Chicago’s six-piece, jumpsuit-clad band ROOKIE leans into the past and is proud of it, creating their own modern take on classic rock staples with a simplistic, unbothered approach. Formed in the summer of 2017 after each member put aside their individual projects and came together, they’ve played their killer tracks at just about every venue in the city in the years since. Since releasing their debut album ROOKIE with local label Bloodshot Records back in March, they’ve gone right back to working on their sophomore album, with hopes of a release this winter. 

I had the chance to talk with guitarist Chris Devlin of ROOKIE about their debut album, the importance of the DIY scene to new artists, and saying goodbye to their matching jumpsuits. 

[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]

How are you guys holding up through lockdown?

We’re doing alright. I mean, we practice in the garage. It’s officially cold as of today, but we’re doing alright. We’re writing, we’re working on a new record, and we got a couple gigs coming up. We’re going to do one of the drive-in shows at the Adler Planetarium.

You all just released your debut album last March — what’s the timeline looking like for a second project happening so soon?

Yeah, I’m not sure. I would have thought maybe we would turn one in, like December or something, but I can’t say. That was a guess to begin with, and who knows what will happen.

Speaking of your debut album, what was it like releasing it in the middle of a tour and the onset of a pandemic?

Unbelievable. Everything was already obviously ready to go — these things take a couple months to get ready. When this hit, it was like well, people have something to listen to now, which is nice, but hopefully we can get the word out still. Which, I don’t think we really could to our full potential, but you know, there’s a lot of other good things that happened instead you know; we wrote a lot and got ready for the next day.

How did the matching jumpsuits become ROOKIE’s thing?

I joined the band later, so I can’t speak to how that started, I think it was kind of a tilt of the hat to you know, laborers around the world, but also just kind of a cop out from having to worry about what to wear on stage. But, I think that that phase might be behind us. Maybe I’m breaking the news now.

So when you joined, did you get a jumpsuit to match?

Yeah, I had to stop and pick one out, and I think I’m the only one that has one that actually fits. Everyone else is wearing a clown suit.

How did the DIY scene influence your sound?

I still like the DIY shows. I mean, it’s really the only place in Chicago when you’re starting that you can listen to people and be listened to. And if you’re not around other artists and stuff, I mean, where are you going to come from? I feel really, really strongly that that should be something that’s here forever. The mainstream is never going to give us anything that isn’t the same, you know — not rock and roll, rock and roll already came and went as far as they’re concerned. So any other genre besides pop, you’re gonna have to look to the basements, or the underground, or whatever you want to call it. 

What’s next for ROOKIE?

Hopefully, we can get into a studio and record the songs you’ve been working on and work with the label to figure something out that can be released. I hope that we can get some more music out so people have something to listen to, something to hold on to, you know. That’s the big goal. That’s the big ROOKIE goal: stick together and make some music.We’re simple guys.