Rogue Wave is a band in limbo. Their second full-length album, Descended Like Vultures, drops Oct. 25, and the buzz is already beginning to build. The band could be the next Shins; an indie sensation getting rave reviews and moving like they were on a major-label, or they could end up like so many other talented bands, producing brilliant music that never gets heard. All they need is a soundtrack appearance in a hip movie or inclusion in a ubiquitous commercial; basically, the same perfect storm that’s propelled The Shins to their improbable level of success.
The prospect of increased exposure doesn’t seem to faze humble frontman Zach Rogue, who said “I don’t even know what success means. It seems like an illusion, and it’s foolish to hope for things when you don’t even know what they are. It’s especially hard to look into the future when you’re playing music because it’s all unknown.” Indeed, his modesty is not surprising considering the origins of Rogue Wave.
Rogue Wave’s ’03 debut, Out of the Shadows, was written entirely by Rogue. In order to assemble a band to back him, he put an ad on Craigslist.com searching for musicians with similar influences. Not only did the CD he sent out to prospective bandmates attract attention from around the Bay Area, but unbeknownst to him, it was also circulating the offices of uber-indie la bel Subpop, who soon snatched up Rogue and immediately remastered and reissued his debut. “I feel lucky; like just being signed to Subpop was a fluke,” Rogue said.
Descended like Vultures comes with high expectations, but if the preview EP 10:1 is any indication, Rogue Wave will far exceed them. Whereas Out of the Shadows was largely a one-man effort, Descended is the work of an entire band. “It’s the sound of more people collaborating. The process hasn’t really changed, there are just more stylistic ideas in place, and it sounds more expansive because of that,” Rogue said.
The record was finished months ago and has recently leaked, but Rogue has an atypical, and refreshingly rational perspective on having his music illegally shared. “The point is to get music out there, and it’s nice to know that people care to hear it at all. And that they care enough to go get it is validation. It is a problem because you spend money recording and you owe your record label. There’s a trade-off in place; it helps your cause when you perform, exposes more people to your music. It’s an embryonic technology, and I’m hopeful that it will help build communities of artists in the long-run,” he said.
They will be a week into a tour lasting through September when they hit The Blind Pig for their first ever Ann Arbor show Wednesday night. Expect a raucous concert with plenty of new material; “we like playing to young people, they generally seem more receptive,” Rogue responded when asked about playing in college towns. So go out and see an evolving band that deserves to be heard. It’s only getting better – and you’ll be there for the ride.