A Concert Preview with The Rooks


Dear Wesleyan, I have a confession. I haven’t been as involved with the music scene as I would have liked. It’s not that I didn’t know about when concerts were happening – I lived across the street from Eclectic for two years – I just never got in the habit of incorporating “go to [insert band name here] concert”  into my Friday and Saturday night schedules. But if there was ever an exception, and there is always an exception, it was for the soul-grabbing, dance-inducing, heart-pumping rhythms of The Rooks.

Seeing as my concert track record is so poor, it’s a miracle I went to a Rooks concert in the first place, but after I did, I never missed a performance. So imagine my sadness when, eventually, all the band members graduated, and The Rooks migrated elsewhere, performing their music in a place with far too long a commute for me to attend.

rBut then, a miracle! I was up at Middlebury, visiting my sister with my dad for her parent’s weekend. We were looking over the schedule of events for families, and I saw a concert listing for “The Rooks”. At first, I was incredulous. Could this be the Wesleyan Rooks? Was I just so desperate for their music that I was hallucinating phantom shows? Either way, I had to see for myself. My sister gave me directions to the Middlebury version of Usdan as she prepared for a party, and I made my way across campus, guided the final few meters by a musical sound that couldn’t be anything except what I wanted it to be.

I stepped into the room and there they were, performing the same songs I had fallen in love with at Wesleyan, dancing on stage with the energy and fervor of musicians who loved their music. The Rooks were back in my life! But here, the tale grows somber. For The Rooks, who deserve an audience of thousands, were performing for a grand total of… four people. I was crushed that the band I adored was passing by invisibly at one of Wesleyan’s sister institutions.rooks picture

Garth Taylor, the lead singer, made eye contact with me as a look of  confusion passed over his face. In between verses, he mouthed, “I know you!” I mouthed back “I know!” They played more songs, I danced like a crazy person alone in a room (which I essentially was), and then after the show, I had them all to myself. I felt like a Beatles fan in a room with the Beatles, who I also sort-of knew and had gone to school with. (Note: It is very likely that I once got drunk at a party with Garth Taylor and spent 15 minutes trying to convey to him how beautiful a singer he was.) But I played it cool, we chatted and I made it seem like it was no big deal. They told me how much they wanted to come perform back at Wes, but how they were having difficulties making it happen.

Right then, I decided it would be my semester goal to get the Rooks back to Wesleyan, and that I would not rest until their music was once again within walking distance from where I lived. But even though this Wes performance (upcoming Nov. 8th) was the overall goal that arose from our serendipitous meeting at Middlebury, I also got the chance to sit down with the Rooks and ask them a lot of questions about their music. (Which is any fans biggest dream!)

1. How would you describe The Rooks as a band?
In terms of the music we play, The Rooks fall somewhere along the continuum of “indie-soul/R&B,” with a dash of the occasional Whitney Houston diva moment and/or falcetto Prince wail. In terms of the people who make up the band, six silly guys just having a good time.

rooks22. Could you give me a brief bio of all the members of the band?
We’re basically a group of Hannah Montanas. We work pretty normal and unassuming jobs from 9-5, then get to play amazing shows weeknights and the weekends. The only difference is none of us wear a blonde wig…

Gabe Gordon ’11Music Administrator by day, keys player by night, resident “is this edible” expert.

Graham  Richman ’11Works in finance by day, plays the guitar by night, the Rook most likely to be indicted for tax fraud.

Louis Russo ’11Elementary School Music Educator by day, bass player by night, legally deemed most educated band member.

Nate Mondschein ’12Elementary School Music Educator by day, drummer by night, group authority on all sarcasm and/or Scottie Pippen related topics

Spencer Hattendorf ’12: Paralegal for US District Attorney’s Office by day, sax player by night, the Rook most likely to serve as legal counsel for another member of the group (probably Graham).

Note: My sister, who you all previously met as the Middlebury attendee, originally wanted to come to Wes after hearing Spencer’s rendition of “Fever” by Peggy Lee.

Garth Taylor ’12:Paralegal for law firm by day, frontman by night, group choreographer/the only Rook with any notable dancing ability beyond a two-step (Nate would like to publicly voice his dissent from this statement while crip-walking alone in his office)

3. Where are you guys playing now? How often do you get together for rehearsal?
We’re based out of New York City now. We all live in different boroughs but rehearse at least once a week at our new studio space in Brooklyn (thanks to the sorcery of Jared Paul ‘11 and Josh Smith ‘11)

4. How many gigs have you guys performed since leaving Wes?
Mhh, that’s a tough question, in the year since we’ve been out of Wesleyan…. let’s go with more than 20 but less than 50.

5. What’s the short term goal?
Since graduation, one of the biggest objectives for us has been effectively making the transition from the incredibly supportive community that is the Wesleyan music scene  to the big, bad, scary world of the city, and in the process, bring with us a bit of that incredible creative energy and enthusiasm that makes Wes such a special place. A big part of our short term plans involve continuing to build up/strengthen our (new) home base. But additionally, this fall we’ve been pulling together a run of shows in the mythical, far off lands of “DC” and “Boston”, in the hopes that we can even further extend the reach of both our own music, and (for lack of a better phrase) “the Wesleyan Music Scene” mentality. We’re also starting to tour colleges on the East Coast, along with some NYC shows we have planned through January 2014. I think we’d like to keep this up as long as we can.

6. What’s the long term goal?
#SPOILER_ALERT. We’ve got a lot on the books right now. We’ll be playing shows consistently until the end of November. Then we’ll take a break to record some new material, perhaps shoot a music video, and prepare for our residency at Pianos in NYC throughout January. Every Thursday in January starting 1/9/14, we’ll have a show with various other artists and friends.  We’re very excited to get to work on that, so stay tuned for more information about that! After that, maybe SXSW? Maybe more festivals? Maybe an album? in the end, we’re hoping to be able to play full time and still support ourselves. So if anyone has any rich uncles they think would bank roll us full time, my number is (301)555.5555.

7. How is it different performing in New York than at Wes? How is it different performing in the outside world in general?
It really depends on the venue. Sometimes it’s not very different at all because current Wesleyan students and Wes alumns have showed up in ASTOUNDING numbers to support our shows. So we can’t say enough how thankful we are to have come from a such a supportive and creative community and even more grateful that they continue to show that support whenever they can!

8. You guys have music available on Bandcamp. Do you do mostly covers or write your own music?
rooksWhat a lot of people don’t realize is that Miley Cyrus ghostwrites 78% of our material. Sorry about that. What would a post be without mention of Miley, or twerking, or a wrecking ball or something. Anyway, we write our own material and also perform covers. Sometimes it’s a nice creative experiment to take a song you love and try to make it your own. We hope it’s fun for the audience too–to hear a song they may be more familiar with.

9. Who does most writing?
It varies from song to song. There have been times when one person has written a song all the way through; times when someone comes in with some chords and we work in small groups to complete it; and times when we record ourselves improvising, listen, and return to those ideas at a later date, either individually or in a larger group. Usually we compose our own parts and the group gives opinions about the structure or arrangement.

10. Any crazy stories about a performance or show?
I’m not sure if anyone will know of her, but once we opened at a big show that featured British singer, Kate Nash, who flew all the way from Denmark that night to make an appearance. After the show was over,. Nate and I went to a nearby bar and spent of the night singing Whitney Houston and dancing with her and her friends. It was amazing and that story is NOT made up.

11. Anything else you’d like to put out there?
Come on out to the show at Alpha Delt at this Friday, November 8th and party with us. We are now old and dusty and need the Wesleyan population to make us feel beautiful and relevant. Two Wesleyan Bands (TBA) will also be performing! And special thanks to the Adelphic Education Fund for making the show possible!

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