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Rooney's L.A. pop makes strong connection

| Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007

A band called Rooney certainly should do well in Western Pennsylvania, given the region's affinity for anything related to the Steelers.

When Rooney drummer Ned Brower is told the name is almost royalty in Pittsburgh, given the well-regarded owners of the football team, he quickly chimes in, "That's what we were thinking of."

He's kidding, of course, five kids from Los Angeles are not exactly in tune with Pittsburgh's No. 1 obsession. Instead Rooney, which performs Monday at the Rex Theatre, South Side, tapped into L.A.'s passion for movies, specifically "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," for its name.

"We needed a band name in a jiffy and we thought of Ed Rooney," the beleaguered principal from the film, Brower says.

Later, the name was shortened to Rooney, but the music stayed the same: ingratiating pop that pays allegiance to the Beach Boys sun-splashed sound. Thus, the California state seal featuring a grizzly bear adorns the band's albums and merchandise.

"We wanted to have a strong logo, like the Ramones or the Rolling Stones," Brower says. "It's interesting. We're a band borne and bred in Los Angeles, which there are very few of. I can only think of one other band, the (Red Hot) Chili Peppers, that is a true L.A. band. There are a million bands here, but it's a lot of people who moved here. I think it's different and unique that we're from here, and it's reflected in our sound."

There's another L.A. connection the band once downplayed, but now accepts. Lead singer Robert Schwartzman is the brother of actor and musician Jason Schwartzman; his mother is actress Talia Shire and his cousins include actor Nicolas Cage and director Sofia Coppola. When the band first emerged, much was made of those connections, but Brower says it could have been worse.

"If it was a cheesy family that made crappy art, it would have been humiliating," he says. "But they're a great group of people to be tied in with, just great artists who we've learned a lot from ... I'm proud of the connection."

The group's first self-titled album was released three years ago, and it took three years to release the follow-up, the just-released "Calling the World." Rooney recorded two versions -- one too eccentric, one too slick -- that didn't meet expectations.

The third try came after the band enlisted producer John Field, whose credits range from Soul Asylum to Pink to the Backstreet Boys.

"The whole thing was made in a month, including the mixing," Brower says. "It was probably the fastest record we ever made, and definitely the best. It was a really good experience; we felt like we proved ourselves, earned our stripes and showed everyone we could do it."

There is, however, the three-year period between releases to consider. Momentum is a fickle thing in pop music, and while the debut album was successful (400,000 units sold), it wasn't a blockbuster.

However, Brower professes not to worry, noting the band played club shows during the interim and recently opened a few shows for Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas.

"We knew there people would be there," Brower says. "A lot of people thought it was impossible in today's disposable culture. I think that says a lot about the first album, that people stuck around and were eager to hear what we would follow up with after all that time."

Additional Information:

Rooney

With: The Hush Sound, Hello Stranger

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Admission: $13; $15 at the door (all ages)

Where: Rex Theatre, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side

Details: 412-381-6811 or online

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