Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Some growing up will always turn things into a different direction. There's no helping it. Once the shine has worn off, it becomes apparent that there's a lot to learn. You hang your head a bit and you keep a little quieter. You get from a point where everything's easy and almost handed to you, reaching a point where you have to make rent and you have to fend for yourself. All of the realities come down, crashing hard and mellowing out the energy in the room. It's always just a matter of time before this happens, before you find that there's no road that's sunshine-y all hours of the day, no golden compass. At some point in your life though, if you're lucky, nothing at all bad happens to you and you could have grown up in the lap of almost unstoppably pleasant days, surrounded by pretty people and a seemingly endless beach party. You might have been afforded a temporary pass right through to your early 20s and what you know to write about is dancing, feeling good, an unbearable lightness of being and a life of a misguided utopia shone on by the most vitamin-enriched sunlight known to man or woman.
Rooney, the Los Angeles band fronted by Robert Schwartzman - the younger brother of actor/musician Jason, was reared in that California climate, where the sunsets and sunrises could never be declared one-of-a-kind. They were all one and the same, as good as the last and as the next. The band's debut album was a joyous affair, all hopped up on the optimistic side of life, of youthful liveliness. There were songs about young love and those ultimate days that seemed to be flooding them. Things couldn't have been any better for anyone as the good times just rolled and rolled and rolled. These were days with peers and they were awe-inspiring. The music was simple and bright yellow and it was active and exuberant, mining the territory of The Cars, the chronicling of Matt Sharp's time in Barcelona on The Rentals' sophomore album "Seven More Minutes," and friends like Phantom Planet. It was music that got everyone excited and, in the horrible cases where someone listening was not a card-carrying youngster, it was capable of turning back the hands of time and making one feel years younger. It was an elixir and if listened to today, could still be so. The band, made up of Schwartzman, Taylor Locke, Ned Brower, Louie Stephens and Brandon Schwartzel, had moved onto that disenchantment period, where things start being less easy. Decisions are regretted, times are reflected on fondly and disappointingly and suddenly you're faced with the understanding that receiving one of those sunshine-y days is a task not a requisite. Schwartzman sings on "Keep Holdin' On," "I was young/I seen it all/A cemetery in the middle of a super mall/I went to school/I never learned/How it feels/How everything you love can burn/And it never stops/It's all I got/And I never know when to turn," and it moves into a feeling of those empty nights where it dawns on you that you're one in a million. It's there when he sings, "It's funny how no one's laughing/The champagne's popping/And the baby's coughing/It's the same old story/The same old movie/But when you're with me, it's a masterpiece/Cause you are my only friend/You know nothing's free/You can pray all night but they'll take their fee." But then there's that masterpiece to think about, the only redeeming factor. It's the new Rooney sunshine.