Photo: Kristy-Anne Swart
Photo: Kristy-Anne Swart

Five Questions With… ROOKS

As their new single Hometown Hero demonstrates, there’s nothing ostentatious about Calgary trio ROOKS. They simply play solid, guitar-based rock with a lot of ‘70s flavour, and fans of that approach will get a heavy dose of it on ROOKS’s debut album The High Road, out Nov. 6.

Comprised of singer/guitarist Jay Bowcott, drummer Darryl Swart and bassist Brent Rossall, all three had extensive experience on the production side of the business before coming together through informal jam sessions that soon led to a common goal to form the type of rock and roll band they’d always envisioned.

That experience and commitment clearly shine through on The High Road’'s eight original songs including the punchy Stones-esque lead single, Yeah. But of course, every great rock band needs a reflective ballad, and Hometown Hero serves that purpose as a pedal steel-drenched tribute to musicians everywhere trying to balance their daily lives with the joy they receive playing in their local bars.

It’s a theme that hits home with all three members of ROOKS, although they may be able to put those days behind them if The High Road is able to find the audience that still exists for unvarnished, high-energy rock and roll. They will celebrate the release of The High Road on Nov. 6 with a special show at The King Eddy in Calgary that will also be live-streamed on Facebook. For more info go to wearerooks.com.

What was the process like making The High Road?

Brent Rossall: It was a blast. Darryl Swart was working at OCL Studios in Calgary so we had the freedom to explore and create anything we wanted. We didn't have any time restrictions or deadlines for this record so there was definitely a sense of freedom. It was an awesome experience recording with these guys; everyone had an open mind when it came to recording and any idea someone had, we’d try it out. Sometimes those random ideas worked and we’d build off it, sometimes they didn't but it was still fun to try them out. We went into the studio with the idea of making a record sound exactly what we want it to sound like, and I think we achieved that. 

Can you tell me a little about how the band was formed?

Brent Rossall: Well, there are three different stories of how we all met up, so I’ll give you my perspective. I worked with Darryl in one of his older studios when I first moved to Calgary, and one day he called me up to see if I wanted to sit in on a jam with a singer-songwriter and his other friend who was a wicked guitar player. Now, all my previous music projects have leaned more towards indie rock or electronic music, so I was a little nervous jamming with a couple of Calgary’s heavy hitters. But after that first practice, we definitely gelled, and have been growing together ever since.

Which songs on the record have particularly special meaning for you?

Brent Rossall: Hometown Hero is my ‘special’ track on this record, simply because it wasn't supposed to be on the record in the first place. When you go into the studio to record, normally you have a pretty concrete idea of what songs are going to be on the record and what they should sound like or the direction you want them to go in. We had seven tracks we were going to put out and that was going to be that. Jay had a basic idea for Hometown Hero before we went into the studio, but it was still very early in its life and we didn't think it would be ready for the record. We thought, if anything, it would be cool to have a simple acoustic song on the album as a contrast to our other tunes. But as we started the process of getting Jay's acoustic set up and ready to record, Darryl threw on a drum loop, then Jay and myself figured out a cool bass riff and we were off. It was a very organically creative way to put together a track and that's why it stands out from the rest for me. 

The band seems to have a really classic heartland rock sound overall. Is that a product of where you're from, or is it from the music you grew up listening to?

Brent Rossall: Yes and yes. We all grew up in different parts of the world listening to different styles of music. Darryl’s originally from South Africa, I’m from Montreal, and Jay grew up here in Alberta. We’ve all had different musical experiences throughout our lives that have shaped our taste and style of playing. One major thing that connects us is that we are all music lovers to our core so nothing is off the table when it comes to writing ROOKS songs. When we start the writing process, we aren't trying to mimic a popular song or the next ‘Artist of the Month.’ We write tunes that we think are badass and hope people will enjoy it too. 

What's your mindset looking ahead to next year and the prospect of hopefully playing live?

Darryl Swart: We’ve been lucky enough to play a few shows over the last couple of months in Calgary. Some have been in backyards or socially distant outdoor festivals and there are a few venues that have managed to create safe environments with streaming options to perform in, like our album release show at The King Eddy.

We are remaining positive and believe by following some trusted sources that we’ll be on course to do some version of touring by summer next year. We are also working on an acoustic record this December and have enough new songs to start work on a new record next summer. We’re keeping our minds active and focusing on creating right now, which helps keep the negative thoughts at bay for the most part.

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