Interview with Rookes

A glance inside the indie life of charismatic independent: Rookes

What are your promotional tips to fellow indie artists?

I do have the advantage of having worked in social media for other companies, but the conversations I am having with new artists is always the same. Followers do not always translate to real fans, because the consumer turnover is so high. These platforms are just tools - so make the music you want to, show off what you can do and work at building real relationships with your fans that will eventually transcend the platform. Social media platforms come and go, but real fans can last a whole career. 

Can you tell me a little about the #popnotpop campaign?

Sure! #popnotpop is actually two projects that feed into each other. I decided my next record would be a full length album, so then I also made the choice to document the making of the album online and in real time through a YouTube series. Ergo, the series and the album are being made in parallel to one another. Both are called #popnotpop because I came to be a pop music writer by wanting to write the pop songs I couldn’t find in the current pop landscape. In short - I write pop music because I don’t like pop music; that’s the paradox that opens the series in episode one actually, and the series will run until the end of July. We have plans for a second series, but after the first series ends I'll be focusing on completing and releasing the record. 

What social media platform do you find most effective?

It’s a toss up between Instagram and Twitter but they serve different purposes. Instagram is more playful and Twitter is more purposeful. If you want to spread your wings as an artist, Instagram is the one. But if you want to be taken seriously as a public figure, you need to be carving space for yourself on Twitter. To be fair, they both take work.

Artist Rookes holding up acoustic guitar

How did you distribute your latest release? Was it ok?

Lol, there was no trauma attached to it, if that’s what you’re asking?! My last release was my “Liminal” EP and it’s one of the most gorgeous things I ever made. We have a great relationship with our distributors CD Baby, and it was solely a digital campaign. Very straightforward. We even ended up dropping four music videos and building another release of remixes on the back of it. 

How did you record your latest release?

I co-produced “Liminal” with my friend and collaborator, Ben Parker. I cooked up about 60% of it in my bedroom - moving between Garageband for iOS and Logic, which was a beautiful, organic process. Then we took those stems into Ben’s KensalTown studio and smashed them into Pro Tools. We played around - added some new elements, re-recorded some bits and restructured others, and... voilà. Ben’s a legend. I’ve learned so much from him and I hope to facilitate production for other artists in the future as well as he facilitated production for me in the early stages of Rookes.

Rookes bedroom studio setup

What inspired your latest release?

Dating on the London scene after coming out. I felt very much like Bambi on the ice, but I ended up wanting to write specifically about those in between spaces where you’re not quite single but you’re not officially together. Poor communication is super common in dating. Ditto people being afraid of what they really want. Hence calling the record "Liminal". You can listen to it here.

Which artist do you look up to the most and why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

Annie Lennox, without a doubt. I’ve been listening to her voice all my life. I’d probably ask: in an industry where your skills, experience and intelligence are constantly under scrutiny because of your gender, how have you kept going?

Vinyl or Downloads?

My heart says vinyl (physicality is appealing), but my head says downloads (way more efficient). 

Bandcamp or Spotify?

Bandcamp, always. The way they have championed artists and Black Lives Matter during lockdown is amazing, outstripping every other music platform. Spotify had become far too tied to industry yardsticks and, from what I can tell, they are not necessarily inclined to wade into the #BrokenRecord discussion (an ongoing online campaign drawing attention to the poor pay artists receive through streaming) anytime soon. From where I sit, it appears they primarily serve their business interests, not artists at large. I reckon I make about ten times more money from Bandcamp than Spotify annually.

Best $100 you ever spend and why?

On my Audio Technica AT2020 condenser mic. It’s affordable and durable, and has been providing fantastic sound quality on my vocals for live streams. When I’m recording at home I use it almost daily. 

Artist Rookes at the mic

What's the first album or single you ever bought?

Very random, but I remember it clearly - it was “Alone” by the Bee Gees. Those stacked vocals are glorious - they knew what they were doing. 

Anything else you'd like to say?

You can find me on all socials at @iamrookes, and you can watch the evolution of the #popnotpop album right now by heading right here.


Hope you enjoyed another glimpse behind the scenes of indie life 👩‍🎤 Make sure to listen to Rookes here. If you're an artist and would like to be featured on the Songwhip Blog reach out to me (Wilson) via email or messenger 😄