If there was one good thing that came out of the dot.com collapse eight years ago, perhaps it was the fortuitous rise of Rogue Wave. After losing his job, Zach Schwartz decided to take stock of his situation with a quick trip from San Francisco to New York, intending to record a few songs with a friend. The sessions proved to be unexpectedly fruitful, providing Schwartz with not only an album’s worth of material but the justification to quit his previous band and assemble a new one which he dubbed Rogue Wave, going so far as to take the name “Rogue” as his Ramonesian identity. The new Zach Rogue self-released his New York sessions as his debut album, Out of the Shadow, in 2003 which led to a SubPop contract and the reissue of Shadow the following year.
With an actual band to collaborate on the sophomore Rogue Wave album, 2005’s Descended Like Vultures, it’s not surprising that the results were more engaging, expansive and beautiful, and the band was showered with effusive praise from every quarter.
Rogue Wave songs started showing up on television and in films, exponentially broadening their exposure and raising their profile.
Rogue Wave’s news has not all been good, however. Drummer Pat Spurgeon was benched with kidney difficulties and the band went through a succession of bass players (Evan Farrell was killed by smoke inhalation in an apartment fire after leaving the band in 2007). They also lost their SubPop deal when they couldn’t agree on the amount of albums to include in the contract.
Singer/songwriter Jack Johnson ultimately signed them to his Brushfire Records, which has resulted in its own complications, namely that the two albums released via that deal — 2008’s Asleep at Heaven’s Gate and this year’s Permalight — have been slightly safer, less visceral and immediate and more commercially minded than their predecessors. But Rogue Wave has always been most effective in the live arena, and that clearly hasn’t changed in spite of the critical reaction to its more recent studio work.
Rogue Wave is a lot like the freakishly large ocean waves its named after — they swell imperceptibly until they crash wildly into everything and everyone in front of them. The difference being, of course, that it’s a really good crash.
Rogue Wave and Gamble House play Aug. 5 at 20th Century Theatre. Go here for show and venue details.