Rogue Wave: Flying through time

by Kristen Stanovich

photo by Andrew Paynter

In the art world, anything worth doing should break a few “rules.” So when it came time to record their first album in three years, Zach Rogue wanted the new Rogue Wave project to be released as-is, without a demo, in all its imperfect glory. But for a band that’s been recording and releasing music since the early aughts, whatever imperfections they may hear on the record sound perfectly intentional, bringing together a thematic and dreamy album reminiscent of early Rogue works but with a new, purposeful direction.

Self-produced and recorded by Rogue and Pat Spurgeon along with collaborations by several other members Delusions of Grand Fur began more than two or three years before its release in April through Easy Sound Recording Company. But the intent behind the album wasn’t set around a release date. It would be released when they felt their work was done.

“Nothing in this business is really ever planned,” Rogue said. “Some of these deadlines are self-imposed and what matters is that the record is good and that we feel good about the songs. It’s a weird time in music, there’s so much and the way it’s being consumed is really changing and so we didn’t want to make something we think is halfway shitty.”

Delusions of Grand Fur starts off bright and shiny, enveloped in hopeful, reverbed guitar melodies and gentle drum beats on “Take It Slow” and “In the Morning.” The album then takes a turn into “Look at Me.” Frantic percussive beats and distorted guitar sounds make for a poignant introduction to critiques of society and the violence inhabiting our daily lives. The lyrics are forcibly critical, highlighting the angst and anxiety that consume anyone’s life who has had to deal with the repercussions of gun violence, particularly after the tragedies of Sandy Hook and Newtown. Rogue sings “In the vast expanse of government/ I think you’re gonna burn/ yeah, the gun cannot just shoot itself/ and you will get your turn” citing how little or no action is being taken by politicians or any figure of authority.

“A lot of the record has to do with decay and delusional behavior,” Rogue said. “I think when you detach the personal, when it’s all [about] lobbyist groups and corporate interest, you remove people’s willingness to be moral. When I was writing ‘Look at Me’ I decided to make it more personal. How can you look into the eyes of someone who lost their child in Sandy Hook and say I am going to do nothing, absolutely nothing to help this problem?”

The track is following by “Falling” a reflective, melancholic refrain from the frustration presented in the song prior. Melodically comparable to the band’s 2006 single “Eyes” the song mixes beautiful harmonies with a simplistic guitar sound to back lyrics that still highlight the exhaustion felt toward a world where “everything’s for sale.”

The latter half of the album features digitized, synth-laden tracks like “What is Left to Solve?” and “Frozen Lake” which pay homage to the band’s love of 80’s new wave music that Rogue said is such a defining characteristic of the band as a whole. The fact that it’s taken this long for this kind of sound to appear on one of their albums is surprising as they often experimented with synthesizers while practicing in their studio, Rogue said.

As for the album title, Rogue said it’s open to interpretation.

“Whether you’re in a band or whether you’re any other kind of human being, that you live in some state of delusion and because the real world is too hard to take. We are in such denial of our history and the world is an awful place but it’s also a beautiful place and that’s why we are always engaged in some form of delusional behavior in order to kind of make it through the day,” he said. “For bands, if you are stupid enough to start a band you have to be delusional on some level to think that there will be a positive outcome…which I am,” he chuckles.

From the recording process to the sound of some of the tracks, it’s evident that Delusions of Grand Fur is rooted in a DIY- aesthetic. To release a new album into a world where streaming services reign supreme, Rogue said that finding new ways to monetize art is becoming more and more challenging.

“I use a lot of those [streaming services] myself and it’s turned me on to a lot of music,” Rogue said. “That king of interaction is unprecedented and exciting, at the same time if you never have to search or work for anything music and everything is just handed to you and there is no mystique anymore.”

Rogue does admit he and other musicians are a part of the process, however. The immediacy of everything is rooted in our need as a society to want more.

“I think the problem is that it’s not even necessarily the mechanics, it’s really that it’s everything else and it’s not music it’s that we’re inundated with so much entertainment and information all the time, whether its TV, film whatever, there’s so much of everything and people aren’t able or willing to listen deeply or focus deeply on things because they’re just so overwhelmed,” he said.

It’s because of this influx of stimuli that he’s more aware of the musical process and what he wants an audience to get out of a Rogue Wave album.

“What we do is keep making albums that are meant to be consumed over a longer period of time, our record…it’s sequenced in a certain way there’s a beginning and an end and that takes time that people maybe aren’t willing to invest,” he said. “We kind of are creating an outdated mode of entertainment but we still are tethered to it and we enjoy it.”

Though some are jaded with the way music is shared today, the process of creating a record and releasing it to the world will never cease to be special. Rogue said the fact that the band can still create something that individualistic and experience the process of making something that no one else could have made, is all worthwhile.

“It’s just my purpose. It’s making something only you can do and it’s hard to have that chance at anything,” he said. “When you make your own art, it’s your own lens that no one can copy. That’s thrilling. And it helps me cope.”

See Rogue Wave live at the Wild Buffalo on June 23, and get band updates at www.facebook.com/roguewave.

Published in the June 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine