Besides the cheap rent and the city’s collaborative spirit, the main connecting thread between the new wave of young Chicago indie rock bands has been putting a refreshing spin on old sounds. To name just two, acts like Paul Cherry have a jazzier take on eccentric ‘70s-era McCartney hits while bands like Post Animal mine psychedelic pop gems from heavy Black Sabbath-inspired riffs. Rookie, one of the latest and most exciting additions to this side of city’s scene, finds inspiration in crunchy classic rock staples like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers or Neil Young. They lean heavily into these old comforts, but this quintet’s undeniably raucous and no-frills songs, like their debut single “One Way Ticket,” are proof that carefree simplicity can be just engaging as experimentation.
It’s clear from their fresh faces that none of their members are out of their early twenties, but founding songwriters Max Loebman and drummer Joe Bordenaro have a surprising number of years as local indie rock mainstays. Loebman played guitar in glam-rock staples Yoko and the Oh Nos, which broke up in January, as well as his underrated solo outfit Max Loebman and the Mild Ones, while Bordenaro cut his teeth since 2014 fronting the Late Bloomers. “I’ve known Max for a while and I played keys in his band and Max played keys in my band,” Bordenaro explains, “We realized that none of us were really trained in playing keys though.” Adds Loebman, “It was really as simple as us sitting on our porch last summer and thinking, ‘Why don’t we have just one band?’”
Recruiting bassist Kevin Decker, who’s performed with bands like Twin Peaks and J. Fernandez, guitarist Dimitri Panoutsos, and keyboardist Elan Frankel, Rookie began by reworking songs Loebman and Bordenaro wrote for their respective solo efforts. “We just dropped everything and put it into this and it was actually really easy to write for a band than just our own projects,” says Bordenaro. Their debut single “One Way Ticket” is instantly accessible and immediately gratifying with its blistering guitar solos, gang vocals, and crunchy riffs. It feels like a long lost beer-swilling anthem from the ‘70s and really captures the DIY-bred rowdiness of the band’s live show. Loebman explains, “That was the first song we played that felt really like a Rookie song and not one of our solo songs.”
To go along with the single, Noisey is also debuting its music video. Directed by the Orwells’ drummer Henry Brinner, the video for “One Way Ticket” is a perfect encapsulation of the band’s scrappy energy. Not only is the clip a day-in-the-life at Rookie’s cramped practice space and apartment but it’s also a snapshot at the joys of Chicago’s many divey pool tables and drunk eats staple Red Hot Ranch. “One Way Ticket” is the first of a handful of singles the band plans to release in the coming months.
Josh Terry is probably better at pool than Joe Bordenaro. Follow him on Twitter.