The Rooks are a Connecticut-bred six-piece, currently residing in NYC with their eyes set on taking the city’s immense left-of-center community captive. Not in the swash-buckling sense, but in their marauding for the ears to the city’s heart. Fortunately for us, we’ve been given an early peek at the lush batch of sunny soul they’ve been cooking up for their forthcoming Wires EP with the premiere of their latest single “Secrets.”
Within the very first moments of their slow-burning ballad (lead by the powerful vox of frontman Garth Taylor) there’s an immediate recall, channelling the organic r&b chops of the greats (i.e. Sly and Stevie) but never keeping their influences too close to the cuff. The result is a fresh spin on distilled funk, equally appropriate for your post-work cool-out or your bedtime follies. One thing is clear, the six-man troupe of devoted funkateers has been hard at work on the follow-up to their Something You Can Take EP and it’s already starting to sizzle.
We had the opportunity to catch up with the fellas, delving into the jam, how it plays into their writing, where exactly their influences lay and what we can expect on the new record. Turn the lights down low, set the mood right and get with The Rooks’ latest cut “Secrets” below. NYC locals can catch the soul-strutting sextet when they hit Mercury Lounge tomorrow night. Grab your tickets by hitting the link and check back for preorder info in the weeks to come.
Q: I feel the presence of some serious soul influences here. Could you speak to the roots of The Rooks?
A: Well first of all, thank you for starting this off by using the words “The Roots” and “The Rooks” so closely together in a sentence. We’ve been secretly hoping for the day when a casual misreading of our name lands us the Tonight Show gig, or at the very least, invites to the listening sessions for the new D’angelo record.
In all seriousness…when we first started performing together back in college (shout out to Wesleyan University), we spent a pretty significant amount of time listening to/covering/geeking-out over all different kinds of soul, r&b and hip hop, but especially artists like Erykah Badu, Prince, J Dilla, and of course those two musical giants we mentioned earlier.
Q: What are you listening to these days?
A: That’s always a tough question to answer since the six of us usually have pretty eclectic listening tastes. But right now it’s safe to say we’re collectively listening to Beyoncé (obviously), Hiatus Kaiyote, Little Dragon, Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, Lake Street Dive, Taylor McFerrin, Bear Hands & Frank Ocean to name a few.
Q: How does the upcoming record differ from the last? Is there something else that you’re trying to get across with this one?
A: Right out the gate, one of our biggest goals was to take advantage of our time in the studio to create a richer, harder-hitting, and more emotionally complex record that we had been able to in the past. Looking back at our first EP, “Something You Can Take”—our focus was primarily on capturing the energy of our live performances, almost a kind of song-documentation, rather than a fleshed out artistic statement of it own.
This time, we really paced ourselves, putting in the hours on both the compositional side of things (you could cover our apartment walls with scrapped lyric drafts) and in the studio itself to put together a product that not only had strong live-show energy, but also brought new textures and layers into the fold…messing around with all kinds of new approaches to recording, and producing, and “studio magic” to allow the emotion and inspiration behind the song to fully translate.
Q: What’s the writing process like for you guys? I’m always interested to hear how the jam plays into it, if it all. What are those moments like for y’all?
A: It’s pretty mixed. Sometimes one person will bring in a sketch or form for a tune and then we’ll jam on it until something happens. Other times songs are more through-composed and then the group works out the arrangement. This EP represents the whole spectrum of our creative process. The single we’re releasing, “Secrets” was fairly fleshed-out compositionally before it came into the group, whereas some of the other tunes like “Bury Me Deep” and “Better This Way” took a lot of drafts and revisions before they were finished ideas. The former actually touched almost everybody’s hands individually before we finished writing it.
Voodoo & Old Donuts.