By Brian Washburn
It is a wonder Rooney is even still a band. After hitting it big with their debut album in 2003 (with major hits “Blueside” and “I’m Shakin’” landing them on TV shows and radio), the band suffered label troubles. They were forced to record their sophomore album three times before the label finally released it, which proved to be a bit of a letdown compared to the debut self-titled release.
Though many bands would have closed up shop after such problems, Rooney has kept going strong and is releasing a new album this summer on its own terms.
The band — vocalist and guitarist Robert Schwartzman, guitarist and vocalist Taylor Locke, drummer Ned Brower and keyboardist Louie Stephens — have spent more than a decade in the music industry and know the ups and downs quite well. Though a major label contract helped boost the band to almost arena stardom, it also proved to be the band’s downfall.
“(Being on a major label) definitely helped us at the beginning, but it crippled us later. It ran its course for us and we needed to move on,” Locke said in a recent phone interview.
What the band has moved on to is its own imprint label that will be releasing the forthcoming album “Eureka” this summer. The band wrote, recorded and produced the album on its own.
With Rooney running the show, the band found a new level of freedom. Musically the group can go to the psychedelic and unusual places it was never able to go before while still maintaining the pop-rock sensibilities that put Rooney on the map in the first place. However, it has definitely not been easy for the band to make these transitions. After 11 years of playing together, the band found it harder than expected to stay together during this label-led turmoil.
“It was incredibly hard to stay a band. We are lucky and glad we did and made a stronger tale of survival,” Locke said. “The more labels interfere, the worse it gets and makes people miserable. We are very glad to be outside the system.”
But not every member survived this “nightmare,” as Locke described it.
After playing with the band throughout its existence, original bassist Matt Winter left. While this did not impact the recording of the band’s third full-length studio album, it will definitely affect their plans to tour this spring and summer and when the band stops through the University of Arkansas campus on Monday for a free show at the Greek Theater.
“We’re considering playing these college shows with Robert on bass and test driving this quartet operation,” Locke said. “I think this will be awesome, but we’re not sure yet. We rehearsed and polish and going to give an exciting live show. It’s just a brand new scene for us. We’re not sure if this is for the long haul when we hit the road this summer, but for these shows Robert is going to be on bass and I’m the only guitar player.”
Rooney will hit the nation with a new look, new dynamic, but with the same catchy, hook-laden pop sound that Rooney fans are used to.
“This is a rebirth: Rooney chapter two. It’s our 11th year as a band. It’s kind of a new approach self-releasing, self-financing the new record. It’s different but still the same,” Locke said.
Brian Washburn is the founder of DBW and is currently working on a way to revolutionize the music industry.