When did you realise that music is a thing for you?
I actually came full circle with it in the end. Both my parents are musical and I was working quite hard as a young adult to establish an identity apart from them, so I avoided it and took on other kinds of work. Turns out that I couldn’t beat it though. I gave in after I finished my undergrad degree and haven’t looked back since.
Introduce us you and your musical history.
Sure! I’m Rookes and I’m a Birmingham producer-artist living in London. I started in a weekly house band, then a little folk band, then a pop solo artist, and now I’m a producer. It’s been quite a journey!
What’s one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
“What’s it like being a woman in music?”… urgh! Honestly, we all know the answer to that question. The only way our mindset shifts is if we keep our focus on the music an artist makes rather than asking women to re-live their trauma over and over. If answering that question inspired anything more than lip service in industry businesses and organisations then we wouldn’t feel compelled to ask it anymore.
We set up RGM USA and many other countries in the world to share music with america and the UK, good idea?
Only the data will tell you!
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
Nope. I have a personality that would probably thrive in tin-foil-hat spaces, so I make a point of not going there. It wouldn’t be helpful to anyone.
Did you buy anything you don’t need in the pandemic?
Oh, so many things. In absence of my access to charity/ thrift shops, I got totally hooked on Vinted. My wardrobe pretty much doubled in size with nowhere to wear any of it!
What useless party trick do you have?
I’m good at body rhythm games, but I’ve tried recording them at my studio to see if I can make music out of them and they always sound crap no matter how great the microphone.
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
Any gigs where people start doing interpretive dancing in the middle of my set. There have been a couple. One gig in the basement of the Manchester Apollo springs to mind. I’ve never had so many women hit on me after a show as on that occasion.
What was the worst experience on stage?
This is a toughie. Probably one of the best and equally the worst was this gig in Berlin at a gay club. It was a DIY kind of vibe and I was headlining, but the act before me had done a performance that covered the stage (and his naked body) with blue glittery goop. So I was announced and then I stepped onto the edge of the stage with my gear and suddenly everyone realised the problem simultaneously – there was no way I could safely step onto that stage. Many folx dived forward to help, brandishing paper towels while I just started hysterically laughing – trapped at the edge of the stage by goo. Eventually, they threw down a blue and white beach towel and I performed on that. It turned out to be an incredible gig in the end!
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about?
I played almost every instrument on my upcoming album. I have two collaborators on two tracks but the rest is all me.
If you had to describe your band/music to an alien how would you describe it?
Very big sounding and very catchy.
What makes you stand out as an artist?
My transparency. I’m one of the least cagey people I know, and if I don’t answer a question it’s often for a very good reason.
Right now, what’s pissing you off the most?
The fact that our global leaders (and our UK government in particular) are absolutely failing to manage climate change. Turns out that politicians really will be the death of us.
What’s your favourite song to play live and why?
So far, it’s been Liminal (the title track from my second EP) because everyone knew that one, but most of that was before the lockdown. I am yet to find out the answer to that question with the POPNOTPOP album tracks.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it?
Consent is the first single from the POPNOTPOP album, and is out on the 14th September in all platforms. It’s the most rock thing I’ve ever released but is loaded with all my fave big pop production stuff too which makes me insanely happy.
Talk me through the thought process of the single/album/ep?
It’s a very charged track – all about the experience of a relationship going quite horrifyingly off the rails; an experience that’s far more universal than it should be. It sets a big, cathartic tone for the rest if the POPNOTPOP album which is out on the 9th of November.
What was the recording process like?
Long. This track was one of the last I wrote for the album, which I started making in January 2020, and we finished the mixing/ mastering process July 2022. Consent was written in the summer of 2020 when I was in a high state of cabin fever, managing my trauma the best way I knew how while I waited for my therapy to start. I was stewing in my own pain and writing Consent was the release I needed, but I wanted it to be something people could dance and bellow along to. I feel like I’ve succeeded in capturing that through my production choices. I started recording the foundational elements in my lockdown bedroom and finished the track in our studio at the Ten87 studio complex.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the single/album/ep?
Everything was a learning curve. I had never produced a full length album before, so I decided it would be less pressurised to do so with my own material rather than someone else’s. Because the subject matter for this track was so raw, I almost didn’t write it; it was the penultimate track I wrote for the album. I didn’t know it would even be the lead single until I started laying the bass down. That’s when I knew it would be something special and probably the best choice for setting expectations of the album.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
Not for Consent, no. It’s exactly as I wanted it to be. There are a couple of bits on the album I would change, but sometimes you just have to put the track down because you have been fiddling with it for too long and it is what it is.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
Well, between now and Christmas I’ll be rolling out POPNOTPOP to the world, while simultaneously developing new music for other artists. After Christmas, I expect it will be more of the same! I’ve booked a live London show on the 11th October at Green Note in Camden. I don’t play live super often, so if you want to hear Consent live this is your chance! Tickets are limited because Green Note is petite, but you can book your spot here: https://ww…ly-magpie/
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
You can find me at @iamrookes on all social platforms, where I share many music things and am generally as charming and thought-provoking as I can be. Come by and say hi!