Since 2002, Oakland-based indie group Rogue Wave
has exposed listeners of all tastes to easily accessible, yet progressively experimental music. With four studios records under his belt and a fifth to be released next month, Zach Rogue seems to have finally found a sense of bliss in making music. Speaking with him last night, he made it clear that prior to writing the forthcoming Nightingale Floors
, he wasn't sure Rogue Wave would ever release another record. After the brief hiatus that followed his previous release, Permalight
, Zach was burnt out and sought refuge in other projects as well as a totally new career. But when he rejoined musical liaison Pat Spurgeon, something clicked, and the final product, Nightingale Floors
, brings us back the Rogue Wave with an enlightened charm.
Read our interview with Zach below and find out exactly what drew he and Pat to release a new album, what it's like to have a song on the Iron Man 3
soundtrack, and more.
Listen to Rogue Wave's latest single off Nightingale Floors
, "Siren's Song".
How's it feel to be a member of the decade club?
I was at a show not too long ago and a girl came up to me and said, "Are you in Rogue Wave," and I said yes, and she goes, "Oh my god, I grew up listening to you guys!" I was like "You what? How old are you?!" But honestly it's strange to think because I never thought it's what I'd be doing with my life. And I can't believe we've made it this far. Everything tells us to stop, but we keep playing! [Laughs.]
You injured your neck pretty badly prior to recording/releasing Permalight, how has that been going?
I've actually been feeling pretty good the past few years. I got through that time, it was a very bad time in life, but I've gotten a lot better. I still have a couple slipped discs in my neck, so it's always gonna be there, but I've been playing. If you ever come see us play a show, and I completely collapse like a brick wall that's been smashed to pieces and I go limp on stage, please help me.
I totally will. I'm first aid certified so I've got your back.
Alright, I'll be looking for you.
How would you compare writing Permalight during the injury to your new album Nightingale Floors?
The writing process isn't really different in the sense that it's always been my alone time working on songs. The creative process hasn't really changed. Though I think the result in the recording is pretty different. The way we went about making this record was really different. It reminded me of when we first started making records; it was so much more experimental. The demo-ing process definitely played a huge role because we actually took pieces of different demos and hybridized them on the album. We didn't use any digital correction. If we weren't performing right, we would do it again. It was really experimental, and we were just having fun in our little lab. So it was a great combination of live looseness over meticulous messing around. Pat's [Spurgeon] really into the weird and experimental. He's the kind of guy that when we're on tour enjoys walking around late at night listening to The Shining
soundtrack trying to scare himself. He loves Wendy Carlos and that kind of music.
Your music is clearly experimental, yet it somehow remains very approachable and accessible for an average listener. How do you make that happen?
You know what it is? A lot of times when I'm hanging out and meeting people they always say to me, "You don't seem like you're in a band." And with Pat, they're like, "You're totally in a band." [Laughs.] I think that's it: we perfectly complement each other. I'm more of the songwriting person, where Pat is more the studio experimenter, and we both influence each other's tendencies and corral each other at the same time. We try and find that balance. The bands that we like are those that have a pop sensibility but at the same time have the element of psychedelic experimentation. It's a little weird; it's a little emotional; it's a little unknown; but it's also something you can sing to.
Listening to the new record I couldn't help but feel nostalgic. It reminds me of the era you started in - it's a sense of sincerity that you don't really hear too often today.
I took a break from Rogue Wave after being burnt out by Permalight
to do some side projects, and score a TV show. And I think this time away is what made Nightingale Floors
. When I reconnected with Pat there was just an all-around excitement. When we first started playing together again, I wasn't sure we were ever going to put out a record. I thought maybe it was time to move on, but when we started playing we felt that spark that we have in the studio. So there's this joy that you can definitely compare to what you heard in the earlier records. And I think that's in there, or, maybe we're just really immature.
You mentioned scoring a TV show, which show was that?
It was a show on HBO called On Freddie Roach
, it was a verite-style show based on the boxing trainer. It was the first time I got to do work without any lyrics. It was all about the sound, and it really dovetailed into the album with the techniques and use of ambient noise. I love when things are slightly incongruent, and they seem like they don't match and when you first hear it, you think it's not supposed to be there, but the second time around you notice its importance. It can only really happen when you're feeling free, and you don't really give a shit that you're making a record and you just care about the people you're making music with and the moment you're in. We love just making noises and letting go. This record is about trying to let go; not trying to hold onto the stuff that weighs you down and just kills you.
In addition to your TV show, your pop culture credits are pretty extensive. But looking at the full list, one stood out to me - Bob Odenkirk directed your "Chicago x 12" music video. I can't believe that I had never seen it before. What was that like?
That video was criminally overlooked. He was amazing. The hardest part of shooting that video was keeping a straight face. The man is so incredibly funny, we had to keep re-shooting. I love Bob. I admire comedy and comedians so much, and it's so integral to our band's lexicon. The way we communicate as a band, like a lot of guys is through quoting. So much of it is Mitch Hedberg, Eugene Mirman, David Cross. It's something that breaks up the monotony of being on the road. We thought it would be cool to incorporate our love for comedy into the video. So many of our previous videos had been super melodramatic and serious, but we're not always serious. We're serious in what we do, but we don't take ourselves seriously. We're not precious about our egos.
And in recent pop culture, Rogue Wave had a song featured on the Iron Man 3 soundtrack.
Yes. We like the part three's - Spiderman, Iron Man - you really made it when you're in the three's. Marvel wanted to do a character of me and Pat hybridized, we said no, but we will provide a song for the soundtrack. The people working on Iron Man wanted songs from the bands that they liked. The song "This Too Shall Pass", we had tracked it and decided we weren't going to put it on our album. They felt like it worked for what they were doing, and we said okay.
There seems to be a lot of new types of music coming out of the Bay Area. Being a native, what are you seeing?
There's a lot of really great garage sounding bands. The Bay Area rock scene has been vital but doesn't really get a lot of attention. When you hear bands like The Fresh & Onlys and Thee Oh Sees, you realize that they've tapped into something. Similar to the 60s there's a real free-for-all, fuck you if you don't like it attitude. What's weird is that it sounds like throwback music but that's because they're using elements and equipment from the past, but they sound fresh. And that's the beauty of music: even though they use these same elements, they somehow manage to make new and cool sounds. It's very gratifying, and that's why Pat and I keep coming up with new songs; it still feels fresh to us. We feel like little kids. Listening to rock music, like The Who, The Kinks, and Stones, you hear like a naughty little kid trying to get away with something, and the rock connection comes with the feeling that you're in on the joke. Sometimes music is so fashionable and experimental that I can't really sink my teeth into it. For this record, I wanted to make a utilitarian album. I wanted an album that anyone could probably pick up a guitar and play along. I wanted the listener to feel a part of it; to be included. Our biggest fans like us so much because we are them. We have something in common. When I read comments people make about our music on Facebook or Twitter, I feel like I'm reading my own words.
Clearly, Zach Rogue is reading your tweets and Facebook comments, so why don't you do yourself a favor and like Rogue Wave on Facebook
and while you're at it, follow them on Twitter
Rogue Wave's Nightingale Floors
is due out June 4th via Vagrant
, and you can pre-order it on iTunes
, or Rogue Wave's store