WORDS and PHOTOS by TRAVIS GILLETT & BEN LINDBLOOM
Zach Schwartz kicked off his career in 2003 with Out of the Shadow, which he first released privately and then re-released a year later under Seattle’s Sub Pop Records. From the beginning of his career it was difficult for him to imagine gaining any ground in the music industry, “I don’t know what it was, maybe I felt I was undeserving of having a following.” Now, 10 years and 5 studio albums later, and after a 3-year hiatus, Rogue Wave are back on a North American tour surrounding their fifth album, Nightingale Floors. Apparently it’s been the most high-energy shows they’ve ever had.
DHM had the chance to sit down with Zach after telling him we were writing for the Wall Street Journal. Here’s what we talked about…
As a band, what do you disagree with most?
Where to eat. But, on a music side, we don’t have that friction. The roles are pretty clearly defined. We’re not at each other’s throats in the studio or anything. It’s more just frustrations with how the music industry works.
If you had to make a personal license or vanity plate on your car what would it say?
How long would you survive, alone, lost in the wilderness?
At least 3 hours. At least! Especially if it was nice weather and someone left a meal for me, a couple nice down pillows and a bed…and a hotel room.
Would you kill an animal to survive?
If it was a right-wing animal, I’d probably kill it.
What’s one of your childhood fears?
As a kid I thought it was inevitable that I would get abducted by aliens and/or chop off my fingers when cutting a block of cheese. I don’t know why aliens would choose me because I think I’d be a poor choice, like there was an error where they were supposed to get somebody else, but they got me.
Where do you get your news?
I feel like the only way to get good music is from more than once source. The moment you start trusting only one source for anything, that’s when you need to make some adjustments.
You’re in the midst of a North American Tour around your latest album, “Nightingale Floors.” What do you look forward to most when you’re about to embark on a tour?
When we first started, I never really interacted with the people, and now I’ll hug people in the crowd. I appreciate the people that are there, and the energy of the people in the room. I have a palpable sense of the realization that when we play a show, like tonight, it is the only night this is going to happen exactly this way. The spontaneity and specialness of people paying money to come see us, I feel like I’m related to them. I always complain to my mother, I feel like I’m so self-absorbent for playing music, that music is such a self-indulgent pursuit. My mom said, “well, when you were having trouble as an adolescent and you listened to The Cure, The Smiths, and R.E.M. would you say they were self-indulgent or would you say those people were there for you?” If it weren’t for those people I would have had a lot of trouble.
I love touring when I’m on stage. Life is always changing. Once you’ve done something, you want to try something new, and as an artist I always want to try new things. I’ve been touring for 10 years, and at this point we’ve cultivated a following, and I love when we’re playing and I look at these people like they’re me. If they like our band, I must have something in common with them, so there’s a bit of validation there. I identify with them, and we have a relationship on some level. They don’t like us because we dress cool, certainly. We share something. We’re not a fashion band, not a trend, we just write melodies. I like music that’s inclusive, which is why I like Bruce Springsteen and The War on Drugs. I like music where you don’t feel like the band is trying to be smarter than you, but when you listen to them, you’re part of the group. That’s what I feel is lost in a lot of indie-music. I like music where it’s cool to sing and play along to it. The purpose of music is to help you through the pain of life.
Rogue Wave makes the perfect melodic indie-pop that you can hope for when you’re feeling nostalgic, missing someone, struggling, opening a new chapter in life, what have you. I will even go on record and say they beat Postal Service or Death Cab for Cutie in that category. I should watch my words as I run the risk of being passive-aggressively shunned by all Seattleite’s for speaking ill of Ben Gibbard. Anyways, their latest album, Nightingale Floors is dominated by meditations on life and death, and far from being a downer, it’s about appreciating life. But that is what Rogue Wave is about. Zach is about sharing real feelings and connecting with his fans. He said the band’s never been about fashion or trends, just significant life experiences and channeling those feelings into a melody.
If you like Rogue Wave, support them by purchasing their music, here.