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LOS ANGELES — One wouldn’t exactly put The Cheesecake Factory in the same league as say, the Chateau Marmont, but it’s where Rooney, the latest hipster band on the rise, has elected to nosh.
Just who are these shaggy-haired boy wonders? Lead singer and guitarist Robert Carmine (whose older brother, Jason Schwartzman, is Phantom Planet’s drummer), singer/guitarist Taylor Locke, bassist Matt Winter, keyboard player Louie Stephens and drummer Ned Brower might not be household names. But then Locke and Stephens, both 18, just graduated from high school last June. They describe their music as a cross between English bands of the Sixties and American bands of the Nineties, listing The Beatles, ELO, Superdrag and Radiohead among their favorites. The result is fun, slightly retro-sounding pop with lyrics that beg listeners to join in.
“Music is like a Steven Spielberg movie — it’s entertainment. We want you to sing along,” says Carmine, 20. “When it gets too weird, then people can’t relate.”
The band, who will play their biggest show yet tonight at Hollywood’s Palace, named themselves after Ed Rooney, the evil principal in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and first opened for Phantom Planet at The Troubadour three years ago. Soon they had their own bookings at the fabled Roxy and at The Whiskey. But they practice in Locke’s parents’ garage, where “they have offered us beverages and dinners every day for the past three years,” says Winter, 20.
Still, in the past few months, Rooney has moved on, opening for Weezer and The Strokes, and recording a self-titled CD — their first — which will be released on Geffen Records in April. “The label really liked that we’d created our own world by passing out stickers and demo CDs,” Carmine says.
“You can talk about your music all day,” Locke adds, “but you need to have a product. That was the best part of our tour — handing out CDs.”
While the world might never see Rooney taping a network Christmas special alongside ’NSync or Faith Hill, nor trading in their worn T-shirts and velvet blazers for custom-made leather pants, they insist they’re out to reach the masses.
“Mainstream isn’t a bad thing,” Carmine says. “It’s important for bands to be noted and seen by as many people who’ve seen Puff Daddy.”
Given their feel-good outlook, it’s difficult to imagine this well-mannered group of guys raising hell like a typical rock band. “It goes back to how our education and background shaped us,” Locke says. “We are not like Motley Crüe. We weren’t waiting to get signed so we could take advantage of women.”
“Oh, they like the limos and the champagne,” Carmine jokes, “but that’s not appropriate. We came from good families with good mothers.”