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.