Las Vegas locals The Rooks have been playing Downtown hipster lounge The Griffin every Wednesday since November 2009. With a steady residency and growing fan base, they consistently pack the bar with fans, fiends, horny girls and gawking guys, eagerly waiting to hear the suave sounds of these four sleek, bodacious babes on their way to stardom.
The Rooks have a weekly set for their infectious tunes every Wednesday at The Griffin, where we got a chance to interview the boys just before a show.
Rebel Yell: How would you guys describe your music?
Jonathan Realmuto: I call it Rock and roll.
Angel Ramirez: It’s pop.
Leo Banchik: Each song is designed to have a hook. So if that’s pop, pop.
Zachary Peickert: (sarcastically) I just want to sell as many albums as I can. I don’t want to be original or have anything good to say. I just wanna make money, and if that requires killing a couple people on the way, or doing whatever I have to do, I just wanna make it. I don’t care about anyone except myself.
RY: Who are each of your influences?
JR: I’ll tell you specific people. I like John Bonham, Keith Moon and Jon Theodore.
ZP: I know you want me to answer this question seriously, but that’s me, Celine Dion was a big one around the time “Titanic” came out. I mean Englebert Humperdinck has always been in the back of my mind. Yeah, those are it. Those are the only two bands I listen to. Celine Dion, she’s my favorite band.
AR: One of my favorite guitar players is Brian May, from Queen. Queen has always been an inspiration to me. John Frusciante too.
LB: As a bass player, the guy that got me into it was John Entwistle, The Who, The Ox. That’s who it started with. I started to learn the bass lines first.
RY: What are your hopes for the band?
ZP: Overdoses all around. Everybody dies at, what is it 27? I’m 23 now, we have a couple years left in us. If we don’t make it till that 27 mark.
JR: Only the good die young. I want to make a living, and travel! I’d like to travel, I think that’s my main goal.
AR: I wanna live at least to 30. I want to make a living, and make some great tunes.
RY: I hear you’re recording your new EP, can you tell us a little bit about that?
ZP: Well we started not too long ago, recording with this real asshole named Brain Garth.
JR: Oh my god! What are you…?
ZP: Just a total scumbag. We started recording with him and it sounds pretty good. It sounds great.
JR: I like Brian Garth. He’s a cool guy.
AR: Brian’s really cool. He has a good sense of humor, just like we do. So, it’s comfortable.
LB: I think we put four or five tunes down so far?
JR: Six songs. Then it’s gonna drop and blow your mind.
RY: What’s it going to be called?
ZP: It’s gonna be called The Rooks EP.
LB: Self-titled, keep it simple.
ZP: Celine Dion If Only.
LB: We’ll mention her in the liner notes, thank you Celine for being our one and only inspiration.
RY: Who would you ideally like to go on tour with?
ZP: I think that question is already answered in the previous question.
The Rooks: CELINE DION!
RY: Come on give me a good serious answer.
ZP: I mean just realistic choices, people we actually could get gigs with, like Paul McCartney or Billy Joel. Or maybe a small time act like Stevie Wonder.
AR: All of the above right there. Vicente Fernandez. Oww!
RY: What do you love and hate about performing?
JR: I don’t think I hate anything, I just love it all. It’s awesome, you just get into like a zone, it’s a type of meditation for me, I’m into it.
ZR: I’m just not a big fan. I love the performing aspect of it, but I just hate performing. (Laughter)
AR: I just like letting go. It’s a nice way to just let go. I feel like sometimes no one’s really there and I just play and feel good vibes, that’s basically it.
LB: I kind of approach it like a lover. If the crowd feels good, then I feel good. No, I’m being dead serious. No, I’m being absolutely serious. Like if the crowd is moving and dancing I feel better.
AR: So what happens if the crowd goes bad?
LB: No, no, no, the thing you should be concerned with is if the crowd loves it for 10 seconds and then walks off.
AR: 10 seconds that’s it! Oh man, you got problems brother! (Roaring laughter and crass comments)
LB: No, to bring it back honestly, that really defines how I play. If the crowd is into it I have a great time. If the crowd starts trickling out, I start to feel bad and feel what’s wrong on our part. What are we doing wrong? I really stand behind the music, it’s very danceable, and it’s catchy. I’ve played in groups before and I like this band. I like playing the music here. I think it’s universally accessible, it’s universal is what I tell people when I advertise the show, so if the crowd’s liking it then I’m having a great time.
ZP: Getting paid is fun too.
LB: Yeah, oh and getting free beers here. That’s always a good one.
RY: When did you discover music, what age and who got you into it?
JR: Who knows man, since out of the womb. Probably before that right? Don’t they say you can listen through the tummy? I’m sure my mom was jamming to something. I don’t know. I think my dad got me into music. He took me to my first show, Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Frusciante, killer, it was awesome.
ZP: This is the first question I’ll actually answer honestly. My parents are both musicians. But I think the first song I remember, like really being into was Tears for Fears, “Shout.” I had it on this yellow cassette tape and that was the first song I really got into.
AR: I don’t even know how to answer that question.
ZP: With English. (Laughter)
AR: I listen to all types of music. From my roots basically, I listen to a lot of Mexican stuff too, a lot of marangay, but I mean I listen to a lot of pop and Rock and roll. It’s hard really to explain, everything was kind of just thrown on me, I really loved it. I love performing and always want to be involved in music. Music makes me, I love that.
LB: That’s an easy question. I wouldn’t say it was through the womb, but definitely when I was young my mom would always put on The Beatles all the time. So yeah, I was raised on The Beatles. My dad would listen to all this new age stuff like, Mannheim Steamroller and Fresh Air, this keyboardist, not the show with Terry Gross, a different one. And I can distinctly remember though, I was never into getting my own CDS and listening to them until I went to middle school. And actually, the first kind of music I got into was electronica, so were talking way back acts like The Prodigy, Meat Beat Manifesto, LTJ Bukem, The Crystal Method, they’re a local electronica group, but…
ZP: Come on man…you’re not writing a novel!
LB: I wanted to answer the question. It brought back a lot of memories. So, that’s how I started listening to music. Then I started getting into rock and here I am.
RY: This question is for Jon, tell me about the differences between playing with The Rooks and The Mad Caps and the freedoms with that?
ZP: You can be honest. Don’t…
JR: Alright, I’ll be honest here. When I play with The Rooks it’s very structured. The way Zach writes the songs, everything has…there’s a piece of it, there’s a lot of parts, it’s very dynamical. But with The Mad Caps, it’s primal, you guys call it primal. You just let loose, you just hang out. And I like both. So, I need both outlets. I like them both. That’s it.
RY: Apples and oranges?
JB: Apples and oranges. Yeah, we talked about this.
ZP: We would definitely be the orange.
JB: Okay, I like apples better. Just joking man! Just joking!
RY: This question is for Angel, how does being a sound engineer affect playing live music?
AR: The places that we play, sometimes the sound doesn’t sound the way it’s supposed to sound. That’s because some stuff is not always all miked, sometimes our guitars aren’t miked, and stuff like that. I feel like when that happens, when everything is miked, it sounds a lot better and the sound engineer has more control of what’s going on and he has control of basically making it sound good, but he always has control of making it sound crappy too. But I don’t know, it’s hard.
RY: This question is for Leo, tell us how your plans to study abroad are going to affect the band?
LB: Stirring some controversy here. I’ll tell you truthfully though. I mean it’s a fork in the road, life is full of those, and if I happen to chance upon this opportunity, I love playing in The Rooks, but I think I’m going to have to take this opportunity, and it’s okay, because like I said earlier, the music is universally accessible. It’s universal. I can’t think of somebody that wouldn’t want to play in this band. It’s gonna work out, Zach has a good head on his shoulders, and he writes good tunes and I stand behind him and I know other people will and it’s gonna take him far.
RY: Zach, is it true that you write and compose all of the music, and can you tell us a little bit about that process and the bands involvement in it?
ZP: Yeah. I pretty much write a song and fuck with it till it sounds good and then bring it to these guys, and fuck with them till it sounds good.
RY: And how do you guys feel about your contributions to the music?
AR: Basically he knows what he’s doing, and so far all the songs sound great and they’re honestly getting better I feel, and I trust him. He’s a good songwriter and a good musician too, and it just works out, he knows exactly what he wants.
JR: I don’t write melodies, I just play the drums so I think it’s the perfect situation for me. Zach’s done with the song before I get there, and it’s just like ‘Here you go buddy.’
LB: He gives you a little freedom though, for sure, on a few of them. I have a lot of freedom. Occasionally, there will be a part Zach will want me to play, but it just ends up being tasteful. I don’t want to keep giving this guy compliments, but he’s got an ear for it. The parts he wants me to play are usually tasteful. The hardest part for me is reigning, I think it’s the hardest part for Jon as well. We like to play very complex music. Jon is a really great drummer.
ZP: Leo is the best bassist I’ve ever played with.
LB: For me it’s a challenge to reign it in, I really just wanna be all over the fret board all the time, but Zach keeps it tasteful and I think it makes the songs better.
JR: I like Zach’s songwriting process. He kinda comes to me and he’s like, ‘Here’s kinda the vibe I want, I’m looking for this kinda vibe,’ we kinda just work on it, and it comes out nice. I think so.
RY: So I know this is a sensitive topic since it’s fresh, but can you tell us about your decision to turn your five piece into a four piece and what happened to your fifth member? (Former singer, guitarist, keyboardist Jeffrey Dickson)
ZP: You want an honest answer? I’ll give you an honest answer. It’s because I’m really controlling, and some people don’t like to be controlled. And so, I figured it would be better if he was doing his own thing and so I asked him, well I didn’t really ask him, I just told him that we were going to find somebody else, ‘cause there was just a lot of things we didn’t agree on and directions that I didn’t want to go, and I started this band, and its my thing, and these guys play with me and you know, I give them their place or whatever, and they put in their pieces and it all works out. But I think the member that you’re referring to will be more comfortable in his own group leading it. I think he’s a leader, I think we’re too much alike, as far as wanting to be in control of things, maybe me a little bit more than him. I’m a self-loathing ego maniac.
RY: How would you rate the music scene in Las Vegas, and any bands in particular you’re into?
JR: I like the music scene in Las Vegas. I think its growing strong you know. I love going to local shows. I don’t know, there’s so many good bands. The Skooners are really good, they’re playing tonight. I like A Crowd of Small Adventures, Hungry Cloud. I like our scene, I do, I think it’s good.
ZP: I’m a big fan of all the local bands like Tony Bennett, Celine Dion, The Osmonds, Elton John, you know all the bands that are keeping it local. Santana.
AR: Myself, I don’t really like going to very many shows. Doing what I do, being a sound engineer, kind of ruined my whole vibe of going to live shows. But I mean, the bands are good, and I support them, and it’s cool.
LB: I like going to live shows. Jonny was a large part of bringing me out of the home to go experience some of the music, but I like the bands we’ve play with as well. I gotta be honest, I don’t wanna keep giving Jonny a big pat on the back, I like The Mad Caps before he every played for them. I like Ted a lot. I like the music he brings, rockabilly. The Skooners are great, we just had a great show with America YEAH, they brought a lot of people, they were great. I like The Lazystars, Imagine Dragons have a good sound, dancy. I like the local scene. It’s great because everybody kind of knows each other, Vegas is small enough to the point where you can go into a bar and see other musicians that you play or would like to play with and you can invite to come to shows. That closeness is really great about this town.
RY: Anything I didn’t ask you that you wanted to address or comment?
ZP: I got one thing. The Griffin is going to continue on doing shows, even when we’re done, we’re gonna finish up towards the end of March. They’re gonna keep having bands so keep coming out to Wednesday nights ‘cos it’s always gonna be a thing, and they were the first ones to really do a weekday residency. So if you can’t make it to one, don’t waste your time on others, just go to Griffin.