“No need to be more than we are”: Giant Rooks Delve into ‘How Have You Been?’ and How the Challenges Proved Worthwhile

Giant Rooks © Timothy Schaumburg
Giant Rooks © Timothy Schaumburg
Fred Rabe and Finn Schwieters of German indie rock band Giant Rooks discuss connection through live performance, the importance of sticking to their guns, and the thrilling inception of their sonically charged, chart-topping sophomore album ‘How Have You Been?’
Stream: ‘How Have You Been?’ – Giant Rooks




All these numbers online don’t really mean much in the end, but to see someone singing or dancing along to a song and being excited about seeing our band live is the greatest gift one could give to a band or artist.

Perhaps one of the most common, yet largely unaddressed, dilemmas in the creation of art is finding the balance between tradition and innovation.

This was certainly a challenge faced by Frederik Rabe, Finn Schwieters, Luca Gottner, Finn Thomas, and Jonathan Wischniowski of Germany’s Giant Rooks in the creation of their sophomore album – something that is arguably one of the highest-stakes moments of a musician’s career. Released February 2, 2024 via Mercury/Republic Records, Giant Rooks’ second full-length effort How Have You Been? sees the quintet fully leaning into their knack for creating high-energy earworms, yet maintaining a sense of intimacy and realism in its exploration of social and personal themes.

How Have You Been? - Giant Rooks
How Have You Been? – Giant Rooks

Through fourteen tracks, over the course of three years, Giant Rooks navigate an eclectic range of themes, from freedom through love and living in the moment, to existential crises and instant gratification in the digital age – all of which amalgamate to form their most confident body of work yet. With equally diverse sonic influences from rock ‘n’ roll riffs to hip-hop style beats, it comes as no surprise (to us, at least) that How Have You Been? debuted in the global Top 10 on Spotify and hit #1 on the German charts.

The wheel was not exactly reinvented in terms of sound, and Rabe and Schwieters wholeheartedly embrace the fact that it wasn’t. “We are evolving very naturally,” Rabe shares. “We are in our 20s, and we evolve all the time, so there’s no need to change now.” The frontman and guitarist touch on their maturation from their first album to now, rejecting the notion that new art must always have an element of surprise.

When your debut is met with as much praise and acclaim as Giant Rooks’ was, it can feel like riding off the initial success is an artistic copout. “After the release of ROOKERY, we thought that we had to do everything differently,” says Rabe. “We got lost in that process, I would say.”

It was through trial, error, and error again that the band realized that forcing themselves to break the mold was ultimately more inauthentic and counterproductive than just channeling the present – in the end, it was simplicity, unrestraint, and instinct that allowed Giant Rooks to enhance their group chemistry and find their creative flow.

Giant Rooks © Timothy Schaumburg
Giant Rooks © Timothy Schaumburg



In the weirdest way, we realized that we don’t have to do anything different, and we just continued what we started.

Through all the musical experimentation, what remained consistent was their grace, gratitude, and humanity.

Rabe and Schwieters reveal that true success lies not in charts and numbers, but through connection with an audience and leaving an impact with their art. “It was something we maybe dreamed about, but we could’ve never thought that it would happen to us,” Schwieters takes a moment to reflect. “It’s the most beautiful thing. It’s very, very unreal.”

Ahead of taking the stage in Stuttgart, the cousin duo of Giant Rooks, Fred Rabe and Finn Schwieters, joined us in conversation from halfway across the world, proving the staggering successes of How Have You Been? to be beyond well-earned. Sitting down to speak their minds on social media, adapting songs for live performance, and trusting their gut, Giant Rooks tell Atwood Magazine how they’ve been and what makes a music career the greatest gift of all.

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:: stream/purchase How Have You Been? here ::
:: connect with Giant Rooks here ::
Stream: “Somebody Like You” – Giant Rooks



A CONVERSATION WITH GIANT ROOKS

How Have You Been? - Giant Rooks

Atwood Magazine: AS OF SPEAKING TODAY, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN? HAS HIT #1 IN GERMANY AND DEBUTED TOP 10 GLOBALLY ON SPOTIFY! CONGRATULATIONS, THAT’S LITERALLY HUGE! HOW ARE YOU GUYS FEELING?

Finn Schwieters: I’m feeling great! We’ve been working on this album for three years, so to have it out in the world and to receive that kind of recognition for it is just incredible. We just started the tour here in Germany, and the shows have been going great. It feels like the best tour we’ve ever played because it’s so much fun to perform all these new songs and seeing the audience reacting to the music and being moved by all the songs. It’s incredible.

Fred Rabe: We feel relaxed for the first time in months.

WHAT CAUSED THE STRESS IN PREVIOUS MONTHS THEN?

Fred Rabe: The whole pre-production for the live set was very exhausting and challenging. To rehearse all the songs from the new album not knowing if people were going to like it or hate it. That was kind of exhausting and a bit stressful. We were very glad that we found a way and that we’re finally on tour now.

Giant Rooks © Timothy Schaumburg
Giant Rooks © Timothy Schaumburg



YOU STARTED TOUR JUST LAST MONTH IF I’M NOT MISTAKEN, SO HOW HAS PROMOTING THIS ALBUM LIVE BEEN?

Finn Schwieters: The main difference between this and previous tours is that we have so many songs now to pick for the setlist, which is incredible. For the first tours, as well as the last one we did, we only had one album out. The setlist was kind of limited. It was kind of obvious what to play. Now, it’s much less obvious and much more versatile. We try to play a differnet setlist each night, which we’ve never done before, because there’s so many songs to pick from! It makes it much more fun for us as well as the audience because it’s just less predictable!

HAVE THE AUDIENCES CHANGED AT ALL?

Fred Rabe: I would say they’re still the same.

Finn Schwieters: They kind of stayed the same. They got bigger!

Fred Rabe: It got much bigger! This is by far our biggest tour we’ve ever played, so it’s very, very exciting.



YOU GUYS WROTE THAT “THIS HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING TIME FOR OUR BAND SO FAR,” BUT I THINK CHALLENGING MOMENTS IN LIFE ARE USUALLY THE MOST REWARDING. WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT MAKING THIS RECORD FOR YOU?

Fred Rabe: I feel like the hardest part was probably to figure out what we want, especially what we don’t want, and to redefine our taste in music and songwriting. The moment we kind of figured out what we want was definitely a great release. It felt very, very relieving. There was a moment where we were in the rehearsal space, and we all said, “We’re going to shut down every computer and every phone.” There were just five people in the room with five instruments, and we just jammed around trying to make band music. It’s obvious, because we are a band and we should do band music, but it was a very challenging time. After the release of ROOKERY, we thought that we had to do everything differently. We got lost in that process, I would say. In the weirdest way, we realized that we don’t have to do anything different, and we just continued what we started.

Finn Schwieters: We had this realization that we just have to stay true to ourselves, and that’s enough. No need to be more than we are!

Fred Rabe: It’s so obvious, but we just got lost in overthinking.

Giant Rooks © Lucio Vignolo
Giant Rooks © Lucio Vignolo



We thought that we had to do everything differently. We got lost in that process… In the weirdest way, we realized that we don’t have to do anything different, and we just continued what we started.

ON THAT NOTE, IN ANOTHER INTERVIEW YOU DID FOR ‘ROOKERY,’ ONE OF YOU DID SAY THAT THE GOAL IS TO ALWAYS DO THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT PEOPLE EXPECT OF YOU AS A BAND. DID YOU GO INTO THIS ALBUM WITH THAT MINDSET?

Fred Rabe: Yes. I’m not sure if it’s that different compared to ROOKERY. We definitely tried new things out. What I don’t like is when bands do the same album every other year. We didn’t want to copy ourselves and warm everything up again. There was definitely some kind of progress, I would say. It’s really hard to say what we would change, but I feel like we try to write music that is easy to adapt on a stage for live show. We had this realization when we wrote ROOKERY. We tried to bring it in the rehearsal space for the live shows, and we were like, “Oh, that song is really difficult to play live.” We definitely wanted to change that, so we were like, “Okay, let’s write music that is obvious live music.” I would say that was the goal.

Finn Schwieters: I also think that we got more self confident in what we do in our art, how we write songs, and our producer. That resulted in an album that’s a little more brave than the first one.

I WANTED TO TALK ABOUT “PINK SKIES,” SINCE IT ENTERED THE TOP 50! YOU GUYS DESCRIBED IT AS A “CALIFORNIA FEVER DREAM OF A LOVE STORY,” SO HOW WAS CONCEPTUALIZING THAT SONG AND DOING SOMETHING NEW BY GOING ENTIRELY RIFF-BASED?

Finn Schwieters: We started with a guitar riff, which we’ve never done before, so we were like, “Okay, that’s cool. Let’s just keep this riff for the entire song, not change it, and make it very easy.” We tend to make things overly complex and try to change or spice things up. For this, we were like, “Let’s just keep this drum loop and the guitar riff.” The music was already saying so much. It felt like what we were trying to desribe in our lyrics. It was kind of an easy process, because we were just writing down what the music made us feel. We didn’t want it to be very philosophical, so I think the “California fever dream” description fits quite well.



We had this realization that we just have to stay true to ourselves, and that’s enough. No need to be more than we are!

EVEN THOUGH IT WAS A NEWER THING FOR YOU, DO YOU THINK IT CAME OUR MORE NATURALLY COMPARED TO THE OTHER SONGS ON THE RECORD BECAUSE IT WAS SO FEELING-DRIVEN?

Fred Rabe: I wouldn’t say more naturally. We wrote about 100 songs for this album, and I feel like we picked the most natural songs. I think we just stopped writing on songs that didn’t feel natural. It was probably the same with all the songs, but it’s always a little different. There’s not really a recipe for our songwriting, so it’s always different, and sometimes, it takes days, weeks, or even months. We took three years on “Fight Club!”



FUNNY YOU MENTION THAT, BECAUSE I ALSO WANTED TO TALK ABOUT “FIGHT CLUB” SINCE IT’S MY FAVOURITE ON THE RECORD, BOTH MUSICALLY AND LYRICALLY! TELL ME WHAT IT WAS LIKE MAKING THAT SONG.

Finn Schwieters: I think it was actually the first song we wrote after the release of our first album. We really liked the hip hop kind of beat, and it was the first song that we wrote in this kind of style. The others with that style, for example, “Bedroom Exile,” followed after. The lyrics were initially quite different, but they talked about a similar topic. Then, we changed up the first verse and made this really brutal arena setting with people fighting each other. I think Fred brought up that it sounds and feels like Fight Club, so we decided to name the song “Fight Club.” I don’t really think it’s about the movie though, we just liked the “Fight Club” title and playing around with that. As five young males, we don’t really learn to talk about our feelings, express ourselves, or show weakness. That’s basically what this song is about. It’s about the failure of not being able to express your emotions.



I THINK THAT’S SO IMPORTANT. AND, 14 SONGS IS OBVIOUSLY A LOT FOR A SOPHOMORE RECORD. DID YOU INTEND FOR IT TO BE THIS LONG OR WAS IT SOMETHING THAT CAME ABOUT IN THE PROCESS?

Fred Rabe: I think it was natural, because we had so many songs and it was very hard to pick 14. We could have made an album of 20 songs, probably.

Finn Schwieters: Especially when you have five different opinions!

Fred Rabe: That’s true. Everyone has a darling on the record, and they wanted that song to be on the album, so that’s the first thing we considered. We basically have a democracy, so it’s quite hard sometimes!

THERE’S STILL TIME FOR A DELUXE EDITION. YOU NEVER KNOW!

Fred Rabe: That’s true!

THERE’S ALWAYS A SENSE OF IMPOSTOR SYNDROME AS A MUSICIAN WHEN YOU HAVE A VIRAL HIT LIKE YOUR COVER OF “TOM’S DINER. OVER THE YEARS OBVIOUSLY, SOCIAL MEDIA HAS BECOME HUGE IN SHAPING THE TRAJECTORY OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. IT’S EASIER TO GO VIRAL, BUT HARDER TO KEEP A FANBASE. WHAT IS GIANT ROOKS’ RELATIONSHIP WITH SOCIAL MEDIA?

Finn Schwieters: I think there’s a lot of pressure on new artists; you can’t just make music, but you also have to know how to promote your music on TikTok, for example. That can be quite difficult. I think the greatest thing for us was that we kind of came to the music world much before TikTok, because we started out as a live touring band. We always did that. In the U.S., we started out playing shows as a opening act. There was that viral hit, which helped us a lot and is great! It wasn’t like we’ve never played a show before. Then, we got the viral hit! It was a mixture of everything, so for us, it’s not a big problem, but i guess it’s a lot of pressure for a lot of artists to have this viral sensation over and over again. It can be very exhausting.

WHAT HAS CHANGED THE MOST WITHIN GIANT ROOKS AND ITS CREATIVE PROCESS FROM YOUR DEBUT UNTIL NOW?

Fred Rabe: That’s a tough one. I don’t know!

Finn Schwieters: The thing is, it didn’t really change. I think that’s what we were talking about earlier.

Fred Rabe: We are evolving very naturally. We are in our 20s, and we evolve all the time, so there’s no need to change now.

ROOKERY WAS RELEASED AT THE PEAK OF THE PANDEMIC OBVIOUSLY, SO WHAT’S IT LIKE MAKING MUSIC NOW, THREE OR FOURISH YEARS LATER?

Finn Schwieters: I think the big difference is that we now immediately get feedback at the concerts. On our first album, we wanted to come to the U.S. to play shows, but then they all got cancelled due to the pandemic, obviously. I think now, the main difference is that we get to experience the reactions and the emotions from the audiences, which is the best thing that could happen. All these numbers online don’t really mean much in the end, but to see someone singing or dancing along to a song and being excited about seeing our band live is the greatest gift one could give to a band or artist. To experience this right now with a new album is just beautiful.

Giant Rooks © Timothy Schaumburg
Giant Rooks © Timothy Schaumburg



THIS LAST QUESTION IS REALLY OPEN – WHAT IS SOMETHING I DIDN’T MENTION OR ASK DURING OUR CONVERSATION, BUT SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO TALK ABOUT? WHATEVER YOU THINK YOU’D LIKE PEOPLE TO KNOW!

Fred Rabe: That’s a good question! It’s a really hard one, but I feel like we are very, very grateful to call this our job. This is just a dream come true and we can’t wait to come back to America to play shows and meet all of our fans. This is the greatest gift ever. We’re very, very grateful to everyone all around the world.

Finn Schwieters: There are many bands from Germany that can play shows in America. We started out in this very small town in this very small town in the western part of Germany. It was something we maybe dreamed about, but we could’ve never thought that it would happen to us. It’s the most beautiful thing. It’s very, very unreal.

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:: stream/purchase How Have You Been? here ::
:: connect with Giant Rooks here ::
Watch: “For You” – Giant Rooks



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How Have You Been? - Giant Rooks

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