Never Mind the Password Reset Notification, Here’s The Rooks

“We want to make you dance harder than ever before, then dim the lights and grab the one you love.”

Remember Mad Wow? Josh Smith & the Concert G’s? Fly Machine?

The great godfathers of Wesleyan funk: gone but not forgotten? Earlier this month we posted about a new Wesleyan musical project, The Rooks, formed out of the ashes of past Wes funk greats and led by mastermind Garth Taylor ’12. (Apparently some mysterious Facebook glitch prevented the band members from inviting their friends to the page, so take pity and like them here.)

The Rooks are embarking on an ambitious regiment of producing a new video of cover songs and originals every week or so—impressive, when you consider that half the members have already graduated. Look up (up there! above you!) for the band’s acoustic cover of Beyonce’s “1 + 1,” look below for “Sleepwalking” (an original), voyage over here to scope out the band’s YouTube channel,  click here for past Wesleying coverage, and scroll on for an exclusive interview with Taylor and the rest of The Rooks.

How did the new band form? Who are the members?

The group is a sort of hodgepodge-remix-mashup of many different Wesleyan based bands from the past  several years. Essentially the idea for this line-up came towards the  end of last year, while Mad Wow was preparing for its final shows of the semester. We had a lot of new musical ideas that didn’t quite fit the  Mad Wow aesthetic, so we just started toying with some different  material–nothing too formal. Eventually, people kept coming up with  more music and now here we are. As for the who’s who, here’s the  breakdown listed on our Facebook page since we’re too lazy to think of  something clever:

  • Garth Taylor ’12 – Lead Vocals
  • Nate Mondschein ’12 – Drums
  • Spencer Hattendorf ’12 – Sax, Vocals
  • Graham Richman ’11 – Guitar
  • Louis Russo ’11 – Bass Guitar
  • Gabe Gordon ’11 – Keys

Can you describe your band’s sound in the form of a haiku?

Your mother would love
It, but it’s still too dirty
To play in the house.

Why “rooks”? Are you guys really into chess?

We’re not into chess, but we will be if you want us to be. Actually, we just  like the double meaning to it: rook, to a certain degree, implies rookie, as if to say “we’re a young band, we’re still pretty new to this.” But at the same time, it indicates a level of strength/attitude/general  bad-ass-ness that we try to embody with our music.

What is your connection with past Wesleyan bands, like Mad Wow?

During our time at Wes, all of the members of The Rooks were participants in either Mad Wow, Josh Smith (Wordsmith) & the  Concert G’s, or Fly Machine (often in more than one, in some cases, all  of the above). Musically, we’re definitely considering The Rooks to be a new direction, but it is very directly a product of our experiences playing together over the past few years.

Some of your members have graduated. How does that affect things?

Well, since half the members are living real world lives outside of the  Wesleyan bubble, we mainly rehearse on the weekends. It’s not that  different from having all the members still on campus, though.

How did you get so funky?

We took lessons. They were expensive and not covered by financial aid, check your E-portfolio for more details.

Where do you see yourselves on the spectrum of Wesleyan alum bands, say, from MGMT to Das Racist to Amanda Palmer?

There aren’t any alumni bands that we know of that play the style of music that we do. We guess we’re just adding another side to to the Wesleyan scheme.

Do you have any plans for an EP or album release? Have you been recording?

We’ve been primarily focusing on writing and tightening up our material, as  well as recording a series of videos of different originals and covers.  That said, we definitely have plans to record in the near future. We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop about that.

What about live performances at Wesleyan? Any shows planned? What do you envision your shows being like?

On November 11th, we’ll be opening up for the big Josh Smith & the Concert G’s album release/reunion show at Psi U… which means many of us  will be playing a double set. It’s gonna be a great night. In terms of  what to expect, it’s fair to say there will be a pretty solid balance of heart-wrenchingly-soulful tunes, and a heavy dose of danceable funk-nastiness, with a general feeling of sexiness throughout; think  Beyoncé meets James Brown, with some D’angelo thrown in the mix.

What do you think the Wes music scene is lacking right now? What do you guys bring to it?

Honestly, the Wesleyan music scene seems pretty eclectic by our estimations. The great thing about this school is that when people have interests, they act on them, so whatever people want to hear, we’re sure someone will deliver. As far as what we hope to bring to the table–mostly soul and r&b. We want to make you dance harder than ever before, then dim the lights and grab the one you love.

Any final words?

Garth would like to formally announce that he’s hosting open auditions for  two new projects. 1) A Céline Dion cover band that would only feature  selections by the Quebecois Queen of the key-change. And 2) back-up dancers for a Destiny’s Child Winter Extravaganza, entitled, “Destiny’s  Children a Winter’s Tale.” Please contact him via email at gmtaylor(at)wesleyan(dot)edu.

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