of is how much incredible music is constantly being made by people you hang out with on a regular basis. We’ve received behind the scenes peeks at some amazing stuff coming out from our buds Josh Smith, Jess Best, Mel Hsu and Trot Fox that is gonna blow people away. So definitely tuned for that, and in the meantime check out the material they’ve already released, because it will make your day a whole lot better.
TLD: What’s the writing process like for your songs?
The Rooks: It’s largely collaborative. Sometimes people bring in more completed demos and we build the songs from there. Other times we improvise grooves, or hooks–test out different melodies. Once we have something tangible, we may workshop it during rehearsals or work on it in small groups until it’s performable. But in general, even with our older material, we’re always looking for new ways to toy with our arrangements and hype them up for our live shows.
Our approach to lyrics is a bit more personal and less driven by group experimentation. Usually one person will put together a draft and the rest of the group will workshop and edit, then we’ll revise in a one, two or three person setting. It’s still very collaborative, but in a different way.
TLD: What inspires your music?
The Rooks: Without making any intense, Kanye West-esque statements about our art, or our place as icons in American history, we sincerely enjoy the process of making music with one another, and are grateful we have a platform with which we can explore different musical territory. Like much of popular music, love and relationships are common themes in most of our songs. Sometimes the mood is darker, and other times more optimistic.
TLD: Which song are you most looking forward to playing?
The Rooks: Hmmm, that’s almost like picking your favorite child. Which is easy, Destiny’s is our favorite child. See what we did there? To be honest, we’re just geeking out about how much fun this set is gonna be across the board; We’ve got new material, we’ve got old favorites, and there might even be some choreography…On a given night, any pieces of the puzzle can be the key to bringing the show together, so we try not to call our shot before the game. You’ll just have to come and see how it all works out!
TLD: What’s next for The Rooks (upcoming EP’s, touring, etc.)?
The Rooks: We’ll start by releasing “Wires” into the universe, and hopefully follow that up with a new music video. We’ve got a lot of shows lined up this fall across the Northeast and will be announcing some CMJ dates on our website. Beyond that, we’re hoping to reach new cities and will be making a big announcement at the end of the year about our 2015 plans!
TLD: It’s September 23, 2015. What are you doing?
The Rooks: Ideally, we’ve just returned from our European tour and are getting back into the swing of things, stateside. Questlove and The Roots have taken a brief hiatus from the Tonight Show and have asked us to fill in, but everyone thinks “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Featuring The Rooks” is an egregious typo. Luckily, we are too busy polishing our multiple grammy awards to be offended. Finally, we’ll be attending a birthday cookout at the Knowles-Carter residence in honor of Bey’s 34th birthday. Blue Ivy put too much ketchup on her hot dog…Oh Blue.
Saturday, September 27th // $10 in advance, $12 at the door // 8:30pm // 217 East Houston Street
Purchase Tickets Here!