Though a guitarist by trade, when the then-unnamed South Florida punk band Lose the Rookie held their first practice in the latter half of 1998, Paul Chase sat behind a drum kit doing his best to keep up. By all accounts, he was dreadfully bad. Joined by guitarist Tim Rohde, singer Julio Pena (the self-professed handsomest member of the group), and bassist Bryan Goldsmith, the quartet worked their way through a makeshift set consisting of numbers inspired by the Impossibles, Weezer, and a hodgepodge of other influences.
"We all came from such diverse musical backgrounds," says Rohde. "There were a few common influences, and as far as writing went, there was no single person. We all kind of brought something to the table."
It was at a table at TGI Fridays in The Falls where the four men in their early 20s decided on their name -- one that Rohde believes aptly described their attitude at the time -- by throwing every idea they could think of into a hat. They agreed to accept whatever title fate saw fit to grace them with, however that plan deteriorated not long after being set into motion.
"We sat there for a few hours and beers -- shit, even the waiter picked out a few names," recalls Pena. "After the failed process, I think the winner was 'Nevernot,' but we didn't all dig it. So Paul busted out, 'Hey, how about Lose the Rookie?' meaning, 'get rid of the new guy.' We all liked the sound of it and went with it."
"Our name could have easily been something like Goldfish Grenade," says Chase.
With a great name and a determined mindset, the band elected then to solve their drummer problem, recruiting their friend Jim Miller, a talented percussionist. This allowed Chase to move back to his natural instrument. From there, they began putting together a legitimate set list so they could start playing shows, and their efforts resulted in the penning of such favorites as "Blank Sleeve," Milton," "V (The Fuck You Song)," and "Physics," which was short for "The Laws of Physics Don't Apply in Julio's Bathroom." By the time they were done they'd have written close to 20 songs.
"There was quite an evolution in songwriting from beginning to end," says Miller, whose inclusion prompted a shift in style for the band. "In the beginning, it was fun but not musically interesting to me. Towards the end, I was really starting to enjoy and be proud of what we were doing."
Everyone in Lose the Rookie booked shows, though the consensus is that Rohde did more than his share of the workload when it came to getting gigs. They played a majority of the local venues, from Brandt's Break Billiards, The Alley, Fantasyland, Club Q, The Hungry Sailor and Kaffe Krystal to Coral Gables Pub, Heaven's Gate, The Polish-American Club, Fort Lauderdale Skate Park, PS14, and Fat Kats. Undoubtedly, their two most cherished venues, however, were Club 5922, where they ran a local punk night with now-defunct SoFla Records honcho Brian "Skunk" Tait, and Churchill's Pub, which remains South Florida's enduring local music lighthouse well into its third decade.
"[At 5922], we had the freedom to not only create the shows but to play with any band of our choosing that came through town," says Rohde. "It was a shithole by all means, but it was our shithole."
"As any local band in Miami will tell you, [Churchill's] has that love/hate relationship with bands," Pena adds. "You always had about a fifty-fifty chance of getting robbed, getting your gear stolen or getting your car broken into. You can always find a local crackhead out in the lot and give him a few bucks to watch your car, but it's never a guarantee. This may be a bold statement, but it's almost like Miami's CBGB."
Lose the Rookie certainly offered their share of standard merch fare (shirts, stickers, buttons, etc.) -- all of which they gave out for free -- but they also used the oft-salable self-promotional tool to convey the band's particular brand of humor; They didn't just print stickers with the band's name on them and leave it at that -- they'd make it weird.
"We did make some stickers, the oddest one probably being the urinary analgesic box stickers, for urinary tract infections," says Miller. "The illustration of a doctor on the box was just too good not to use. Why we had the box to begin with is another story."
And then there were the pencils.
"I was flipping through this magazine for one of those teacher supply companies that my mom had at her house when I noticed that you could buy normal #2 pencils with customized messages stamped into them," explains Chase. "It reminded me of the kind of thing that you got at the dentist as a kid for being 'brave.' I ordered maybe 500 pencils that said, 'Lose the Rookie loves you' and another 500 that said 'Lose the Rookie hates you.' We tried to sell them for a dollar each at first and then quickly -- or perhaps drunkenly -- we decided it would be more fun to throw them into the crowd as we were playing."
Kicking off a mini-tour from Churchill's with a dead sick Goldsmith upchucking everywhere but inside the vehicle, the band made their way through the lower half of Florida with fellow local punkers Corky (later renamed the Getback) and the Knockouts (who morphed into Stay Hitt), going northward as far as Gainesville. Like a great majority of bands to do so, they had no idea what to expect. One stop on the west side of the state stands out particularly for Chase.
"One of our friends had family that had moved there and he had some sort of connection at the one bar in town that had a stage," he remembers. "I think we all drove into that town expecting to play some bingo hall with retirees telling us to shut up. That bar got so packed with the young and old, all of them dancing with faces gleaming as we played. In my mind, it was one of the best shows we played."
Although they constantly produced CDs to dole out at shows -- recorded either at their home studio, Miami Dade College, South Beach Studios or The Dungeon -- the band never had any official releases. Instead, they often just uploaded their newest offering to their website for fans, friends and family to download.
"I think, in the sense of technology, we were rather forward-thinking and chose to distribute content in a more fluid manner than traditional bands," opines Rohde.
Lose the Rookie played their last show on Saturday, March 22, 2008, at PS14, sharing the stage with the Getback, Stay Hitt, and Mad Martigan. Time restraints had taken their toll on the group, and Pena's departure for Clermont, FL, to start a family served as the final deciding factor in their breakup. Like always, they went out emphatically.
"It was a very emotional show for me because it would be the last time I would be on stage with my brothers -- my best buds -- and playing for all our friends and fans," Pena laments. "I remember before we ended the set, I said goodbye with a little speech and a toast to everyone with a bottle of Smirnoff I snuck in using Jeff Tanner's army bag. I got all teary-eyed. As usual, we ended the set with 'V' -- the 'Fuck You' song -- and it was the loudest I ever screamed it while performing, but it was matched by everyone in the crowd, so that was pretty fucking rad."
Since then, they've all moved on in their lives. Tim Rohde, who serendipitously met his wife Julia at a Lose the Rookie show, currently works in IT. He still regularly spends time with his former band mates, all of with whom he remains close, and he looks back through unfiltered lenses on his time playing music with them.
"The scene was so strong and supportive back then," he says. "We really did have some faithful fans, which I am grateful for. We didn't take ourselves too seriously, and I think people picked up on that and wanted in on the fun. We never had any delusions of grandeur -- we just wanted to have a good time with our friends."
By the time the band broke up, Paul Chase had settled into an office position flipping houses before the bubble popped. We all know how that went. He now works a standard nine-to-five job, indulging in musical excursions periodically. He reminisces almost romantically about the time he regularly spent playing.
"There is, at times, a point that you look at the crowd and they are all staring at you, almost holding you up with their eyes, and then you look over at your band mates and they're all smiling and having a blast," he says. "The feeling is one of the best I have felt in my life. I'm not saying you get that feeling every time, but you will get that feeling. Anyone that has been in a band will tell you the same. I remember that we played some all-ages show and a little kid came up to me later and asked me for my guitar pick. That was so cool."
Bryan Goldsmith was well on his way towards becoming an emergency professional by the time the band played their farewell show, and he now works as a firefighter and paramedic for the City of Miami Fire Rescue. He is happily married and has a son who will turn two in February.
"[After Lose the Rookie] I kind of fell out of it all, to be honest -- sold the big amps" he offers. "[The] last show I went to was a Hot Water Music show about two -- shit, maybe even three -- years ago in Orlando. I kind of miss that shit."
Of all the members of Lose the Rookie, Jim Miller has undeniably been the most musically productive since their disbandment. He transitioned almost seamlessly into a steady gig as the rhythmic backbone of Vidavox, a primarily instrumental South Florida group who operated during the mid-2000s. Their breakup resulted in a five year hiatus for Miller, after which he joined Arsenal 88, a local supergroup of sorts. He played with them for two years until they split up as well. Miller now is working concurrently on two projects: Sumo, with former Milkshed members Amado Ventura and Christian Salazar (with whom he also played in Vidavox), and Sky Demon, with Klaus Ketelhorn (formerly of the Agency). Despite all this activity, he still feels generally dislocated from the current South Florida music scene.
"Part of it is due to age and partly it's because I don't get out as much as I'd like," he says. "Things changed quite a bit over the last 10 years. The hipster revolution... Music as a whole has shifted both for good and bad, but I'd be surprised if there's anything similar to what [Lose the Rookie] had then."
After a short break from songwriting following his move to Central Florida to raise his daughter, Roseann Victoria, Julio Pena started a new band called Down by Dawn. He also began writing his memoirs, which he promises will be filled with sex, drugs, rock n' roll, drama, comedy, and relationships.
"This band was a great part of my life and I wouldn't change a damn thing about it; no regrets whatsoever," he says. "To all the bands that let us make some noise with you, the promoters, bartenders, newspapers, friends and family, I will cherish the Lose the Rookie years forever in my heart!"
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