Originally from Birmingham but now based in London, Rookes caught our eye late last year with their Liminal EP. 2020 has seen them drop remixes of the title track, so now seemed as good a time as any to catch up with the artist and find out what makes them tick.
What made you want to get into music?
There was never a time when I didn’t want to be doing this job. It just took time for me to believe it could be my job because I experienced so much disparagement around this idea as a younger woman.
What inspires you to write?
That really is an outrageously massive question. Writing music is a way of processing my feelings about my experiences and the world I’m living in. I’ve always been expressive. I’ve worked in theatre, visual arts, public speaking, journalism… music was just the one that really caught on in terms of public response. In terms of a skill set, being a musician ‘magpies’ from the other disciplines I worked in. So, what really excites me is telling stories well – making the individual experience universal, making it relatable. Making it something you can cry to, dance to, relax to, be motivated by.
Who has had the most influence on your music?
Impossible to say. My palette is so broad. There are core influences, of course; I’ve talked before about the influence of 80’s pop and power ballads. But I often like to generate variety in my sound, so these days I tend to allow one song at a time to be led by the influence of different artists. You’ll see a lot more of that in my new YouTube series, #popnotpop – which explores my relationship with pop music and documents the writing and production of the first Rookes LP. The first song if the series is heavily influenced by Kimbra, the second by Bloc Party.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?
Besides COVID-19? Finance. Everyone wants access to what you make, and no-one wants to pay you. It was a problem even before the internet because society values art above artists.
What has been the nicest thing ever written about you?
Probably something my parents wrote in a birthday card. My dad likes to write beautiful poetry in them. Having said that, my manager wrote the other day that words could not express how much I meant to him. That was incredibly sweet. In terms of cultural criticism, I’ve been blessed to have an overwhelmingly positive majority of write-ups.
What has been the best and worst gig you’ve ever played?
There have been many good and bad gigs. Often whether you have a good or bad one is more heavily reliant on the attitude of the in-house sound engineer than the audience. In terms of the good ones, I’ve always had an absolute ball at The Hospital Club in London but playing a special show at The Manchester Apollo also stands out. It’s possible I just played my worst gig; I was scheduled to play on the same evening Boris Johnson announced that people should stop going to music venues and pubs because of COVID-19. I was playing in a music venue IN a pub. One person came. But I expect to them it was very special!
What was the last album you played on Spotify?
American Dream by LCD Soundsystem.
If you could support anyone, who would it be and why?
I have a few preferences. Muna, Perfume Genius, Kimbra would be on the shortlist… they all reflect aspects of what I bring to the stage in terms of nuance or vocal performance or tech or presentation. Lots of queerness and feminine power. My top choice would be Robyn, though; she’s blazed such an amazing trail to follow. It would be an honour.
What other bands do we need to be checking out right now?
Dream Wife, Leisure, Salt Cathedral, Lanta, Nimmo, CRISP & CLASSY, Emily King.
Give us a few hints on what’s in store next…
No hints necessary – I’m writing an album on the internet via #popnotpop! I’ll be leapfrogging one song across two episodes at a time; I’m on song 3, and I’ve got 12 to complete. There’ll be a few collaborations too… basically, just climb onto all my online platforms and watch me roll out a lot of cool shit between now and the end of July! Especially those who sign up to join the Rookes Lab on Patreon – I have SO many exclusives planned!
You can listen to Rookes’ music, including the Liminal EP, on Spotify and Bandcamp. With gigs and releases very much up in the air for all of us right now, keep an eye on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for up to date information.