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Interview: Zach Rogue of Rogue Wave

by Photo of Chelsea Perrotty

We got to chat with Zach Rogue about the new album ‘Nightingale Floors’ and jamming with fans.

Interview: Zach Rogue of Rogue Wave

Rogue Wave, headed by Zach Schwartz (aka Zach Rogue), recently released their fifth studio album Nightingale Floors off of Vagrant Records, the first for the label. It has been well-received by fans, including myself.

Listening to the songs, it definitely draws back to the bands roots. Nightingale Floors is reminiscent of Rogue Wave's earlier work with a definite return to the sound that everyone had come to know and love from them. It's an album that screams to be seen performed live in person. 

I got to chat with Zach about the process behind Nightingale Floors, the duality of his joy to record the album with the tragedy of his fathers passing, the type of concert he hopes to put on in the future, and so much more. 

Chelsea: So I love the new album. Tell me about it. What kind of message were you going for?

Zach Rogue: What kind of message? Well, I think it's not up to me. There are things that I am saying on it, but I think that people can take what they want from it, you know? It's a lot of different songs so I don't know if it's still the "one exact concept," it's a lot of things. But, ya know, the idea is kind of letting go, trying to let go of the past; knowing that things move forward no matter what happens in your life. You just have to accept that in order to move on in your life.

So, how would you compare writing and recording Nightingale Floors to Permalight? Which, I know wasn't too well received, but I want you to know, for the record, that I really liked it.

Well, ya know, it definitely kinda got killed a little bit and that happens sometimes when you make records. I don't know, really, of any bands who have made a lot of records where every single one has been, like, loved by all. I think of my favorite bands and I don't like every single thing they've done. But the fact is that when we were doing Permalight we were experimenting with how we were editing music and recording it. We spent a lot of time on it and I think we spent too much time on it. I think that when you labor over our kind of music for too long, it lessens the emotional cues that we want to hit. 

On this one, [Nightingale Floors], we tried to just let go and not try to make it perfect and just have fun and try to play live more and not try to not to overdose unless we thought it really needed that. Just make it sound like how we actually play. 

Absolutely, that definitely comes across on the album. I was saying that one of the things I love the most is that I can listen to it while I'm working and concentrating but at the same time I will blast it when I'm in the car driving and hanging out with my friends. Do you think that was one of your intentions?

Well, I mean, not really. It's hard to know how others will consume your music, you know. We took a break, the band took a break, and when we got back together and started playing music again and hanging out again and all that stuff, it was really really joyous. When we're in the studio, just fucking around and figuring out what songs, ya know we had about 30 songs we were playing with, I was just so excited to just be playing with them.

I do want to feel like when people are listening to it that they feel that sense of joy, so yeah, I really liked playing the record loud. Even the quiet songs, playing them loud feels immersive to me. You know, we tried to sequence the record, we actually spent more time sequencing it than anything else, kind of deciding what songs we wanted to put on it because we recorded a heck of a lot more than we actually put on. 

I wanted it to be like you could really listen to the whole thing and want to hear the whole thing and feel like it's an entire experience from the first song to the last. If you want to, you know, go on this little ride. 

You touched on this a little bit earlier when you said that you had taken time off, I wanted to ask about your, um, teamwork with Pat (Spurgeon), and I know you've always said you love working with him and making music with him and that you were so happy being back in the studio with him, do you want to elaborate on your, er, partnership with him?

Yeah, you know, I did take some time away from the band and did this project called Release the Songbird and I scored a show for HBO called On Freddie Roach and it was my first time ever doing something without Pat since I had met him. And those were great experiences I'm really thrilled I did that stuff, but we definitely realized when we reconnected again, particularly when we were demoing songs in our own studio, just how rare, to me, that the relationship that he and I have is. It's like I've always known it. We compliment each other so well. 

When I'm trying to figure something out, he's kind of helping me build some kind of a beat that I can write to. Anything I throw at him he has this kind of patience that is just very open. I never feel like I'm being judged or that I need to rush or anything like that. 

So the band can't really exist unless the two of us are really having that sort of fast back and forth when we are demoing. We work really fast. We know where the other person is going to go and it's just very easy and a lot of times it's very much unspoken. 

You could say that you guys kind of have a hive mind?

Yeah, definitely.

You don't have to talk about it, you can just both get there.

Yeah, it's really very lucky. It's hard. I think a lot of people who play music want to have those relationships but it's just like everything else, like finding other kinds of partners, like a husband or a wife. You know, someone who you really feel like you connect well with. 

On a musical level, Pat and I just have that kind of bond where we just go well together when we're in a recording situation.

As I've learned, your father passed away while you were writing and recording Nightingale Floors and you wanted this event to influence the album in a beautiful and uplifting way, I think that you succeeded in that. Are you happy with how it influenced the album? There's definitely that emotional energy behind the tracks.

Hmm, well, there's things you can't help, you know? It just so happens that right when Pat and I, and Mark, when we started work and connected and started playing again it was right when my Dad had his diagnosis. It was in the same month. And so, I had a choice to make, if I wanted to deal with my own stuff and not play music, or play and deal with it that way and I chose to do that. I feel like it was the best gift I could have, having people to play with, because it allowed me to do something constructive with that time. 

I didn't want the music to be preaching or I didn't feel sorry for myself for all that was going on, I was just in a lot of pain. But I was lucky because I had people to play with and when I'm feeling that way I don't need to make the music sound off it. You know, it is what it is. And some of the songs may have sounded more, kinda [laugh] brutal when I'm sitting there with my guitar but maybe when the whole band comes in it becomes something else and the reason why that is, we were just talking about this, that  the band isn't just me.

It's also Pat. It's a collaboration and that's a beautiful thing. So, part of it is the story of what was happening to me but that's only half of our songs. The other half is the people who play on them. 

So I also saw that you had a song in Iron Man 3, what was that like, ya know, being a part of that?

Uh, well, I wasn't really that involved. I mean, [laughter], not really at all. We basically recorded the song when we were in the studio and we decided not to put it on our album and so the folks with Iron Man asked if they could use it because they liked the song. So I said okay. [laughter] It wasn't very, I didn't really do that much. They just kind of used it. But it was great because the record and that song didn't really seem to fit very well lyrically, it just didn't match our album. But for the context of that action-y movie, I guess, it worked better. [laughter]

At least, you know, you found a use for it, and Iron Man 3 is a pretty cool use for it. 

[laughs] Yeah it was pretty funny. We were all kind of like "well....okay. We're doing nothing with the song, sure!" 

It was just sitting there. That's actually what happens so much with us because we record so much music and a lot of times, we release barely anything. We put the music out on records and some other things but it really is a fraction of what we actually record. So it's nice sometimes to have other ways to do that. 

So, I know you've been touring and playing, what song from the new album are you most excited or you've found most enjoyable to play live? 

Um, I would probably say the song "Everyone Wants to be You" which is the last one. It's a very cathartic song to play in front of an audience and you feel the energy of the audience as the song builds at the end. We play it as like the last thing, and it's this kind of goodbye song that just feels really nice to have the audience with us on. It's a very powerful song. It's kind of exhausting and everyone in the band is exhausted when it's over, but it's a real kind of trip. 

The whole song is repetition. It's the same three chords 'EGP' over and over again, it's like a mantra. It's sort of like primal scream therapy in a way. I just really like being able to do that. It's just a great experience live. 

So last question, which I kind of ask everyone I've interviewed, can you give me like a brief sentence or two to entice the readers to want to go see you when you come to their area. 

So, like a reason why? [laughter] So, what's my pitch?

[Laughs] Yeah, exactly.

Well, [laughs] this is so funny. I've never been asked that before. I would say that we are the only band that encourages people to bring their own instruments to play along in the audience. 


Yeah, that was the whole point of this record. I wanted to make it really inclusive. I wanted to feel as if on all the songs, from a technical standpoint, if you know how to play guitar or piano, you can kind of (on a lot of the songs) just play along. 

That's my dream. To have people coming and jam along with their own stuff and play with us. I want to feel like we're all playing together. 

That is awesome. I hope I see that.

I think that, ultimately, what I would like to do someday is do some kind of a setup where it is somewhat acoustic and people could bring their own acoustic instruments. So they literally are strumming along and we'd have the chords printed ahead of time so people could practice and we would all play together. Have some super jam-y strum-y time. 

Like, I would love to hear the song "College" with about 200 acoustic guitars strumming at the same time. 

I seriously applaud you. Best answer I've received so far. I really hope that I can see that.

Alright, well, we'll try to make it happen someday.

If you want to see Rogue Wave live, they're playing Friday June 21 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg and Saturday June 22 at Bowery Ballroom

Let CHARGED.fm help you get last minute Rogue Wave tickets!

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