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Robert Schwartzman Talks Funky New Starsystem Project, Status of Rooney + More

Zoey Grossman

For the last couple of years, Robert Schwartzman’s band Rooney has been eerily silent, leaving the singer and guitarist (and actor) free to noodle around in his studio. First came a solo album, ‘Double Capricorn,’ and today (Oct. 8), under the name Starsystem, Schwartzman returns with the six-song EP ‘Pleasure District.’

The 30-year-old Los Angeles native certainly knows a thing or two about stars. Director Francis Ford Coppola is his uncle, musician/actor Jason Schwartzman is his elder brother, actress Talia Shire (‘The Godfather,’ ‘Rocky’) is his mother and producer Jack Schwartzman is his dad. And then there are his cousins Nick Cage and Roman Coppola. In addition to fronting Rooney, Robert has dabbled in acting, and after landing a role in cousin Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Virgin Suicides,’ he starred in Disney’s ‘The Princess Diaries.’

Checking in with Diffuser.fm from his home in L.A., Robert chatted about the world of music and movies and his entrepreneurial project 22. He also discussed the future of Rooney and the musical left turn he took with Starsystem, a synthy dance-pop project whose funky single ‘Our Love’ wouldn’t sound out of place pumping under a disco mirror-ball.

You’ve gone from Rooney’s pop hooks to Starsystem’s funk grooves. Where did that come from?

I think that comes more from the instruments that I started out using than any deliberate plan. When I’m writing songs for Rooney, I’m thinking in different terms, of a band with two guitars. I have a studio here in L.A., and I can go in and play around with different things. I really like soft synthesizer sounds, but I wasn’t thinking of any musical style in particular.

Is Rooney over?

No, I wouldn’t say that. We are taking a break, I suppose. Whenever people send me messages, they always ask me what is Rooney doing. It seems a lot of people really care. When Rooney formed, we were all in high school. It was just a bunch of kids who wanted to make music. We didn’t think about having a career or anything, which is the way it should be. That we got signed to Interscope/Geffen Records was just amazing. But so much has changed in music since the last decade. Music itself has changed, and things have changed in the way we consume music. We were signed in 2000, and that was 13 years ago. If you think about how much music changed from, say, 1970 to 1983, it’s amazing. I want to look at new opportunities; I want to keep things fresh.

The ‘Our Love’ video has some nifty break-dancers; this is definitely a dance song. How about an alternative video with you recreating John Travolta’s role in ‘Saturday Night Fever’? Would you be up for doing some Travolta dance moves?

That kind of video would take a major label budget, but I could see myself doing that… When I was creating the song, I imagined break-dancers; that’s what I had in my head. I felt like the song had a retro futuristic feel to it, and the found footage we used fit it perfectly.

Have you done any acting lately?

Um, have I done any acting lately? Let’s see. Yes, I have, I’ve done a couple of shorts … I have some projects coming up in the new year that I’m not going to talk about until that’s final. However, I’m still involved in music and film. It’s what I love to do.

I hear you’re turning businessman too, and you’ve developed a new app, what is it?

I’m developing it with two friends. It’s called 22, and it’s free, which is how we like these things to be, isn’t it? It’s really a way for indie bands to connect with each other and with their fans. It’s social media but more direct. I want to get the word out about it and have bands sign up.

Here’s a final and somewhat contrived question: You grew up in a showbiz family, so you are something of a product of a star system. Was that anything to do with this project’s name?

Well, yes, there is some of that in the name, too. The star system was how early Hollywood worked. The studios signed the actors and they only made films for them, and it was called the star system. I am really interested in old Hollywood and what LA was like back then.

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