Category Archives: Interviews

Advice from a Veteran: A Conversation with Rooney’s Robert Schwartzman

Schwartzman onstage at a recent show. Photo courtesy of Rooney-Band.com.

Although he hails from the West Coast, not the Midwest, Robert Schwartzman began his music career where many of our featured musicians do: in school. As lead singer of the SoCal power-pop band Rooney, he’s spent the past decade balancing several different gigs – college, acting (The Princess Diaries), singing, and songwriting.

Unlike many of our featured musicians, he’s a member of one of Hollywood’s most famous families: the son of actress Talia Shire (Rocky), the brother of actor/musician Jason Schwartzman (Phantom Planet, Coconut Records), Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew, and Nicolas Cage’s cousin, to name a few. The band hit its first big break in 2004, guest-starring on an episode of The OC.

Needless to say, Rooney has avoided some of the financial setbacks facing most college musicians, but Schwartzman and his band mates have worked hard to get to where they are today. He recently took some time out while promoting Rooney’s new album, Eureka, to answer a few of our questions about college, life decisions, and the business of music.

Rooney came together when you were still a student. How did you balance schoolwork and music?

Well, my high school academic life struggled more from starting a band than my college years.  Rooney started [when I was in high school]. It was definitely a distraction and affected my grades.  Not just any grades – it was my junior and senior years, so they were the grades that count!  I was accepted to Eugene Lang College at the New School in New York City.  I wanted to be in a big city and I had friends out there.  I was always writing and demo-ing songs, so I brought all my equipment to college. I also played in a band in New York called Dopo Yume with some friends.… I actually did pretty well in college despite my “passion distraction.”

From left: keyboard player Louie Stephens, guitarist Taylor Locke, Schwartzman, and drummer Ned Brower. Photo courtesy of Rooney-Band.com.

Although I moved, Rooney stayed together, and I flew home once a month to perform in LA.  I spent most of my time at Eugene Lang writing songs in my dorm room.  I sent new demos home to my band mates, and they learned the songs while I was away.  We were able to work up new material from across the country.

You left college early, though, right? What happened after that?

I broke the news to my mom that I was leaving school and heading back to L.A. to pursue my musical career, a decision she still disagrees with. I’m not sure it was the right decision, [but Rooney] got signed a few months after I left school and found a manager and made our first album in the summer of 2002.  It all happened pretty quickly once I left college, but we had already put in the years prior to that and had a good buzz in LA – a big city with many labels.  We were lucky at that time, to get a good deal and label support.

Did school help you in any way with music?

Learning is always important, no matter what you choose to do with your life.  It always helps to know more and to bring new ideas into your life and creative self.  I wanted to go to school to study subjects that I had an interest in and to connect them to my writing.  I wanted to meet new people and have new life experiences.  Living in a new city and being exposed to interesting subjects and people was very inspiring.  I also wanted to make my parents happy.

What kinds of classes did you take?

I studied philosophy, media, and journalism, but I took a music business class at UCLA once I got back to LA.  I needed some background info on the business I was entering.  The first thing I learned and still remember is, “What is the first thing on every executive’s mind?  Keep your job!”  And it’s so true … it’s not about the music or helping artists you work with. It’s every man or woman for him or herself.

It sounds like your time at college really broadened your horizons. Did you ever consider leaving your California music projects behind and pursuing another career entirely?

I thought about focusing on acting and starting a new music life in NYC, but I missed my band mates and I missed the musical life that I started in high school.

What is your advice to college students who might just play in a band part-time but want to make it a career after graduation?

Well, [this is] the reason I said I’m not so sure it was a good idea that I left Eugene Lang for Rooney.  I don’t believe in regrets. I think we have to own the decisions we make and learn from them … not waste time regretting them … although it’s hard to let go of certain things.  I’ve seen so many bands nowadays that are having success right out of college or having success while at college and continuing it as a post-grad pop career.  I’m lucky to have met great musicians that I share things in common with at a young age, but I wonder what my life would be like had I stayed in school and met new musicians there … [if I had] let go of Rooney.

Taking a break from recording Eureka. Photo courtesy of Rooney-Band.com.

What do you think would have been different?

I would have been older, maybe less eager to jump into bed with the first girl I saw.  Maybe I would have taken more risks and been more protective of certain decisions.  I’m really not sure what my life would be like had I stayed in school, but I do miss having had a real college education.  I do what I can and I work hard at what I do.  I try to ask as many questions as I can to wise people in the music business.  I can truly say that I’ve learned through experience.  But, hey, there’s always time for school, right?

Right. Now, about the new album: what can longtime fans expect to hear that makes it different from your past work?

People say [Eureka] sounds more mature, which I agree with.  It’s a step in the right direction for us – not only as an album, but how we made the album and how we’re releasing it.  It was made in my home studio, and it’s coming out on our own label [California Dreaming Records].  It’s how we’ve been wanting to do things and how we did things years ago, and now we have the opportunity [again].  It was only a matter of time.  The album is honest and exciting and it sonically defeats all our previous albums.  We produced and engineered this album, so it’s really exciting to have gotten a solid result … in my garage.  The album is diverse, and it shows the different things we do as a band.  We all have different musical interests, some more similar than others.  Eureka sounds like Rooney, but the songs are better and we’ve grown in many ways.

Since you’re an expert, what unsigned or up-and-coming bands do you think  we should check out?

Castledoor.  Miles Fisher.  The Bridges. [My side project]  SOLOBOB!

Thanks for taking a few minutes to talk to us.  Any final thoughts for your White City fans?

Love Chicago!!! Best music fans around!!! All I can say is I love playing in Chicago, and it’s always a highlight on tour.

Kayla Zimmerman


Eureka is out June 8, and Rooney will play the House of Blues with Hanson on August 13 (tickets are $30 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster).

Connect with the band on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, and Rooney-Band.com, and follow Robert at his personal Twitter page.

His Name is DJ Scend, Not DJ Send Off

Chicago’s Stephan Steciw, a.k.a. DJ Scend, grew up surrounded with many musical influences. His father is a musician and introduced him to instruments at an early age.  His own style of DJing covers hip-hop and house, both old and new, while still maintaining a unique Chicago beat.  Thanks to social networking sites and CRB Radio (Chitown Record Bangers), DJ Scend is able to quickly get his music out to his fans.  Chitown Record Bangers Radio is a big part of DJ Scend’s musical career.  He mixes there every Wednesday from 6 to 8 pm and fans can listen live to DJ Scend mix a dope fresh style of the old with the new. He smoothly mixes in ol’ school hits like 2Pac’s, I get around, with recent tracks from today’s artists like Kanye West.  He can be seen spinning live at Sopo Lounge (3418 N. Southport Ave.), Junior’s (2058 W. Cermak Rd.), Bon-V (1100 W. Randolph St.) and many other Chicago nightclubs.  DJ Scend’s hip-house mixes truly represent the Chicago urban music scene. DJ Scend took some time out to talk to me about CRB Radio and his other ventures, and here’s what he had to say:

How did you get into your DJ career?

I got into music at the age of 5.  I started on the piano and then moved to guitar. When I turned 18, I bought my first set of turntables.  My father is a musician and I grew up around a studio environment, so it was easy for me to choose music as my ultimate career goal.

Getting started in the music business can be challenging.  How did you attain exposure and new fans?

A lot of my recent exposure has come from my weekly mixshow that I host and run for CRB Radio (www.crbradio.com).  CRB stands for Chitown Record Bangers, and our goal as musicians is to give people a constant stream of music that is different and also familiar.

I do a lot of self promotion as well.  I’m constantly on Twitter and Facebook doing the geeky internet ‘thing’ with posting mixes and recordings of my radio mixshow to help get my sound out there.  I also do street work when I can, as far as putting up posters and flyers and just trying to support events whenever I can.

I imagine it is a rush being in front of a crowd.  What is it you like most about your DJ career?

The biggest thing I love about being a DJ is when someone approaches me at the end of the night at the end of my set and says “I want to thank you for helping me forget everything tonight.  Your set made me appreciate music all over again.” That right there is the biggest payout I can ask for.  I’ve gotten that [reaction] numerous times and that’s what keeps pushing me to stay on top of my own game.  No money can compare.

That’s great.  How do you contribute to music and the community?

I would like to think that I contribute to music by helping expose some styles and genres of music that most might not be used to hearing.  I like to play all types of music and like to ‘break records’ whenever I have the chance to do so…I try to involve myself in local art shows to help bring the community together under the umbrella of music.

Spin it ScendThis style of music is rapidly gaining a large fan following. What advice do you have for newcomers who are faced with the choice of getting a degree or following their passions? Does getting an education fit in your musical career?

Since I never finished college, the biggest positive I gained from school was meeting all the different people.  In the end, all those different people end up choosing different career paths that somehow, [in] someway [I get lucky and they] end up coming back [in my life] with something I can network with –whether it’s [with] a designer, marketing director, or another musician, we all find a way to trade each other’s skills to benefit and support one another.

Did the time you spent in school help out with your career choice?

School can definitely help out from a business standpoint.  Every artist needs to be business savvy because we are all marketing ourselves on a constant basis.  School may not be able to teach you creativity or artistic integrity, but it can definitely help you out with how to approach the music industry as a whole.

What influenced you to choose the style of music you work with?

I started as a hip-hop DJ.  I only played underground and old school hip-hop.  I started realizing that to make a name and gain exposure; I would need to play other styles of hip-hop.  I started getting into more of the radio music and mixing that up with underground.

I then got into the house music scene heavily.  A lot of people I work with currently [had] met me as a ‘house’ DJ.  I started trying to bridge the gap for myself by learning to mix both genres.  After being given my own mix show for CRB Radio, almost 2 years ago, I was almost forced to constantly keep a fresh style and sound.  It helped me greatly because I would dig for all sorts of different music.  To me it’s not about a genre, it’s about a sound.  If it’s good, it’s good…end of story.

Are you currently working on other projects beside the weekly Mixshow on CRB Radio?

I’m doing some production now and I’m also working on bringing Chicago MC’s on my show to ‘rep’ Chicago music.

DJ Scend spins every Wednesday on CRB live, Friday’s at Sopo Lounge,

Thursdays at the Wicker Well from 9 to 2, and Saturdays at Tini Martini’s main room.

Isaura Salinas

For the 411 on upcoming events for DJ Scend, check these sites out:

http://www.crbradio.com

http://www.mediafire.com/mrscend

http://www.youtube.com/djscend1

http://twitter.com/djscend

They Call Him Boogy

23-year-old Boogy

With hip-hop taking a turn, seemingly for the worst, it’s refreshing to see artists staying true to the blueprint of hip-hop. While schooling other rappers on the microphone, 23-year-old Boogy is also a full-time college student. For some, finding a balance between school and music can be a difficult task, but Boogy handles the two with ease. His lyrics demand an active listener but still manage to be colorfully playful. Boogy is patiently perfecting his craft hoping to become the pride and joy of Chicago’s hip-hop scene.

What school are you attending and what are you studying?

I attend South Suburban College in South Holland IL. I am currently studying business management, with the hopes of one day becoming an agent or manager.

How were you introduced to music? What about music attracted you?

My parents were both really musical people. My pops played drums and was into all types of music. I was always drawn to music. I have always been attracted to the soul of music. I believe every genre of music has its own soul, which is why music really is the universal language. When I was younger I was very concerned with having my parents think I was cool, so I was really into whatever they would listen to. My mom was a child of the ‘70s and a woman of the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Anything pop or R&B she was on top of. Everything from Anita Baker to Salt-n-Pepa, my O.G. was rockin’ to. My Pops is why I’m so well rounded when it comes to music. He always listened to everything. Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Pac, Santana, Eric Clapton, Queen, Bob Marley, everything! He really got me into rock and funk the most.

Since you were introduced to such a wide variety of music growing up, what instruments do you play or interest you the most?

Since I was young, I’ve always been interested in the drums. When I would be in church I would just zone out and have visions of me spazzin’ on the drum set right in the middle of service. I never got my own set, but I did learn how to play, even got to play in church a few times. I also learned how to play guitar in 8th grade, but I forgot all that shit by now.

So, you go by “Boogy.” Where does this name come from?

I had this older cousin name Keith, I would only see him during holidays but I always liked kickin’ it with him cuz’ he smoked weed and always had dope rap to listen to. One day we were rocking to an old Big Daddy Kane tape and he was shocked I knew it. He was like, “Oh you like that shit, huh lil’ cuz? Look at T-Boogy over there jammin’ like he know ‘bout this.” Everybody laughed and kept calling me that since then.

Your music doesn’t sound like any of the commercial rap that floods the airways. Where do you get your inspiration?

The city and life really influences my music. The complexity of the average life gives an artist a lifetime worth of material. I grew up in the city and the suburbs, which help mold my music in a very major way. When you witness the highest of highs and the lowest of lows you look at the world through a different scope. You have an understanding of why. A lot more than a person who only knows one perspective. It allows me to have a genuine appeal in all of my music, no matter what I’m talking about.

What artists have influenced you?

I’m influenced by so many artists. Any artist that I listen to I try to add an element of them in my music because I strongly believe putting all of those random influences together make me an original. My favorite rapper is Jay-Z. I feel like he has done better and is unlike any one else ever. Huge fan of Biggie, Nas, Pac, Jadakiss, Outkast, Joe Budden, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and tons more. I’m also a huge R&B fan. I love classics like Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson,Isaac Hayes, Isley Brothers, Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, Anita Baker, Mary J, Aaliyah, Erykah Badu,Jill Scott, Marsha Ambrosius.

Cell Blok (left) and Boogy (Right) performing

I’m into some rock and reggae also. Depends on my mood. But I take all of that and pour it into my music.

Seeing all of your influences really helps explain your sound. There are a lot of old-school undertones in your music, yet it’s still very catchy and relevant to today. How would you describe your sound?
My sound is intelligent street thought, meets classy stuntin,’ meets mood-provoking music.

How do you think school affects your music career?

Besides giving me time to write, it really doesn’t. Every now and then I will hear something in class that I may want to throw in a song, but it is very rare.

Gives you time to write? How so? Do you write during class?

You damn right I write in class. 85% of school is bullshit. They overcharge us to take a bunch of bullshit classes that teach us shit we will never use in life. So I learn what I need to learn to pass the tests, but most of my class time is spent writing.

How does school influence, if at all, your music?

None whatsoever.

How do you balance time between your music career and you schoolwork?

I get the B.S. of school out of the way as quickly as possible. The more time I have to dedicate to my craft, the better. But I also realize school is something that I have to do, so I do it.

What are your plans after graduation?

Go forward in building our music label and studio.

Aspiring rapper, Boogy

That’s excellent. Are you currently performing anywhere?

 
All over the city if I can. I’m always searching for more venues just to get my face out there and rock with the people. I have performed at many open mics throughout the city and suburbs.

Are there any musical projects coming up?

I’m currently working on three mix tapes. Schwing!, Grow Up, and Marijuana Music 2.

Download a free copy of Marijuana Music today!

-Lauren Cain

Timeout with Chris Poynton of The Crown and Two Chairmen

Few people have heard of The Crown and Two Chairmen, an instrumental post-rock band from Chicago. However, for those interested in seeking out a different style of music, this might be a band to hear. The Crown and Two Chairmen consists of four guys: two guitarists (Ken Bonner and Kevin McAfee), Chris Solano on the drums, and bassist Chris Poynton. Three of these four musicians are recent graduates from the Chicagoland area. Recently, Poynton answered a few questions about the band and talked about how being a recent college graduate has impacted the group.

Tell me a little about your band, The Crown and Two Chairmen. Where did the name even come from?

Um, actually I stole the name last year when I was studying abroad in England. When we were in London, we used to visit this pub that I really liked. And it was called The Crown and Two Chairmen, and it just kind of stuck with me. But yeah, the band…we’ve been together a little over a year now. If I had to label what style of music we are, I would categorize us as post-rock or experimental. I met Kevin [guitarist] my freshman year at UIC [University of Illinois at Chicago]. He was moving here to Chicago and contacted my roommate at the time through Facebook because they liked similar styles of music, so we became pretty close through that. I met Chris [drummer] because he played with my old band from back in the day and then we contacted Ken [second guitarist] through Craigslist.

So you played in a band before this?

Ha ha, yeah. We were called How Bright the Sky. It was more, like, pop-punk style, which I was really into in high school. We were pretty big, I guess, for our age, but it didn’t work out, which is a long-ass story.

Understandable. You graduated last year from UIC. How has college prepared you, if at all, for your music career?

It really didn’t help me at all. I guess, from a business school perspective, I learned the importance of contacts and learning who can and cannot help you out in the long run. Emailing, calling, and promoting…but that is really all common sense stuff, y’know?

True. You were a business major, I take it?

No, I was an English major, actually. I just imagine, maybe if I were a business major, it might be of some help with my band? I was an English major because I thought maybe I could fall back on a teaching degree at some point. I don’t know, though, exactly what I am going to do.

So you guys have been together a little over a year now. Was it hard balancing your last semester of school and the band at the same time?

Well, yeah, it was. I really care about the music and the other people in the group, so we treat it as if it were a job. It definitely is a really big commitment, but it’s worth it if you are passionate about something. I really had to learn how to balance my time between the two. I never was very into school. I got straight A’s for the most part, although I never had to put in too much effort. The only punishment was that band practice was at noon on Sundays for a while, and 99% of the time I was hungover.

That must have been terrible for your headache. Where do you see The Crown and Two Chairmen in the future?

I don’t know. I really hope we’ll continue on. Our last show at the Beat Kitchen [drew] such a great crowd. We had a few technical difficulties in the beginning, which was frustrating, but we were just so pumped by the amount of people there that it felt right. But if you want me to be realistic, a real job is in my future. It is hard to have four guys as young and attractive and unpopular for the time being as us focus solely on one aspect of their life…unless you are Fall Out Boy. After high school, I got really sick of playing songs that ended after three-and-a-half minutes and were designed for sixteen-year-olds. For us, it’s all about wanting people to hear our music and our style and think to themselves, this is good. We really just want to be respected by other musicians, first and foremost, as well as the fans. Our music is [about] trying to have more thought appeal to life, rather than just singing about a girl you like that broke up with you or [about] getting drunk this weekend.

Is that the reason you chose to play all of your songs thus far entirely instrumental?

I don’t know. Maybe. When we first started playing together, we didn’t know what to expect or what was going to come of us playing together. In the end, adding lyrics just didn’t fit for us, and we decided to exclude it entirely.

I am a big fan of Explosions in the Sky, and I definitely think you guys have a similar song style to them.

I’ll take that as a compliment. Thank you.

Check out The Crown and Two Chairmen’s Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/thecrownandtwochairmen

-Laura Green