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Interview: The Rooks talk about new album and stepping on bee hives

Hailing from New York City, the Rooks are on the forefront of the good fight against conventional music genres. The eclectic sextet has crafted an undeniable blend of soul, R&B, hip-hop and indie-rock that is wholly unique. With its powerful vocals and smooth instrumentals, the Rooks are definitely a band to keep an eye on.

The Rooks are a six-piece alternative-R&B band from New York City.
Charlotte Christopher

We got a chance to chat with the band's Garth Taylor, Nate Mondschein and Louis Russo about the band's new material and their traumatizing encoutner with a particularly aggressive swarm of bees.

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard the Rooks?

Garth Taylor: I would say that it’s a mix of old-school feelings and new-school sounds. It’s very hard to categorize. We, as a band, have trouble categorizing what we do ourselves. It’s very R&B influenced, very pop influenced and also very indie influenced.

Louis Russo: So if we just put all the words together, it’s indie-pop-soul-R&B.

Are there any particular artists who have had a major impact on your music?

Nate Mondschein: We pull from a lot of different directions. One name that comes up a lot is Frank Ocean, as a more contemporary example. D’Angelo has been a huge influence for us, manifested in completely different ways. It’s not like we put out a lot of D’Angelo-esque music, but he’s still been a huge influence.

GT: It’ll be more obvious on the new record.

NM: Prince is also a huge go-to. Stevie [Wonder], all of those artists that operate in the soul world. Then there’s the weirder stuff. We pull from bands like Ava Luna, Dirty Projectors and all over the place.

LR: Hiatus Coyote, definitely have to get that one in there.

You guys are currently working on a new album. How does the new material differ from your previous work?

NM: It's harder.

GT: I was just listening to one of the new songs on the train and was like, “Who is this?” It’s going to be so much harder, so much stronger. In terms of sound, it’s more lush and a lot more robust, thicker. There is a larger range of sounds.

NM: I think there’s been a goal within the band to both make music that will let people get down, while also trying to push boundaries and write music that will make people think. On this record, we’re continuing that progression and just pushing things further and doing much weirder stuff than we’ve ever done in the past. At the same time, we’re trying to keep that central core of music that makes you headbang. Well, not headbang as in “thrash,” I mean unless you want to thrash.

GT: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone moshing at our shows. That would be next level.

So, you just wrapped up a summer tour, any good stories from the road?

GT: Yes, we were touring with a band called Unbuttoned, they’re from Toronto.

NM: Check them out, they’re so good!

GT: Yeah, they just released an album, and we were traveling together for two weeks and we stayed in western Massachusetts at our bandmate Spencer’s house.

NM: Shout out to the Hattendorf’s

GT: So there were five people traveling with Un-Buttoned and six people traveling with the Rooks, and we planned a Canada-versus-USA soccer game.

LR: It was a big deal, I bought shoes for it. We had matching shoes.

NM: We actually practiced soccer more than music on this tour.

GT: We were practicing soccer outside, barefoot. And Nate stepped on a bee hive.

NM: All of the sudden my leg just burst out in pain, and I looked down and was like, “Oh no, it’s a bee.” Then I moved my leg and there was like, seven bees in a ring around my leg. Then they went after John, the bassist from Unbuttoned.

GT: Then we all just ran into the house, and got into the kitchen. I was like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe that happened, these bees just attacked us. Thank God, we’re safe now.” And then, all of the sudden, John [from Unbuttoned] screams. There was a bee in his underwear.

Did it sting him??

LR: Oh, it stung him. He had his whole ass hanging out.

GT: Yeah, and then we all started checking ourselves for bee stings, but there was still a bunch of bees inside the house. There was this one bee on the window in the living room, and I’m like, “This is it. We’re the humans here. Let’s end this” So I grab a magazine and I swat at the bee, he dodges it and the magazine goes straight through the window.

LR: Yeah, I was upstairs and all I heard was [glass shattering]. But, guess who won the soccer game? America won the soccer game.

NM: That's how the Rooks get down on tour.

Sounds like some pretty wild stuff.

NM: Also, like you know… We partied in hotels and trashed things and rockstar stuff.

GT: Actually, we didn’t party in a single hotel. Shout-out to Spencer’s family, shout-out to everyone’s hospitality.

LR: Yeah, shout-out to the Gentle Mansion in Philly, shout-out to [Nate’s] sister in Philly, shout-out to Jeanine, and A.J. Hines, the list goes on and on. Shout-out to everyone.

That's awesome. Sounds like a pretty successful tour.

GT: Yes, it was great.

LR: We lied our way across the border. Twice.

GT: That was rough, we shouldn’t talk about that on record. We played the shows in the Canada, that’s all that matters.

What else is on the horizon for the Rooks?

NM: We have CMJ coming up in October, we’ve got a show at Mercury Lounge at the end of September--that should be awesome.

LR: Yeah we also have the EP, singles, another video coming out…

NM: We’re playing a bunch of colleges, a bunch of cities. We’re planning a Mardi Gras tour through New Orleans...

GT: Yes, we want to do a tour through the south that leads to New Orleans.

That sounds amazing, any parting words?

NM: Yeah, check out our new video for “Twister.” [see above]

GT: And follow your dreams!

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