The Trough and Crest of Rogue Wave

Mother Jones

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Rogue Wave frontman Zach Rogue (a.k.a. Zach Schwartz) is feeling optimistic about the summer to come. Well, relatively so: “I feel like the forces of nature have tried to kill this band,” he tells me, “but they haven’t succeeded yet.”

He’s referring to the seemingly neverending series of tragedies that has plagued Rogue Wave over the years. Drummer Pat Spurgeon nearly died of kidney failure during the band’s 2006 tour—which became the subject of the PBS documentary D Tour—and the band’s former bassist was killed in a house fire in 2008. Most recently, Zach’s father passed away.

And the band played on. Rogue Wave’s fifth album, Nightingale Floors, which comes out this week, packs more of the rattling, inertia-filled pop songs that characterized the band’s early work; the sorts of songs we heard in abundance on late-2000’s episodes of The O.C., One Tree Hill, and Friday Night Lights. But the music stands out, thanks in no small part to Rogue Wave’s mission: to produce straightforward yet memorable songs that they would want to listen to, songs lacking pretension but not emotion, and using what Rogue calls an “inclusive” approach to songwriting.

Hours before the Rogue Wave’s recent 1 a.m. performance for a packed house at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill—their first official concert in two years—I sat down with Rogue and Spurgeon on the venue’s outdoor patio. Zach lamented the passing of the in-house cat, while Pat grabbed a pint and pulled up his jacket to proudly show off his perfectly worn-in Oakland A’s t-shirt. They were positively giddy for their comeback and eager to talk about their change in direction since their last album, 2010’s Permalight.

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The Trough and Crest of Rogue Wave

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