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Robert Schwartzman brings film magic to Rooney's return

The L.A. rock band will release "Washed Out" in May.

Rooney's

Robert Schwartzman
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Remember Rooney?

Of course you do. Their infectious sunny Cali-pop rock was perfect timed with the age of pop culture’s West Coast obsessions a la “Laguna Beach” and Seth Cohen. Frontman Robert Schwartzman — who comes from the illustrious Coppola bloodline, along with brother Jason — decided to put the band on hatius following the 2010 release of “Eureka,” following a string of hits, including “I’m Shakin’’” and “Where Did Your Heart Go Missing.”

“I wasn’t feeling inspired or excited. I knew I needed to take a break,” Schwartzman says. “[For “Washed Away”], I started getting super fired up again about the idea of touring and putting the new album out. The music really paved the way, and that’s how it should be. Rooney is about songs and lyrics and music, not about that other stuff.”

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By “other stuff” he means a meticulously calculated returned. “I didn’t put it in the calendar, and say, ‘Now is the time that Rooney will return,” he adds. Schwartzman took a break from the “Rooney project” to pursue other interests, including a musician-aiding app, 22, solo projects and his directorial debut film, “Dreamland.” Despite Coppola blood pumping through his veins (he scored cousin Gia's "Palo Alto" in 2013), Schwartzman has always been adamant in identifying himself as a musician first, but he says trading industries has allowed him to see music from a new light.

“["Dreamland"] is my first time directing something and it’s a new world,” he says, “I find it really interesting because there’s an innocence when you start something without knowing it really well. At the end of the day, there’s synergy and parallels in film and music.”

Now a full-length Rooney return, “Washed Away,” due out May 6, and a subsequent tour are underway, kicking off just as Schwartzman finishes promoting his "Dreamland" at the Tribeca Film Festival. The indie dramedy caused the singer-songwriter to look at the layers of his album with the same meticulous detail a film requires.

“Music is layers of arrangements, but a movie is incredible because you’re mixing the sound effects, like birds tweeting and crickets chirping. And then you place the score, and then the dialogue and when it should get louder or softer,” Schwartzman explains. “Then there’s the way it looks. Do you boost the yellows? Or the red? Is it too dark or under-exposed? There are all of these wonderful things that are so layered [in a movie]. It’s an album times so many, because you have to be aware of many many things. It made me go back to my album and say, ‘OK, what are the layers to the music video and the album and the campaign?’ and ‘How do we dial it in and make sure everything is where we want it to be?’"

“Washed Away” has two singles on the market now: “My Heart Beats 4 U” and “Why." Both evoke similar tones of Rooney’s 2003 self-titled release, with a hint of gritty maturity. The evolution, Schwartzman says, was an organic one, following nearly a decade of touring with Rooney's signature sound.

"Bands don’t listen to own records over and over again," he explains. "Usually you listen to it to death when you're making it, and then you need to get away from it. Sometimes I listen to the songs [from previous albums] to relearn them, but I'm always surprised because I remember I was 19 or 20 when I recorded them. I think those songs hit people at the right time, but I wasn't referencing them to say, 'This is what Rooney is and what we should sound like.' I know Rooney by our live shows, so I started recording songs that were more guitar driven and still melodic."

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And speaking of blasts from the past: Even if you're not a fan of Rooney, you might recognize Schwartzman as the teenage hearthtrob that stole Mia Thermopolis's (Anne Hathaway) heart in 2001's "The Princess Diaries" — a reference, the now 33-year-old has grown to accept.

"I still have the same haircut," he laughs when asked if he still gets recognized from the role. "I've gone in and out of owning it and pushing it away. I always felt like I wanted people to enjoy my music and not think of me as something else. But now I appreciate that experience and feel lucky to have been part of a movie people still find relevant today."

If you go:


Boston
May 18 at 7 p.m.
Middle East - Downstairs
472-480 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
$15, mideastoffers.com

Philadelphia
May 19 at 7 p.m.
The Foundry at the Fillmore
1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia
$16, thefillmorephilly.com/foundry

New York
May 20 at 7 p.m.
Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 North 6th Street, Brooklyn
$16, musichallofwilliamsburg.com

 
 
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