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Rogue Wave

Submitted by on 19 Aug 2009 – 11:10 AM Comments

Rogue Wave is the incarnation of singer and guitarist Zach Schwartz (a.k.a. Zack Rogue), a former member of the Bay Area band, the Desoto Reds. When Rogue lost his job as a dot-comer, he headed for New York to team up with producer Bill Racine and lay down the tracks for Rogue Wave’s debut album. Out of the Shadows was privately released in 2003. A newly formed Oakland California quartet, including Pat Spurgeon (drums, samples, guitar, vocals), Gram Lebron (keyboards, guitar, drums, vocals) and Sony Westcott (bass, vocals)- later replaced by bassist Evan Farrell- embarked on a nationwide promotional tour. Rogue Wave quickly earned a spot on the indie label Sub Pop Records, who re-released Out of the Shadows in 2004.

Hazy and charmingly melodic, Rogue Wave’s debut couples pensive lyrics and ghostly, eerily whimsical strings. The opening stanza of the first track, “Every Moment,” serves as a window to the album: “Every moment that you’re here/I feel ashes on my ear/subtle difference disappears. Rogue’s vocals are airy, as if it’s trying to capture something in the ether. The lightheartedness is complemented by Simon and Garfunkel-like string combinations.

For their sophomore release, Descend Like Vultures (2005), which was written entirely by Rogue, the band opted for a louder sound, though the album is still fundamentally atmospheric. The new weight can be credited to the album’s production, which has evolved significantly since its Shadows era. There is a certain amount of relief offered by heavy guitar manipulation and harder synths, but Rogue’s cadence remains unchanged. His voice breaks through in “California,” where he cries, “Screw California/And friends that are never there… And ice that will never melt.” The album is substantial, even, as its title suggests, meaty. But Vultures is not the departure from Shadows that it initially appears to be; the differences are more cosmetic, and certainly beneficial. A mysterious liveliness is born here. Well-orchestrat- ed musical dimension results in interesting textures, and a more cohesive Rogue Wave sound.

The band’s upward climb came to a halt after Vultures, when member Pat Spurgeon was diagnosed with kidney failure. Spurgeon is a dynamic artist; in addition to Rogue Wave, he’s played in the bands Antenna, Stranded at the Drive In, Ramona the Pest, Brando, Steve Kowalski and Lessick, and released solo work as The Phantom Drummer. Fans showed their support with donations as well as many hopeful words for the fun-loving Spurgeon, the man who felt it necessary to add “ass slaps (left and right cheeks)” to his repertoire.

Rogue Wave was pleased to announce Spurgeon’s successful kidney transplant on January 12, though in the same month bassist Even Farrell officially left the band. The band has yet to declare a replacement, though they are currently performing. Their most recent show was an in-store performance at Urban Outfitters in Santa Cruz, California, on May 25th.

Serena Sandford

First published in Movmnt Magazine “Got Fame?” Issue – Fall 2007