NJ-based instrumentalist Rob Romano (fka Professor Caveman) unveils his latest musical voyage under the name Chico Romano. The peachy laid-back single, "Who Said", acts as the first glimpse into his upcoming project Vol. 5 which releases on Oct. 7th, later this year.
Branching out from his previous project, Professor Caveman, Rob Romano is tapping into a new garden with Chico Romano. A garden where elements of Motown, bedroom pop, and tropicalia mix up the perfect mulch for some tasty tunes to blossom. Not to get too sappy, but Chico's first two singles "Who Said" and "All My Love" take the listener through a cosmic tunnel of love. Rowing downstream, it probably leads to some DIY basement show where the music hits just right.
With production credits from the likes of Carlos Hernandez (Carlos Truly, ARTHUR.), Vol. 5 is full of intricate stylings and sonic textures that really shine a light onto Romano's musical versatility. It's smooth listening for those who like to groove. Take a load off, let your ears peak at these singles and stay tuned for the full EP later this fall.
We had the chance to catch up with Rob Romano about his project via email. Here's what he had to say...
Q: How’d you get involved with music?
A: Tough question! I don’t know if you want the FULL history, but I’ll try to keep it short. Elementary school Rob wanted to be a rapper. 50 Cent, NOW 4, whatever hip hop was on MTV, I wanted to be that. I got in trouble with my friend’s parents because I wrote these crazy vulgar diss raps for my friends to battle each other. It was really funny, ghostwrote both of their parts.
Around age 12, I started playing bass, my older brother had exposed me to the whole mythology of classic rock, in addition to pop punk, ska, and whatever else was cool in 2007. When I got to high school, I started my own band, mostly out of necessity. Everyone wants to be in a band, but no one wants to lead it. So I naturally assumed that role and started writing songs, some of which made it to the first Caveman EP (grape.) 5 years later. In my opinion, that’s when my pursuit of music-making REALLY started.
Q: What’s the local scene like in NJ?
A: The local scene in NJ is like—- well like any place there’s many little pockets of scenes. The scene to me personally, is New Brunswick, NJ because that’s where I really got the most involved. There’s also the “down the shore” Asbury Park scene, Hub city hardcore punk scene, Jersey City/Newark Hip-hop scenes, house shows around Rowan, the Meatlocker in Montclair, there’s really a lot of different stuff happening here. Even more places that I haven’t mentioned. And all these little pockets of scenes have a lot of crossover. In my humble opinion, New Jersey is one of the best states for music whether it’s DIY or on a big stage.
Q: You’ve been releasing EPs under the name Professor Caveman since 2014, how was that experience? Was it more of a bedroom recording project or did you intend to play live too?
A: Professor Caveman has been a rollercoaster of love and friendship and I am extremely grateful for all of the mates who have been a part of it. Professor Caveman started because Louis [Ardine], Mike [Madden Jr.] and I really wanted to play live shows in New Brunswick, where we were going to school. But as any aspiring band knows, you need some demos if you want people to book you. We didn’t have any real demos for some time haha, we would make shitty webcam videos of our rehearsals. I used to BEG people to book us and actually managed to get on a couple of shows with no real demo.
Once we played our first house show in New Brunswick, we really won over some people with our rawness, our humor, and our energy. So in my eyes, the band has always been more of a live thing. We won free studio time too; those first two EPs were completely free. I’d say the “bedroom” part came more after the fact, mostly in order to streamline the writing process. I would make my own songs on my Portastudio, or Louis would on his, and we would share them and flesh them out more from there. We didn’t like, set out to be bedroom pop haha.
Q: Why the current shift to Chico Romano?
A: Haha this is a bit loaded for me to answer, it might be long but I’ll try my best. So eventually the original members, Louis and Mike, quit the band.
“Professor Caveman” was a name that their friend, Tall Evan, came up with. We just went with it because we couldn’t think of a better name. After they left the band I stuck with the name, because we were building a lot of hype at that time and I wasn’t just gonna change it!
Eventually though, it started to become more apparent that this was the “Rob Romano band” in the sense that I was the face of the band, the frontman, songwriter, visual artist, etc. And with my crazy long hair and all that, people started to think that Professor Caveman was ME specifically. It’s kind of like a nickname that you don’t ask for but it’s too late and people start introducing you as that. I don’t really like the imagery of the word “caveman”, and I didn’t even come up with the name, but I never got rid of it because I felt it was too late.
But it’s not too late. I’ve come to accept that Professor Caveman might just be a stepping stone into something bigger and better. I used that whole experience to hone my craft both in performance and in the studio. With Chico Romano I wanna re-spark that new band feeling, to smell that new band smell. And I kind of like it when people call me Chico. That was inspired by a long lineage of Latino jazz musicians, but also by the skater Chico Brenes.
Q: How was the recording process for Vol. 5? Did collaboration come into play?
A: The process for “Vol. 5” involved a lot of experimentation and collaboration. A lot of the experimenting was in working at different studios, with different producers, trying to figure out what process yields results that not only sound the best, but feel the most “like me”. I think it’s very easy to get “married to the demo” and I wanted to work with people who could not just recreate the energy of my tape demos, but amplify it.
All of these songs have been written and played out for at least 2 years. “Ur My Best Friend” was recorded on a Tascam 388 at my Moms house in Cranford NJ. “One Way Street” was written in a drunken escapade with ARTHUR (Joy Again) in his West Philly bedroom. “Who Said” and “Wasted Wizard” with Carlos (Carlos Truly) Hernandez who, like ARTHUR, is one of my musical heroes.
It was really fun to work with both of them and have them filter my tunes thru their respective lenses. “Waterfall” and “Soul Surfin” were tracked at Jon Evers’s mountainside abode in Lake Hopatcong, NJ. He's one of my best friends and plays keys with Chico. He is very patient and an amazing producer and like, I just can’t say enough about him. And shout out to my buddy Augusto Sanchez who produced “Professor Caveman Vol.3”, he also returned to mix some tracks on this new EP.
Q: You’ve toured parts of the East Coast in the past, do you plan to take your new music on the road?
A: I’m gonna be honest, Vol. 5 probably won’t be toured too heavily. Mostly because I am in the process of already starting my new record, which will be the Chico Romano LP. So that’s gonna take a lot of time and energy and I’m gonna put more of my chips into that than touring. Haha, I’m sorry folks, I really want to go to the West coast and even tour back to Chicago like we did a few years back. We will do some small East coast runs probably, but no big tour plans yet until we drop that album!
Q: After releasing Vol. 5, what’re you looking forward to?
A: Getting right back in the studio and banging out that album. In my mind, Chico Romano Vol. 5 is like a last goodbye to Professor Caveman. I’m really excited to explore Chico more as its own aesthetic. I’m still figuring it out and experimenting a lot. I think deep down I can be a bit of a people pleaser. I’ve felt this way sometimes with Professor Caveman tunes I would write. Other people would like them, but I didn’t like them. This time, I want to unabashedly make the kind of music that I would like to listen to. Trying to craft something that gracefully dances between abstract and listenable. Something that’s not afraid to take chances.