Rogue Wave Interview

Hailing from Oakland, California, Rogue Wave have gone from strength to strength. Having lost his job when the dot com bubble burst, Zach Rogue decided to follow his dream and started Rogue Wave. Having signed to Sub Pop, they released their first full length album Out Of The Shadows to critical acclaim from press and fans alike.

Their second record, Descended Like Vultures, saw Zach bringing in a full band after posting an ad on Craigs List. When their contract was up with Sub Pop they found a new home in Brushfire, Jack Johnson’s label. With their third album just about to be released in the UK, they’ve proved they’re not just another run of the mill American indie band, with an exciting, rich and promising album that goes far to show how some bands really do get better with age. Whilst on tour with Death Cab for Cutie, frontman Zach Rogue took a little time out to answer some of Dee Massey‘s questions.

How’s the UK tour been going?

The record isn’t quite out yet, so it is a little slow. But I’m hoping once it is out, people will know about it and want to see us play.

So going back to basics, how did Rogue Wave come about?

I recorded songs with a friend of mine and it just sort of turned into an album. When it was done, I posted an ad online and recruited some band members. We started playing locally in Oakland and San Francisco all the time. After 6 months or so, some bands (the Clientele and Mates of State) asked us to do some regional touring on the West Coast (US). During that time, Sub Pop got in touch with us and asked about re-releasing our record. Not too long after that, we were signed to Sub Pop and on the road all the time….

I understand you’re now signed to Jack Johnson’s label Brushfire after many years with Sub Pop – how do you know Jack, and how come you parted ways with Sup Pop?

Jack and I have known each other for about 10 or 12 years. Our wives grew up together, so we met when we were in college. When our contract was up with Sub Pop, I started talking to Brushfire and everything came together pretty easily. They are great people and are able to use the resources of Universal while still remaining very independent.

Let’s talk about your latest album – Asleep At Heaven’s Gate. You co-produced the album with Roger Moutenot – how did you find it producing the record? Has the end product ended up sounding exactly how you wanted? How does it differ from the Sub Pop releases?

Nothing is ever exactly what you think it will be. And that is why I love recording music so much. Roger was able to help us think through some arrangement ideas in a way we were unable to in the past. After doing the basic tracking at another studio, he spent some time with us at our studio in Oakland.

He encouraged us to really experiment with all of the noise boxes and toys we have laying around the studio – as well as encouraging us to use some unconventional mic’ing techniques. There is no doubt that this is a more experimental record for us. Some of the songs are a bit longer than the first 2 records. But it will always be changing, I hope…

Have you thought have being the sole producer for the next album? How do you find spending time in the studio, do you enjoy it?

I prefer being in the studio to just about anything else. No matter how much you think you have rehearsed something or thought about it in your mind over and over, you never really know how it will ultimately come together until you press the record button (or mouse click). I read an interview with Kevin Barnes in the recent issue of Tape Op and he was saying that he doesn’t even do any pre-production or demos. He just starts working on a song and when he is done, it is done. It kind of shocked me a bit. Maybe we’ll try that approach next, who knows. It is so much easier to work on our ideas now that we have a studio and some modest gear.

Who writes most of your material and what inspires you?

I write our songs. Inspiration can come from anything that can happen during the day. It can be an ice cap melting or a bird lying dead on the ground. It can be anything really. Some of my favourite songs come from the strangest of subjects. Who knows what “Game of Pricks” is about? What is Eno’s “green world”? In “Morning Has Broken“, Cat Stevens is singing about the simplest of things, just a profound love for being alive and welcoming a new day. When Chet Baker sings, it’s not even the words I hear so much as the sad way he sings it. I don’t really think I know who the character is in Cheap Trick’s “High Roller“, but the song kills me every time I hear it. Same with Polvo’s “In This Life“. I don’t know what they mean specifically, but the way it sounds rocks my brain to the core. That guitar riff never ceases to amaze and thrill me.

Where’s been your favourite place to tour so far?

Amsterdam has been incredible every time we’ve been there. I’m surprised that every time we have played in London, the crowds have been outstanding in there enthusiasm. In the US, we love playing in Chicago a lot. New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Atlanta, have all been great. Really though, every night is a new night and things are always changing. There are always surprises in the least expected places.

Who has the grossest habits on the tour bus?

This is the first tour we’ve had with a bus. We’ve all been nice young chaps so far. Let’s see what happens after a few weeks…

Have you ever been stalked by obsessive fans?

I think that only happens to famous people. With us, people are usually very nice. There are some very hateful people too, but they reserve their vitriol for the blogs…

What would be the question you’d least liked to be asked in an interview?

I’m not gonna say. I want to stay happy.

If you could tour with any band, past or present, which band would it be?

Wait a minute, you just asked it!

If you weren’t in a band, what do you think you’d be doing now?

I wonder that all the time. Hopefully something that would make people’s lives a little better. I am a terrible dancer, so that is out.

What’s been your most memorable moment with Rogue Wave?

We’ve been playing music for over 5 years, so that’s an impossible question. We just headlined at the Fillmore in San Francisco a few weeks ago. That was definitely a high point for my life.

And finally – please could you give us some words of wisdom for the Crossfire readers?

Don’t take advice from musicians. We’re too stuck in the present.

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