Funky days are back again

Becca Zeifman

You may not have heard of Rooney yet, but you will. With an infectious album scheduled for a June release, a laundry list of drool-inducing opening gigs and celebrity cred, the L.A.-based quintet is destined for stardom.

For some of the members of the group, though, fame is hardly a new addition to their vocabulary. With actor/Hollywood royalty Robert Carmine (his mom is Talia Shire of “Rocky” and his brother is Jason Schwartzman) sharing lead vocals and guitar with actor Taylor Locke, and model Ned Brower on drums, the band is hardly a stranger to celebrity. And while bassist Matthew Winter and keyboardist Louis Stephens have no star-studded past, they also agree that Rooney is more concerned with its sound than a place in the spotlight.

“We don’t think about the fame that much,” Ned Brower explains from his Chicago hotel room, just hours before an opening performance for Pete Yorn at the Riviera Theatre. “It’s much more about the reception toward the album and our musicianship.”

And what is musicianship for Rooney? It’s the melding of ’60s style harmonies, Weezer-like teenage angst and a hint of new wave pop-rock. Enlisting producer Keith Forsey of Psychedelic Furs and Pet Shop Boys fame to mix its new album, Rooney further proves its musical eclecticism and pop sensibilities. “I truly think what we’re doing is unique,” Brower insists. “We’re not dwelling on the past but were using a lot of elements to make something different.”

While ultimately Rooney is not exactly unique, it’s refreshing to hear Beach Boys’ style guitars and vocals from musicians a few years shy of the drinking age. The songs are cheery, poppy and pissed off. On the synth drenched “Daisy Duke” from the group’s forthcoming debut album Rooney, Carmine sings of using and abusing a younger woman, crooning “You’re too young for me / But I can keep a secret / I’m in total control of this situation.”

Whatever the lyrics preach, the musical arrangements remain optimistic and upbeat. There is no mash of guitars or percussion, just carefully showcased bass and keyboard solos resonating between multi-part harmonies. “Ultimately it’s all about the sounds,” Brower explains. “We spend hours and hours trying to get the sound we like and we pay a lot of attention to detail.”

As musically mature as Rooney is, group members aren’t ashamed of their young age or their lack of life experiences. Instead songwriter Carmine sticks to the basics, waxing about the music industry, suicide and lots and lots of girls. “We love girls and Robert especially loves girls and likes to write about them,” Brower admits. “A lot of Robert’s greatest songs come out of relationship trauma, but he’s not limited to that.”

Rooney’s songs are as trite as they are fun and somehow that makes them timeless. The lyrics rhyme, the beat is steady and the subject doesn’t exceed PG-13. Most of the words drip with raw teenage emotion ranging from romantic longing to heartbreak. On album highlight “If It Were Up To Me,” Carmine dreams that, “She would know that our love is the best love / If it up to me / Because our love is real love so just let it be.”

Brower says that Rooney is unashamed of its mass appeal or pop sensibilities. “We just want to make music that enriches people’s lives,” he reflects. “My girlfriend’s six-year-old nephew loves the band and so does my grandma. Even hip asshole critics seem to like what we’re doing. We just want to make music that enriches people’s lives.”

Life affirming or not, Rooney has managed to garner a devoted group of fans before the release of a single album. Who knows what will happen when a Rooney record hits shelves? But for once, the hype surrounding a pop-rock band is actually deserved.