Where did Rooney go missing?

22 May

I’m not sure how many of you out remember the happy, lazy days of the early 00s when it was easy for indie bands to gain popularity through cameos on trendy cable television shows- namely, the O.C., although I also remember bands appearing on shows like One Tree Hill. The OC did something pretty incredible by putting the spotlight on eager, upcoming bands not too embarrassed to show up in orange county, who would perform at “The Bait Shop” (where main character Seth temporarily worked despite his millionaire family). This was a very successful and legitimate way for indie bands to become known to the general public, even if most of the OC’s viewers probably were mostly interested in watching Ryan and Marissa’s romance blossom and then burst into flames (again). However, bands such as The Shins, Death Cab for Cutie, The Thrills, The Killers, and even, shockingly, Modest Mouse– don’t act like you don’t remember- made waves on the show and became household names in the time surrounding their OC cameos.

Most notably, the band that I will always associate with the OC is Rooney, for several reasons. They were the first band to perform at “The Bait Shop,” causing Seth to scream, “Rooney Rules!” while drinking a coke (or something like that). They were the first “live” performance on the OC, in 2004, which caused their record sales to more than triple. I also associate them with the OC because the show’s theme song, “California,” one of those songs you had to scream as you drive late at night in your mom’s car with your friends , was written and performed by Phantom Planet. Phantom Planet’s drummer is actor, musician and indie posterboy Jason Schwartzman, and happens to be the brother of Rooney’s lead singer, Robert Schwartzman. Yeah, I had an OC obsession phase.

This leads me to the story that inspired this blog post in the first place. If anyone out there was interested in Rooney, you may have come across this article and pondered, What happened to Rooney? They were so great way back when they were “Shakin.” True, I was a big fan of their first album, the careless yet melodic, angsty-but-feelgood songs run together like a story. This is a story of surfer boys chasing after girls, reading their diaries, falling upon harder times, terrible mood swings, and tasting fame for the first time; in a nutshell, being Young in L.A.. Rooney’s self-titled first Album, “Rooney,” will always remain a bundle of bittersweet high school memories for me, and any song can make me smile upon recognition. From the perfection of distinctly gorgeous “Stay Away” to the  hopeless denial of love in “Simply Because,” to the asshole-themed “Sorry Sorry” (in which all shitty, man-like actions are blamed on the narrator’s alterego), everything about this album, from lyrics to the performance quality to composition, was spot on.  So what happened to this special band, truly underrated from the beginning?

I just happened to be walking in DUMBO three days ago with my good friend Becca, soaking up some sun after work, when we happened upon what seemed like a very low-budget music video being filmed. I saw someone who looked like a lead singer tuning his American-flag guitar with the picturesque Brooklyn bridge in the background, Being a photographer, I immediately began snapping away, loving the visual interaction of the subjects. The guitarist politely smiled as we walked past then joined the rest of his band, who were set up in a little nook among trees surrounded by filming equipment. My friend and I giggled and I distinctly remember hoping he wasn’t under the impression I thought he was famous.

As we sat to eat our sandwiches, we watched the band as they played off several songs for the cameras, we assumed doing a mini concert. No one stopped to listen to them, no one recognized them. That was, until I recognized the distinctive chords of one song, called, “Where Did Your Heart Go Missing?” This was the one song, and I’m guessing the only single, that I had heard from Rooney’s second album before they disappeared into the radiowaves.


We couldn’t believe it. But, suddenly, it all made sense. We had recognized and even joked about the Rooney-esque look of the lead singer (though he had gained weight), they looked professional, and that was one sweet flag-print guitar. We scrambled to go watch the rest of their set, the only viewers. In recollection, we probably looked like total fan girls, but I regret nothing- it was like a long-lost teenage fantasy was being played out in front of me! Though the band continued to be cordial to us, we didn’t actually talk to them, somewhat of a regret, but I did find out from the film crew that they were filming part of a concert series with Baeble (www.baeblemusic.com), which is actually a really great music site that archives concert series, photos, interviews and likewise features with various indie bands. Rooney was doing this recording because they have a new, long-awaited album, “Eureka” coming out on Warner Music Group’s Independent Label Group June 7th.

I tracked down all that I had missed from Rooney over the years- their sophomore album “Calling the World,” a self-released, “Wild One,” which was sold only at live shows and I couldn’t find, and now “Eureka.” Unfortunately, what I hypothesized about the quality of Rooney’s music was more or less true- it has gone downhill. Only three of the songs from new album are available, but the songs are trying to hard to fit into a category I can’t quite figure out. The the songs point in different directions. It’s not terrible, because it is still catchy, but it just doesn’t hit me the same way. Their single, “I Can’t Get Enough,” whose video you can find below, is too focussed on the vocal aspect of the song and the once-remarkable guitar and keyboard riffs that the songs were built on have dissolved. Their likely second single, “You’re What I’m Looking For” scores a little higher- it sounds really nothing like what I expect from Rooney- but that’s an exception in this light, velvet-underground-but-poppy song. However, nothing can top the brit-invasion, powerpop, and rhythmic guitar influences that guided the wonderful, clear, and powerful composition that the songs of their first album were built on.

Rooney is performing June 17th at Fillmore (Irving Plaza).
Anyone want to go? (Kidding……. kind of).

Here’s the video for “I Can’t Get Enough,”

The Video is regrettably cooler than the song.

Or, you could always just watch this instead, I guarantee you’ll have a better time.

Head here to listen to the better song from their new album, “You’re What I’m Looking For”

Here are some pics of Baeble of their video recording, the video should probably be up in a few weeks:


2 Responses to “Where did Rooney go missing?”

  1. Luisa 06/26/2010 at 11:10 pm #

    Hi! I am a new Rooney fan. Although I heard them on The OC, (I was also obsessed lol). I had When Did Your Heart Go Missing on my Ipod, but I really didn’t know much of Rooney. Not so long ago, I would say maybe 6 or more months ago I saw Robert Schwartzman at The Grove in Los Angeles, I wasn’t sure it was him so I didn’t do or say anything. But this made me curious so I downloaded some of their songs and I was impressed! they are really good. But, I really disagree with you. I truly believe Eureka is Rooney’s best album. Obviously their old songs are also great! I just think Eureka has more feeling to it, and the songs are very catchy. I don’t know, that is just my opinion, I think Rooney is one of the best bands out there. Robert Schwartzman is pure talent, he creates great music.

  2. Ryan 07/10/2010 at 9:31 pm #

    I can’t agree with you. Maybe it’s hard to part ways with their first album and accept new music from them, but if you gave it a shot, you might be excited about the results. I find Eureka to be the best thing they’ve done. It’s more mature and sincere and consistent. It sounds like the Rooney I love and the Rooney I want. They do a good job of keeping their fans happy and, as a fan, I’m happy. The fact that they were “missing” to you means you don’t really know what they’ve been up to. They’ve been working like dogs since their first release and have had lots of success since then…probably more. Don’t be a hater, there are too many haters in the world. Give the underdogs some respect.

    p.s. the song is called “when did your heart go missing?” oops.

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