After taking some time off between Rogue Wave records, Zach Schwartz (aka Zach Rogue) and company are back on tour supporting their recent LP “Nightingale Floors,” their fifth full-length album, and the first on Vagrant Records.
“I needed a break in general, you know — from everything,” says Schwartz. “Just being on the road with ‘Permalight’ — to play those songs live was not easy to do and it didn’t seem to sound like us. I didn’t like the trajectory of where we were going live and I had to take some time away and get some perspective. I did this band called Release the Sunbird and I also scored a TV show for HBO [“On Freddie Roach”]. I think both of those experiences are what led me to make ‘Nightingale Floors.’”
“Permalight,” Rogue Wave’s 2010 release, was seen by many to be a marked departure from the band’s signature sound — including Schwartz, himself.
“Everything is a reaction to something else,” he says. “We started to do ‘Permalight’ and I had all of these physical problems where I couldn’t move my body and I had lost feeling in my hand, so I felt that I wasn’t able to do any playing. At the time I wanted to make really rhythmic dance-beat music because I was excited to just be playing again. The problem is we are not really a dancey band. It’s great, but it’s not great for us. We’re supposed to be a little more loose — that’s our sound — and it ebbs and flows. We don’t have perfection; we have expression. It was an experiment and I’m glad we did it, but I think 'Nightingale Floors' is much closer to how we play.”
Schwartz says his hand hasn't totally healed, but he's feeling better.
"I try and bandage it. It’s not as bad as it was, which was great. There’s some things; my hand is still numb, but I’ve learned to deal with that and I’m not bedridden. Well, not yet," he says.
Together with longtime collaborator Pat Spurgeon, Rogue Wave are back to that summertime sound that has come to define the band’s catalog. But look deeper and you’ll realize that the poppy hooks and inherent hopefulness that ease into their breezy melodic instrumentation often mask the melancholy of the lyrics that lurk underneath their swooning harmonies. No strangers to bad luck and tragedy, besides his own personal health problems, Rogue lost his friend and former bassist Evan Farrell in complications following a house fire, and Spurgeon almost lost his life from kidney failure.
“These are songs about letting go, of the past and trying to have control over things that you can never, ever control,” says Schwartz. “You can’t control the fact that you’re going to die. Everyone you know is going to, and all you can do is just accept it and really live. Maybe I was crying in my whiskey when I was writing it, but maybe it ultimately ended up different than that. With music, there’s always a duality of what’s being said and how it’s being said. You can hear a sad and brutally honest song, but it can make you ironically feel good. You can feel happy through someone’s misery. If you feel that these songs sound happy, I’ll tell you you’re crazy because I wasn’t talking about happiness. But that’s why music is interesting. That’s why people like music, and that’s why we play music.”
On the core of the band
"It’s always about me and Pat, ever since we met. Either we’re on parallel [levels] or if I’m doing a vocal track he’s on some weird instrument tracking onto his computer or 4-track machine. We pull all the tracks together we like and mix them up … like salad. We’re a salad band. A quilty salady band.”