A few weeks ago we received a video from the Connecticut neo-funk band The Rooks. In this video for their single “Intermission (Wires)” they were standing in front of bright sun drenched street art, then they were standing on a rooftop, then they were clapping and dancing and having the best time.
At first I was like, ‘I do not need to be reminded of all the joys of summer while I am freezing in my glorified tent of a house during Melbourne’s coldest winter’ but then I was like, ‘Sheeeeiiiitttt! This song is so good!’
The sextet’s second EP Wires is led in by radio tuning distortion (which I feel has only been done well on reggae tracks…and this) followed by a cheerful key rhythm, a jazzed up bass line and the exquisite vocal runs of lead vocalist Garth Taylor. We’re in.
Throughout Wires, The Rooks’ influences become apparent. Two obvious ones were Frank Ocean and D’Angelo. The bass line intro on ‘Doubt’ has that nu-soul vibe and the harmonisations throughout each track call upon tonal craft over yelling ala Christina Aguilera.
We groove along with Hammond organ key sounds and brass section runs that are reminiscent of D’Angelo’s ‘Betray My Heart‘. To be honest, to be able to have a sound that successfully uses elements of the neo-R&B so akin to D’Angelo is something to be proud of (watch one of his live performances and tell me that isn’t something to strive for).
These are artists that use real instruments to make R&B. Remember that? Remember when people used real musical instruments and recorded in the same room to make popular music?
It ain’t easy, but it’s better and praise to The Rooks for sticking with this.
A stand-out of Wires is the track ‘Better This Way’. Its stellar intro uses drum breaks to feed into the sure but steady climax that is created by the horns, the electric guitar and the lead vocals that all skip over one another in the clever way of still being in conjunction with one another.
Through these aspects, the way that the musicianship of The Rooks compliments one another can be seen in the way that the track changes in it’s third verse to a slow jam. Here, vocals never push to belt out but are instead layered to give an understated and humble nod to the sound of the band. Modest but emotive, the outro builds like an Otis Redding love ballad.
Wires winds up with ‘Willow’ – a track that sounds like a deep NYC underground funk jam. I’d imagine that some of these guys would sail down to the famously fun Fat Cat on a Saturday night and free jazz just for fun.
It’s refreshing to hear R&B from real instruments. Musicians can only pull so much from the capabilities of zeros and ones travelling through a USB cord. The key thing missing from creating music in this way through isolated bedroom productions is musicianship. Musicianship requires a higher level of understanding about an instrument’s capabilities and its place in relation to another.
The Rooks have musicianship down pat. They have created a healthy balance within their music and as each band member brings their all to the sound, they leave room for their fellow band members to show their talent too. Spreading those good vibes.
Put The Rooks on, groove along and get involved in the new now.
Hometown: Connecticut, USA.
Sounds ;ike: D’Angelo, Hiatus Kaiyote, Frank Ocean.
Say what? The Rooks describe themselves as, “some blurry portrait of Frank Ocean, J Dilla, and the Talking Heads getting drunk at a dive bar in the year 2023, while Justin Vernon waits in the car to drive everyone home”. We somehow get that, and we agree.
Paws and pineapples, Cat.