Oakland based Indie band, Rogue Wave, have made quite a ripple in the music scene since their emergence in 2002.
After quitting his day job in the tech industry, lead singer Zach Rogue has endured a path of ups and downs, dealing with everything from the death of a band mate to the success of singles like “Lake Michigan.”
After a three-year break, the band has just released its fifth album, Nightingale Floors, a powerful collection of blasting lo-fi guitar riffs layered with candid reverberant vocals. We caught up with Zack, stranded on the side of the road in Tahoe after their van broke down, to talk about the new album, baseball vs. corporatism, and the abominable state of pop music.
Rogue Wave plays two shows at the Independent on July 12th and July 13th.
This is your first album in three years. It still carries the same lo-fi sound of past albums, but sort of blends an ambient surf rock element. Were you conscious of any changes?
Writing an album is like writing a book, you don’t really know where it’s going to start. You think you know, but when it’s over it might be different than what you envisioned. You usually let the songs dictate where you’re going to go, and there’s a lot of things that play in to it, different songs represent different times. We haven’t made a record in a long time, so there was a lot to be said. We probably put out not even half of we actually recorded, and when we first started I thought there was going to be a totally different set of songs on the record, which is a beautiful thing.
Being from Oakland are you an A’s or a Giants fan?
The A’s. They should have made it to the World Series last year but they couldn’t get past Verlander. The Giants clearly had no problem with him. I always felt like the A’s were the indie rock team of baseball. They are the underdog, and are resourceful and kind of fly under the radar.
Have you ever met any of the players?
I was out to dinner once a while back and I saw some A’s players at a restaurant in Walnut Creek. It was Moulder, Zito and Jermaine Dye. I saw them right after they lost in the playoffs, I didn’t want to get up in their faces because they just lost, but I went up and gave them a quick thank you.
Do you see a parallel between baseball and music?
I remember when Death Cab for Cutie started getting big; I felt a little sense of a connection. They were a smaller band playing smaller, affordable shows and then they got bigger and played more expensive shows. I like going to the Coliseum because it’s affordable and I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. It’s not like going to AT&T Park and supporting these big market teams.
There’s a systemic problem because ownership lords over the cities and it’s just kind of gross to ask people to pay that much for any event. It shouldn’t be this elitist thing. People should be able to afford to go. That’s why I like the A’s, because I can go and feel like I’m not being taken advantage of.
It is kind of ridiculous the price jump when a team wins a championship.
Look at the Giants. They won two championships and their tickets have doubled. They dish out these big contracts, and who pays for the contracts? We do. I think what you could see happening, I could be proven wrong, but with success of these smaller market teams, you could see a shift that is stratospheric. Those teams that are spending a lot are just not very good. Look at who’s in first place and who’s in last place and look at their payrolls.
It reminds me of bands like Death Cab for Cutie or Pearl Jam that are so big they could never play a small venue again.
A lot of those problems aren’t really the bands fault. It’s venue ownership; it’s what is happening on a corporate level. Same thing with radio, we consolidated all our radio stations so it sounds like shit. It’s all syndicated programming. The distribution of music is completely changing. I think people’s connection to music is different, too. Pop music in the 60s was the best music of the day. It was James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Ottis Redding.
Now pop music is Justin Beiber. Who can relate to that? It’s not groundbreaking. It’s just entertainment, and it’s not music. There’s a shift that needs to happen. There are still great bands, and we, as consumers, need to seek out music and go see them live. For example, Bon Iver playing at the Greek Theater, we need to go and support those bands so they can be on top, in hopes of pop music being good again.
I always thought that the music of the 60s and 70s produced not only some of the greatest bands of their eras, but are still relevant as some of the greatest bands today.
I think the reason why is because it was cool to like popular music back then, and it was actually good. Crosby, Stills and Nash were people singing about being together, it was about togetherness. Now huge stars are just trying to get corporate sponsors like Beyoncé representing Pepsi. Back in the day artists cared more about the art. Now it’s just about making commercials and selling products.
I guess it’s a sign of the times. It’s one thing for indie rock bands to have their music in television shows and movies, because they need to make money, but it’s another to be a brand and I don’t subscribe to that nonsense.
I’ve noticed that many bands, including Rogue Wave, have tapped into doing soundtracks.
That’s the only way you can survive; there’s no other way. If you don’t do that you will cease to exist, you won’t be able to have a practice space, or go on tour, or buy equipment. Until streaming music becomes a viable model for making money, there’s no other revenue source.
I was a little surprised to see you on the Iron Man 3 soundtrack with “No Time.”
Me too. They just asked us if we had a song that they could use. It was a song I wrote that I knew wasn’t going on the album. The song never would have been heard otherwise, so it was pretty innocuous to me.
Have you seen the movie?
No. The only movie I’ve seen in the past six months was This is the End. I loved it. The Apatow affect is pretty deep among those actors. They’ve really learned from him and how to make a story. If you don’t love the characters and the plot than it’s careless. You realize the best comedies are inches away from tragedy. That’s what comedy is. There’s tragedy in the terror.