Inspired by vintage pop music -- particularly melody-minded bands like the Beach Boys, ELO, and Superdrag -- Rooney held their earliest practices in a bandmember's garage in 2000. From the start, though, the group enjoyed connections that most garage bands lack: frontman Robert Carmine was the younger brother of actor/ex-Phantom Planet drummer Jason Schwartzman (not to mention the son of actress Talia Shire, cousin of Nicolas Cage, and nephew of Francis Ford Coppola), and both he and drummer Ned Brower had built modest acting careers (Brower briefly starred opposite Katie Holmes in Dawson's Creek, while Schwartzman landed roles in The Princess Diaries and The Virgin Suicides). The connections paid off, and Rooney -- whose lineup also included guitarist Taylor Locke, bassist Matt Winter, and keyboardist Louie Stephens -- made their live debut opening for Phantom Planet in 2002. Before the year was up, the L.A. natives had signed a major-label deal with Geffen/Interscope.
Since Rooney's demo material had been instrumental in landing them a record deal, the same producer who recorded those demos, Keith Forsey, was enlisted to work on the group's full-length debut. The result was a sunny, self-titled album that appeared in 2003, and sales spiked considerably after the band appeared on The O.C. (the first in a long line of bands to do so) in 2004. Later that year, the concert DVD Spit and Sweat was released, highlighting the group's transformation from teenage musicians into a road-seasoned outfit. Rooney began recording a second album later that year with producer Tony Hoffer, but the album -- tentatively titled The Kids After Sunset -- was eventually scrapped, despite several songs being posted on the band's MySpace page in 2005. More tracks from those sessions leaked onto the Internet and were dubbed The Lost Album. The band attempted to record its sophomore album again in fall 2005, this time with Howard Benson in the producer's seat. The record was slated for a 2006 release but was also scrapped due to the band and label's inability to agree on a track list.
In 2006, Rooney toured with Kelly Clarkson and returned to the studio with producer John Fields for a third -- and successful -- attempt at their second album. Calling the World was released in summer 2007 and debuted on the Billboard charts at number 42, but the band's relationship with Geffen Records had suffered too much damage during the recording process, and Rooney left the label's roster in 2009. Later that year, the guys celebrated their independent status by self-releasing an EP, Wild One, and launching a brief tour. They didn't remain independent for long, though, eventually partnering with Warner Bros. for the release of their third full-length album, Eureka, in June 2010. Although bassist Matt Winter played on the record, he left the band's lineup several months before its release, with Brandon Schwartzel climbing aboard in his place. ~ Andrew Leahey & Heather Phares