Pretty good going
With a new album on the stocks and Australia and Asia to break, Lynette Alcock asks Rooster bassist Ben Smyth if there’s real substance behind the boyish good looks.
When Ben Smyth was given a five-string bass guitar as an 11-year-old it changed his life.
He may not have realised it at the time, but seven years later auditioning for a new up-and-coming rock band and the young musician was thankful for the big sound he could produce on his faithful bass.
Two years into a musical career and a successful album later Ben recalls with fondness the day he auditioned for Rooster.
“I had just finished my A-levels,” explains Ben. “I had been thinking about going to college, but deep down I wanted to find a band that were as serious about music as I was. Then I saw an advert for a bass player in the NME.
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“As soon as I met the others we played together and they showed me the songs they had written. We really connected. They were talking about all these bands I was into and after a while it was just clear how well we were getting on. The rest, as they say, is history.
“In some ways I can't believe it was two years ago, it feels like 20 years, but I guess we have done a lot. Last year was a big year for us, that's when everything kicked off.”
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Ben was soon sworn in as the fourth member of Rooster alongside Luke Potashnick and Nick Atkinson who had been friends at school and drummer David Neale who was spotted by Luke and Nick playing in Cornwall.
Nick had picked up on the five-string straight away, but for Ben it was more by luck than judgement that that was the guitar he played.
At 11, his father, a guitar player himself, arranged for Ben to have lessons with a family friend.
“My dad's friend Anthony gave me a bass when he was teaching me,” says Ben. “It just happens it was a five-string and nine years later I still have it.
“I'm a big Jimi Hendrix fan, I like the range of his music, so to me playing a five-string just makes sense. It just has more possibilities when it comes to experimenting.”
Unlike most kids their age, and in fact many of their fans, the boys in Roster were bought up on a healthy diet of bluesy rock and roll.
Legends like Cream, Led Zepplin, Free and the Rolling Stones shaped the youngsters' tastes and left them hungry to make music of their own.
It is these influences, and, more, recently bands like Guns and Roses and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, that are prevalent on their debut album, Come Get Some which entered the UK album chart at number 7 in October last year.
“We are so pleased with the first album,” says Ben enthusiastically. “With the range of material on there, there is something for everyone.
“Because we sit in a funny place being a pop act that plays rock we get a huge range of fans from teenage girls to 50-year-olds in their Rolling Stones jackets. It's kind of exciting.”
Now, inbetween touring the UK, Japan, Asia and Australia, Roster are busy writing material for their next album.
“It's early days,” says Ben. “The stuff we are writing in some ways is pretty similar to Come Get Some, but a lot of those songs were written before I joined. This time we can really experiment together so it wouldn't surprise me if it came out slightly different.”
Talking to the 20-year-old it is clear that being in Rooster is a dream come true, one so new sometimes you hear him stop himself and wonder why he is talking with such authority about this band he is in, then just as quickly he carries on.
“It has been unbelievable for all of us,” he tells me. “We are all experiencing this for the first time.
“In one way it feels quite natural being in the band, I have always wanted to play music so I feel confident about it.
“But I do get moments when I think this is a huge experience which could easily not have happened.
“There are a lot of good musicians who never get spotted,” he says.
Fortunately for Rooster, good looks speak volumes when it comes to getting noticed.
But with a new album in the pipeline and Australia and Asia to break before the year is out it looks like Rooster are set to keep rocking for a while yet.
t Rooster play the UEA, Norwich, tonight. Tickets – returns only. Box office: 01603 508050.