Rookie: “Sometimes you just need to let the song breathe... your part will be more powerful through the negative space“

Dressed for success! Rookie's guitarists include Christopher Devlin [second from left], Max Loebman [third from left] and Dimitri Panoutsos [second from right] (Image credit: Alec Basse)

It's safe to say these are some crazy times – the kinda times that might even make you cry out for some carefree rock ‘n’ roll. Enter Rookie, a Chicago-bred six-piece whose eponymous debut album might just be the salve that chases away your quarantine blues. 

Rookie’s album is 42 minutes of late-'70s summer, a cocktail of rock ‘n’ roll and power pop that’d be perfectly at home blasting out of the open windows of an idling El Camino, bubbling out of the jukebox at your favorite wood-paneled dive bar or blaring from a boombox docked by your parents’ backyard pool. 

Rookie splice together the laid-back roots rock of early Tom Petty, the melodic sensibility of Midwest power-pop heroes like Big Star and Cheap Trick (with whom Rookie were touring in support just before the world stopped spinning) and laced up with a truly badass triple-guitar assault.  

Rookie’s album is a love letter to a more carefree time when rock need not be complicated or convey some grand vision to be great; it’s a record crafted with care by a group that’s obviously studied the classics deeply enough to forge a remarkably fresh vision of a bygone era. 

Standout tracks include the lazy pedal steel river of Sunglasses, the incendiary solo on album opener Hold On Tight and the Allman Brothers-meets-Badfinger romp of Introduction II. The guitar tones on the album are absolutely spot on to boot.

“A lot of volume helps in the studio,” says Dimitri Panoutsos, one of Rookie’s trio of killer axemen. “Those rocking tones aren’t always so much distortion, and when we push an amp to its limit, the true tonal characteristic of the amp is revealed. Chris [Devlin]’s slide tone on Fake Grass is a 1977 Fender Deluxe Reverb cranked to 10.

“Another great example is my tone on E Jam, which was a Mesa/Boogie Mark I with an Altec Lansing speaker dimed! We love when the speaker compresses in a way that really can’t be recreated with a pedal.”

With three deft players in the fold, Rookie’s Devlin, Panoutsos and Max Loebman keep the sound full without getting cluttered through a trick learned from the Eagles.

“After watching live videos of [Joe] Walsh and [Don] Felder, we realized they never use the same pickups during a song,” Loebman says.

“One guy would use humbuckers and the other always used single coils. We applied that to Rookie. We also realize that less is often more.”

“Sometimes you just need to let the song breathe, and your part will be all the more powerful through the negative space,” Devlin adds.

  • Rookie's self-titled debut album is out now (opens in new tab) via Bloodshot Records.

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