Zach Rogue, best known as the front man of local indie giants Rogue Wave, is branching out with a new project, Release The Sunbird. We caught up with him to get the story behind the transition from heavy wave to free bird recording in middle America.
You have a new album coming out in July, Come Back To Us, under the moniker Release The Sunbird. It’s Definitely more stripped down than the songs you were recording with Rogue Wave. Were you craving simplicity? What was the motivation behind the decision to fly to Indiana to record this album?
I wanted to do a lot of things. I was feeling pretty burnt out on Rogue Wave. Not the guys in the band or anything like that, I was just getting burnt out on the cycle of things and playing the same songs night after night. Sometimes we would be playing a show with all of these intense dynamics and sweat and volume and I would be thinking to myself “is this really me?”. I thought it would be interesting to disappear and make a super reductive record that is probably a lot closer to where I’m at. It is a sound that is a little out of step with the modern era, I suppose, which is fine. I wanted to create space and be quiet.
You recorded at Russian Recording in Indiana with Rogue Wave back in 2006. Why the decision to return to that particular space?
It was one of those amazingly serendipitous kinds of situations. First, Mike Bridavsky is an excellent engineer. I heard he built a new studio and wanted to check it out. Second, I knew Kate (Long) lived there and had been wanting to sing with her for years. Then, Mike told me Kenny (Childers, bass/guitar/vocals) and Pete (Shreiner, drums) were available during that brief window of time we had, and I knew I had a ridiculous band to play with.
It probably sounds silly, but every day with them was pure joy. Some of the best kind of people you could ever want to meet. We tracked 18 songs in about 8 or 9 days, and if I had more time and money, we probably could have just continued tracking and made like 5 albums.
Will you be touring with any of your old bandmates from Rogue Wave or have you put a new lineup together to tour on “Come Back To Us”?
Speaking of which, the title Come Back To Us suggests a sense of aimlessness, of being lost or, perhaps more so, the desire to be found. I also noticed the word “hope” being used several times in the press release announcing the project. Can you talk a little about some of the inspiration behind the titles of the tracks and the record?
It’s the reason I wanted to have a female counterpart to sing with. There is a lot of “me” and “you” and “us” in the titles. One of my favorite records is Neil Young’s Freedom. On songs like “Hangin’ on a Limb” and “The Ways of Love,” the duets are pretty transcendental and it’s not just because of beauty of the harmonies.
You can just feel the dualities of male and female perspectives; they are literally singing the same thing but you get the impression they don’t always feel the same way. In the past, I felt like I was only telling half of the story, and if I was going to write about some personal stuff, it would be more honest to have a little female point of view in there.
You mention that of all the tracks you recorded “Always Like The Son” was the most realized. Did you do a lot of in-studio writing for the other 12 tracks? How much of that process was solitary and how much did you end up collaborating with drummer Pete, Kenny and Kate?
Looking back, I was remembering one of the reasons I had such a good time recording Out of the Shadow (the first Rogue Wave album). At that time, arrangements of the songs were loose, at best, and I spent very little time laboring over parts. I was completely winging it, and it was exhilarating.
When I first arrived in Bloomington, I was feeling a little nervous because all I had with me were two acoustic guitars and some largely half-baked ideas for songs. I was worried I might be sort of wasting everyone’s time, but every day was always the same. I would sit down with the band and play a song idea on the guitar, they would listen to it one or two times, and then we would just start playing. A lot of the record is live, even the vocals.
As much as possible, I wanted complete takes and I kept telling everyone that I would rather have a soulful mistake than a passionless and “perfect” performance. The record has all kinds of technical mistakes — I mean, you can hear me coughing before the chorus on “Come Back to Us”. But that is why the record was so fun to make. We didn’t want to overdo it. We wanted it sound like real people, flaws included, making music. Pro Tools can be incredibly helpful, but it also has the ability to turn us all into perfect little robots, and robots are neither funny or passionate.
I really like the way your voice melds with Kate Long’s, especially on “Come Back To Us” and “Paper Allies.” there seems to be quite a natural rhythm and flow there. How long has it been since you have teamed up with folks outside of Rogue Wave? Was the transition to working with new people an easy one or did it take some readjusting?
Since Rogue Wave started, I had never really collaborated with any other musicians. I was shocked at how easy it was to work with the Sunbirds. But I’m sure it has a lot more to do with them than me.
Tell us what is on the horizon for Release The Sunbird. The album is due to come out on July 26th on Brushfire Records. Any local dates planned?
We will play a kind of album release at the Swedish American Hall on 7/28. We will begin touring in the fall…
Come Back To Us by Release The Sunbird is scheduled for release by Brushfire Records on July 26th.