Royce and Roman Mars had the look even before they had the band, going back to ninth grade.
“We were obsessed with the Rolling Stones and especially Brian Jones, so we started cutting our hair like them,” Royce recalled.
By 10th grade, the bowl-cut twin brothers started to mess around on guitars and some old drums that belonged to their uncle, a member of one of Minnesota’s best-known rock bands. Six years later, they aren’t just look-alikes for ’60s rock stars, they’re also unabashed soundalikes.
Their band the Carnegies has been generating a local buzz among both older musicheads who appreciate their classic aesthetic and young fans who think the brothers and their bandmates are on to something newer.
“Some of them think we’re like the Lemon Twigs,” Roman said, mentioning another modern old-school rock group the kids these days are into.
“I think it’s really cool that maybe we’ll turn some of them on to the older bands we really like and grew up on.”
The assorted covers the Carnegies throw into live sets amid their many scruffy, shuffling originals point to influences beyond the obvious Stones, Kinks and Beatles. They’ve been known to throw in the Monkees’ “Steppin’ Stone,” the Yardbirds’ “For Your Love,” Herman’s Hermits’ “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am” and a little Chuck Berry, too.
This week offers ample chances to hear some of that Carnegies filler as well as songs from their two-month-old debut album, “No Signs of Warning.” They’re playing three different Art-a-Whirl appearances on Saturday and Sunday and a Minneapolis Eagles Club showcase next Thursday.
“They’ve been working so hard, it’s fun to see them starting to get noticed,” Roman’s and Royce’s more conventional-looking mom, Roxanne, said proudly.
Talking before their weekly rehearsal Tuesday at the Mars home in north Minneapolis — the brothers, now 22, said they plan to move out this summer “so we can rehearse past 9 [p.m.]” — the members of the Carnegies had to wait for 15-year-old guitarist Owen Hiber to arrive from Roseville Area High School. Drummer Brandon Cox, 20, was a schoolmate of the Mars brothers at St. Anthony Village High School.
Hardly coming off like rebellious youths, the band members repeatedly praised their parents and their parents’ siblings for their support.
Roxanne is the one who turned Royce and Roman on to all the cool old bands (and Herman’s Hermits). Her brother Bob is an active booster/shuttler for the band. And their dad’s brother Chris — the original drummer for the Replacements — gave them some drums and a little advice here and there despite his disdain for the music business.
“He taught us some licks on the guitar and some drum techniques, but mostly he’s been really chill about it and not made a big thing of it,” Roman said of Uncle Chris, who’s now a renowned painter.
Aspiring artists themselves, the brothers added, “He’s been even more supportive of us with our painting.”
The biggest outside influence on the Carnegies, it turns out, was a former band member whose guitar is still in their basement rehearsal space.
Original guitarist Taylor Tolle, who formed the group with the Mars boys while still in high school, died in a South Dakota car crash with his girlfriend in 2016. He was only 21.
Not only was Tolle a mean guitarist, but he wrote a lot of the lyrics in many of the signature songs featured on the Carnegies album, including “I Wanna Talk to You Babe,” “54 Ford” and “Black Cat.”
“Taylor really is still a huge part of the band, even though he’s not here,” Roman said.
Said Royce, “He was into a lot of the same bands as us, even kind of looked like us. And he could write lyrics a lot quicker and better than us. We were a really good team.”
After losing their friend, the brothers took a break and pondered renaming the band. Instead, they restarted with help from Cox, the drummer Tolle himself recommended so Royce could move out from behind the kit to sing and play guitar. (Roman also sings and plays bass.)
“I was afraid of them in high school, because they looked like these mean punk-rocker dudes who wore spiked boots,” Cox said. “Turns out, they’re two of the sweetest guys.”
They first saw Hiber play when he was 12 years old at the Cabooze’s annual Jimi Hendrix tribute show. “He was seriously better than a lot of the older guitarists there,” Royce said.
The remade lineup jelled quickly and is continuing to evolve beyond the raw, punky sound on “No Signs of Warning.”
The Carnegies — and yes, they pronounce the name “CAR-nuh-gees,” not the more accurate but highfalutin’-sounding “Car-NAY-gees” — are working on new songs with a little more of a modern feel. Their more current faves include Beck, Temples and Jack White (all of whom have their own ’60s-flashback leanings, but whatever).
Even if they grow out of their pervasively retro sounds, though, don’t count on Roman or Royce updating their vintage look.
“I look at shirts like these,” Roman said in his bright, wide-collared, psychedelic button-down, “and I honestly don’t understand how you could not want to wear them.”
The same could be said of those classic sonic influences the band wears proudly.