Wearhaus Featured Artist: Rogue WaveApril 28, 2016
Every band you love started out as a local band, practicing in basements and playing their biggest gigs in a garage. As a Bay Area-based company, we’ve got a soft spot when it comes to bands from San Francisco and Oakland.
East Bay natives Rogue Wave are the perfect example of local boys made big, growing in to a national touring band and gracing many soundtrack tracklists and festival stages. We were already excited about their new album, Delusions of Grand Fur (it comes out today!) before we got the chance to interview lead singer and one half of Rogue Wave, Zach Rogue
They are a band you are likely already familiar with but for the new record, they threw all preconceived recording processes out the window. With over a decade as a band under their belt, Rogue Wave have acquired the music industry know-how to go at it on their own. So while the industry has changed since their inception, Zach and drummer Pat Spurgeon are also evolving in their own way.
Zach gave us some insight into the social media and festival scenes his band is a part of, but we were most taken aback when he detailed the Delusions of Grand Fur recording process, pinpointing the sound he wanted to achieve was ‘reaching’. Read on to wrap your head around that…
Wearhaus: As Bay Area citizens ourselves, we love that you stay so connected to the local Oakland music scene. Tell us about how the East Bay has influenced your music career.
Zach Rogue: I was born in Oakland. I grew up in a suburb of the East Bay and then lived in Oakland for around eight years. Our recording studio is still in Oakland. For better or for worse I’m a lifelong Oakland A’s fan. It’s good to be a Warriors fan right now, but we’ll see about the A’s.
Even from the 60’s…my parents grew up in the Bay Area. That’s why for our band, the first time we played at The Fillmore, it wasn’t just a milestone for our band — it was a milestone for my family too because my parents would go see shows at the old Fillmore.
My family has been here forever, my grandmother was born in Oakland. I am the third generation born in Oakland. My family has been around with businesses and whatnot for a very long time so I very much identify as a Bay Area person. I have spent so much of my life here and we are very deep in and no plans on changing that.
You guys are playing San Francisco’s biggest music festival this August, Outside Lands. How does it feel?
For so long, I had hoped that the Bay Area would have a festival because they were popping up all over the country. Now we have Outside Lands and Treasure Island Music Festival and those are both very defining festivals and that makes me proud. I used to feel like the Bay Area was very underrepresented in that department but now we have these crazy festivals.
I am never in love with the big festival corporation sponsorship-y thing where Heineken is everywhere. It’s a little icky and overpriced and the concept is so massive and corporate-ized. But it’s so special to be included in festivals, especially Bay Area festivals. It feels good to be home and appreciated and they want us to be there. It’s exciting to be able to do that, but they should maybe diversify their beer.
We are not a new band and most music culture sort of revolves around new bands, usually, or the biggest bands in the world. This is our sixth record. To be included and people are interested or showing excitement about the new songs — that’s happening and it’s a thrill for us. It’s a thrill to play new music and it’s a thrill to have an audience and it’s a thrill to be alive.
You guys have indeed been a band for a while. A lot has changed since your first release, Out of the Shadow, in 2004. What’s something you get to do now when releasing this new album that you didn’t get to do with previous releases?
Social media and digital technology are changing, so things are changing all the time. Ironically, with the recent resurgence of vinyl, that has opened doors that weren’t open before. It’s kind of really weird that vinyl is coming back but people are interested in it and interested in quality vinyl and as a result, a lot of the manufacturers are giving a lot of customization options so you can make your vinyl look cool and the packaging and there is now crazy custom bespoke cassette manufacturing — it’s so interesting. Maybe that’s because of the power of Urban Outfitters. I like a lot of the boutique vinyl sellers
Digitally, it is strange how things matriculate. I wrote this song for Christmas and called it ‘Christmas for the Jews’ and put it on SoundCloud and BOOM, it’s out there and all these people can hear it. So we are reaching people in new ways. It’s what all bands are doing with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat…but I don’t know how much we will be snapping and chatting on this tour.
The thing that’s interesting now is that certain music streaming companies are giving you data so you can really see what’s happening. I got this thing from one streaming company where, when we release our music, we could see the rate of consumption. You can see this uptick or the down-tick of when things come out so you can actually watch the flow of people paying attention to what you are doing. It’s kind of amazing.
But just because someone listens to your album 1,000 times, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will see you live when you play. The data you see, you don’t necessarily know what it means. Like how devoted someone is or how superficially interested or they heard something on a playlist but that doesn’t mean they are in love with your band — they might have heard it on a playlist and that playlist was playing in the background at work.
We are getting assaulted by data but the nice thing is the one-on-one communication that has emerged. Where now, I can find an artist or movie or book and I can comment on it and directly reach that creator and say how that really moved me or say I love what you do and they can write back and we can have an exchange.
Or someone listening to our music! I had this one woman write me this crazy note about how her daughter was born with an illness and how they play our music at home and her daughter responds in this really positive way when she hears our band and it really helps her and it has provided this meaning in her life because it makes her daughter feel better.
And I was able to write back to her and have that connection with her and that’s unprecedented in musical history. That is an unprecedented one-to-one relationship and that is, in some small way, everything. It kind of completes the story in creating.
As a band, you really changed up the recording style this time around. There was no producer in the studio with you and that creates a whole different set of rules. How did that change the music you created for Delusions of Grand Fur?
I was writing all this music and we didn’t have a plan and I didn’t want to demo everything and make an album twice. I wanted to be spontaneous. I said to Pat, “Man, let’s not demo, lets just go in to the studio and record songs on the fly”.
I think in order to be spontaneous like that, we knew we had to do it on our own. We couldn’t really have a producer because usually when you have a producer, you have them listen to you play and demo, but I didn’t want to do any of that. I wanted to completely have it be us and not try to fix things or have it not sound like us.
I wanted it to sound like how our process actually works and how that works is I sit in a room with Pat and I have my guitar or synth or piano or drums or whatever and I go “Hey man, does this sound like a song to you?” And I will start playing and singing and he will be like “Let’s try” and then we start creating the structure and all that stuff so that’s how we make songs. So why try to be something that we’re not? I just thought it would be a real honest way of being like…this is what our band actually is, this is what we really do when we make a song. Sometimes we do the whole process and it really doesn’t work so then we start over and use different instruments to get the point across.
Like there is this song called ‘What is Left to Solve’ where it was like an acoustic guitar, frolicking, folky song and it sucked. It sounded so boring. So we decided to just start completely over and start with a drum machine and a synthesizer and it became this dark, dance, electronic song. So if we had a producer, then we would not have come to those conclusions on our own, we would have had someone else say ‘Hey, why don’t you try this’ and that producer might have had a great idea, but it wouldn’t have been our idea and it wouldn’t have been a struggle.
We were forced to bang our heads against the wall to try to get to the bottom of why does this suck, how do we fix it, what resources do we have in our crappy little studio that can make it happen? I like music that shows signs of struggle and people are reaching for something that is beyond them. It’s not perfect, it’s actually imperfect. There’s something wrong with it but you’re trying for something. I wanted a record that was the sound of us reaching.
Rogue Wave’s new album Delusions of Grand Fur comes out today! Click here to order.
Rogue Wave are hitting the road! To see when they are coming to a town near you, visit their official website. Follow the band on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Categorized in: Artist Interviews