David Rokos: A local musician’s new album makes a smooth landing


By Valerie Hardy | Photos by 726 Visuals

When his second album, “This Is Landing,” was released in June, David Rokos reflected on his path to this point.

Rokos recalled “falling in love with Blink-182” when he first heard their music. He asked his parents for a guitar and began taking lessons at the Lincoln Center. Starting at age 13, Rokos played in various garage bands. “I made friends who were also into music, and it just kind of grew from there,” Rokos said of his early musical experiences.

His bands often performed at open mic events, including many at the Two Way Street Coffee House, a live music venue inside the First Congregational Church in downtown Downers Grove.

After graduating from Downers Grove North High School in 2006, Rokos left town to attend college. He continued to play guitar “on and off” while in college, but when he graduated and his “buddy started a band,” he returned to playing as often as he had during high school, he said. Six years ago, he put out his first solo record: “When You Were Her.”

Rokos wrote all of the songs on “When You Were Her” over a six-week period after his relationship with his longtime girlfriend ended. “When the inspiration to write strikes, it’s kind of a flood,” he said. “Nothing makes more inspiration than one good song.”

While Rokos’s first album is “about one thing: the breakup,” his new album is much “more varied in its song topics and just more poppy and brighter overall,” he explained. “There are synthesizers in it, and half the songs are about traveling.”

The album’s title is a play on words of sorts, referencing the central travel theme within many of the songs and also symbolizing the record’s underlying message of “being happy with where you landed” in life, Rokos said.

“This Is Landing” was inspired largely by Rokos’s wife, Shelley, his companion on his many travels to destinations like Asia and Europe. Rokos laughed as he explained how he started dating Shelley, also a Downers Grove North alum, between writing and recording the songs from his first album.

“We had been dating for nine months when ‘When You Were Her’ came out, and Shelley’s mom’s favorite song from that album is called ‘I’m Sorry (I Still Love You),’ which is about my ex-girlfriend – so that’s funny.”

On a more serious note, Rokos said Shelley (and her mother) always supported his music, for which he is deeply appreciative.

Rokos describes his music as “pop rock – upbeat, catchy, and fun.” Most of his live performances are acoustic – just him on guitar and vocals – but on the new album, there is more of a full band feel. Rokos said he performed all of the guitar, bass, “keys,” and vocals, while his friend, Bobby Loesch of Naperville, played the drums.


“Nothing makes more inspiration
than one good song.”

– David Rokos


The overall production of “This Is Landing” was an effort among friends, too. Matt Holmes, a friend who attended Downers Grove South High School, mixed it, and Sam Carroll, one of Rokos’s friends from North High, produced the album.

In addition to sharing the production experience with his friends, Rokos enjoyed creating his second album because “recording it was really cool and different.” He recorded his first album at “one studio in the city – everything was very self-contained,” while he recorded “This Is Landing” in a “more spread out” manner, he said.

Rokos recorded some of the instrumentals for his new album at The Echo Mill and other components at Gravity Studios – whose previous clientele include big-name bands like Fall Out Boy and The Smashing Pumpkins. While both aforementioned studios are located in Chicago, Rokos also recorded in Los Angeles.

Scheduled to travel to LA for a conference for his full-time job, Rokos decided to book a recording space at Village Studios, where one of his greatest musical inspirations, Tom Petty, formerly recorded. “That was why I chose that studio,” Rokos said, “and I was able to record two acoustic songs in one night while I was there.”

When not making music, Rokos can be found at Argonne National Laboratory, where he works as a Senior Lead Video Editor, or at the College of DuPage, where he is an adjunct faculty member, teaching courses in film and video or motion picture editing two nights per week.

Rokos feels fortunate that his “day job is also a creative outlet,” so he does not “feel so much pressure to play music” and can do it just for fun. He recognizes that at age 35, he “probably won’t be a rock star,” but he has landed exactly where he wants to be.

“I’m not sure I’d want to be gone all the time touring,” Rokos said. For now, he is content with his home base on the south side of Downers Grove and a smaller scale tour plan, which includes performances in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Pittsburgh, along with a full band show at Miskatonic Brewing Company in Darien on Nov. 10.

Visit davidrokosmusic.com for more information, and be sure to click on the link to listen to “Run, Run Ronnie!,” a lighthearted Christmas tune (which also happens to be his most popular song on Spotify) about Rokos’s dog taking over for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

“My wife and I are DINKWADS (double income, no kids, with a dog),” Rokos joked. “Yes, we’re obsessed with our dog – pretty stereotypical millennials.”


Local musician David Rokos