Jeff Fry

15:51 5th January 2006

Rogue Wave

“It’s feels colder here than it did in, like, Minneapolis,” says Rogue Wave’s drummer, Pat Spurgeon on an icy night in December when we sat down with the band in a noisy, yet warm, diner shortly before a Denton, Texas show. It was a sight the band based out of the generally mild San Francisco Bay Area hadn’t expected from the Southern, and final leg, of their latest U.S. tour.

It’s been a busy year for the band, from both touring and recording the release of their sophomore album, ‘Descended Like Vultures’, which hit shelves here in October. And while it has only been out a short while, it’s been getting rave reviews Stateside and even making some of the requisite “Best of” lists for 2005. Their sound has evolved from the Zach Rogue led one-man show of their first release, ‘Out of the Shadow’, due largely to the addition of a full band in the recording process. “What a lot of people don’t realize,” pipes in the band’s jack-of-all-trades, Gram Lebron, “is that most of the songs on the new album have been played live for more than a year.”

For example, their track ‘Bird On A Wire’ was one of the first songs that Rogue collaborated on with Spurgeon, his first official band mate for the project of turning the band from a solo effort into a group endeavor. Lebron adds that it was one of the songs he remembers hearing at the first Rogue Wave show he attended, before becoming a member of the band and that it “stuck in his head” for a while afterwards.

Their first single, ’10:1’, has also been around for some time, having been recorded shortly after the ‘Out of the Shadow’ sessions with Spurgeon and producer Bill Racine. Incidentally some fans were immediately turned off by the keyboard driven riff and distorted vocals. It left some wondering if the band had changed, without realizing that the song had been recorded before many of the other songs on the album. Not only that, but it had also been played live in the band’s shows since they were on tour supporting their first album.

That’s not to say that ‘Descended Like Vultures’ does not have a wealth of new material, however. Many of the new songs were written with the current lineup of band members and several other songs have made it onto iTunes and the ’10:1’ single. In fact, Rogue has enough material from these sessions to release another album right now. ‘Vulture’ ranges from the soft and somber in tracks like ‘Temporary’, to the upbeat ‘Catform’. In fact, the band each has a different favorite new tune to play live. For example, Pat likes to play the softer ‘California’ because with the addition of a soundboard operator, Jamie, the subtle sounds made on the drums transfer well. Gram said he gets excited seeing ‘Medicine Ball’ on the set list. And Zach chimed in with a simple “Publish”, which is ‘set list speak’ for the soon-to-be-released UK single ‘Publish My Love’. Evan Farrell, the band’s bass player was unable to attend the interview but sent a text message over to the band stating his favorite new song to play live was ‘Are You On My Side’.

It’s that excitement to play their new material, yet still maintain a close tie to their older material, that makes part of the appeal of seeing Rogue Wave perform live. Many times during a show, the band will switch out instruments and backing vocalists, add samples or even alternate between keyboard and guitar in the same song. Watching them perform this (literal) musical chair routine with their respective instruments just further solidifies the fact that the band operates like a well-oiled machine. A fact made even more amazing when you find out that the band members weren’t even working together when the first album came out. 

The band has also started gathering some attention into the world of film as well. Not only is the band currently shooting a video for ‘Publish My Love’, but the band’s music has been featured in several soundtracks of 2005 as well. The movies ‘Cry_Wolf ‘ and ‘Just Friends’, the soundtrack from the television show ‘The O.C.’ (Volume 5?!?!) and the first person shooter game, ‘Stubbs the Zombie’, all saw a contribution from Rogue Wave. In the most recent movie release, Just Friends, their song ‘Eyes’ plays not once, but twice, at key moments in the film.

Rogue said he was presented with an unedited copy of the movie to help inspire him to write the song. While the film was not yet complete and there were revisions still being made to it, Rogue was still able to work in the original song. “I saw a sort of rough draft of the film,” said Rogue, “but I could feel the main character’s longing for this girl.”

Rogue and the rest of the band had not yet had the chance to see the finished product at the time of the interview, however. “I think it’d be kind of weird, hearing it in a theater,” said Rouge. He goes on to ask the band if they think they should go see it the next day anyway. “We shouldn’t have to pay,” adds LeBron with a laugh. Rogue jokingly agrees, “It’d be like: Yeah, our song is in the movie. Do you know who we are?”

Rogue WaveBut don’t even think for a moment that Rogue Wave would play the “celebrity” card to get into a movie. The band is actually quite the opposite of swelled egos…they are very down to earth and approachable to their fans, spending time after the shows (while still packing up their own gear) to talk to anyone who comes up to thank them for the show or ask them a question. They operate like a group of friends out having a good time every time they are in the same room. Even during the interview, they were full of laughs. From discussing the merits of chicken-fried steak and shepherd’s pie to pretending to shave with the recording device used to capture the interview, they still remain very humble and genuinely happy to be on the road playing shows night after night.

Rogue even commented that the most surprising moments on the tour were “the amount of people that are coming out.” They were selling out in clubs in New York and Washington, D.C. in places that only had a handful of people the last few times the band has visited. Also, when asked what they were most thankful for in 2005, Rogue said, “That the record came out and that we get to do what we do.”

Looking forward, the band is only planning on getting out there and doing more of the same things they did in the previous year. “I’m not one to make resolutions…but, I’d like to spend the first three-quarters of the year performing,” stated Rogue, “and the last quarter of the year recording.” And, never one to remain too serious for more than a few minutes, he adds, “Maybe I’ll go into a cabin to write…grow a long beard…” as he fakes a wistful daydream.

Rogue Wave play London Barfly on January 26.

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.