Having cut their teeth around the Chicago scene performing in acts such as Yoko and the Oh No’s and Gal Gun, guitarist/vocalist Max Loebman, guitarist Dimitri Panoutsos, guitarist Christopher Devlin, drummer/vocalist Joe Bordenaro, bassist Kevin Decker, and keys player Justin Bell joined forces to form ROOKIE in 2017. Animated by a spirit of collaboration and reverence to guitar-centric pop, ROOKIE harnesses a sound that echoes the canon of no-frills rock acts of the 70s while avoiding any accusation of being derivative. With no singular songwriter at the helm, ROOKIE’s aesthetic is anchored by the contributions of each of its members, a testament to their status as veteran musicians in Chicago’s increasingly influential indie rock ecosystem.
Following the premiere of the band’s debut single, “One Way Ticket,” by VICE’s Noisey in 2018, ROOKIE took to Treehouse Studios in Chicago to record “I Can’t Have You But I Want You,” a power-pop anthem that represents the band’s penchant for infectious hooks and made-for-radio vocal harmonies. After the release of these singles, the band began work on their much-anticipated debut LP, which was tracked and mixed at Treehouse Studios as well as a home-recording rig under the direction of guitarist Chris Devlin. Much of the album was recorded live to tape, capturing the band’s ability to deliver performances that are both inspired and precise. From swirls of guitar feedback and an air raid siren to down-tempo tracks, the record promises an eclectic mix of moods and genres, ranging from roots-rock on the pedal-steel laden “Sunglasses” to the James Gang-meets-Chicago (the band featuring Terry Kath and, subconsciously or not, ROOKIE’s hometown) instrumental of “Introduction II,” which blasts off Side B of the album. While the six-piece invokes homage throughout their debut, it manages to be ambitious in its own right, offering listeners a contemporary spin on a classic aesthetic that would have sounded right at home during the heyday of AM radio.
After over a year of steadily building their fanbase through raucous — and often sold-out — performances at some of Chicago’s premier rock clubs supporting nationally-known acts like Twin Peaks and King Tuff, explosive house shows and appearances at local festivals like Goose Island’s Block Party (where the band was slotted as direct support for Jenny Lewis), ROOKIE released a cover of Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels” on Bloodshot Records’ 25th Anniversary compilation, Too Late To Pray: Defiant Chicago Roots. In addition to ROOKIE’s contribution, the collection featured an impressive range of acts with ties to Chicago to celebrate the stalwart indie label’s silver anniversary, including Brendan Kelly and The Wandering Birds, Kelly Hogan, Robbie Fulks, Jon Langford’s Hillbilly Lovechild, The Handsome Family, and others. To celebrate the compilation’s release, ROOKIE headlined a sold-out show at Workshop 4200, where Chicago’s only vinyl pressing plant, Smashed Plastic, is located. Since its release, Too Late To Pray has received praise from Greg Kot of The Chicago Tribune, No Depression, and Rocking Magpie.
ROOKIE’s debut LP is scheduled for release in the spring of 2020. Tour dates across the US being planned to support the record, which will include appearances at South by Southwest in Austin, TX and Treefort Music Fest in Boise, ID.