There are three clichés found in nearly every band you meet: one - it's always about the music; two - the band is like a family; and three - they react with disgust at the phrase "selling out." Rogue Wave certainly has all three down pat. So how do you get to know a band that on the surface is just like all the others? Much like their music, you listen to find the layers and quietly allow yourself to slip in between their emotions and their sound. That's what Glide's E.C. Thomas did over a recent pre-show dinner with the band.
Here's what she discovered:
The band, Zach Rogue (lead singer and songwriter), Pat Spurgeon (drums), Gram LeBron (guitars) and Evan Farrell (bass) found one another via Craigslist in San Francisco. But make sure you don't ask Evan about this, 'cause he doesn't like to rehash their history for journalists, it makes him testy. He's also sick of doing interviews with journalists who don't know anything about the band - he doesn't have the patience for it. "All journalists are just interested in writing a narrative," he'll quip.
It doesn't take long to realize each member has a distinct way of speaking and acting, yet they have a clear string of connection to one another (yes, like a family). Zach talks about music like a child talks about Santa - with wonder and awe; Pat discusses the subject like a wise diplomat who's been around the block; Gram with realistic and Southern sweetness and Evan, pragmatism and a penchant for not so much discussing as declaring (it must be said that however high his no bullshit attitude, his gruffness doesn't entirely cover up his endearing vulnerability).
They all talk about one another with admiration and affection, and are careful not to betray anything too personal. They're quick to make jokes at inopportune times to cover any uncomfortable moments and especially where emotion may be exposed. And it's clear they have a deep comfort in their familiarity. They've got the rhythm down cold. They know where they've been and will most definitely keep all the secrets, even as they move forward.
Pat: "We're all nice people; we all have that sweet spot."
Evan: "Well some of us."
Zach: "It doesn't mean we can't be snappy. But it doesn't last for more than an hour, a day."
Pat: "Minutes in some cases."
One of the band's greatest traits - and perhaps what is key to the connective tissue is how their egos (healthy and intact) don't overshadow one another. You can see this as they talk, a rather graceful dance of finishing each other's sentences without treading on someone's thoughts, and most importantly as they play their music. When was the last time you saw a band live where they switched instruments faster than stripping out of a prom dress after a six-pack? And felt perfectly comfortable doing so?
"Sometimes being a good musician is knowing when not to play," says Pat, as if reminiscing about all the times he witnessed the dueling egos that eventually destroyed a good thing.
They love their fans and wish they could play more under-18 shows. And, it's clear that their fans love them - from baking cookies ("Those were good cookies too," says Evan), to writing the band with gratitude. "I got an email from a kid with some problems - definite issues," says Zach. "But he said that the music got him through. To make that connection with someone is amazing. It's embarrassing and cool and all those things, but it's amazing."
They embrace the unknown and are hesitant to pigeon-hole themselves into one particular genre. The term 'Indie' is a genre that us journalists have created. "Modest Mouse is not an independent band - they're on Epic Records," says Zach with a kind of excited candor. And as Pat explains, the band sees eye-to-eye because of their musical upbringing, listening to a lot of the same melodic style of music, like The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. But just as soon as any of them explains this commonality, they're quick to offer the possibility that they'll branch out into something new.
"It kinda just keeps evolving," says Zach. "Same thing with recording, I don't think we have it figured out yet. And I don't think we necessarily want to figure it out, we want to keep it light and a little unknown. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. That's kind of the spirit of rock anyway. It's like embracing the unknown and going with your gut a little bit. The scariness of the studio is that you don't know how it's going to sound once you start recording, it could suck, you don't really know until you're hearing it and that's kind of exciting too."
"And then mixing it too," adds Evan. "You could have a part that's there the whole time and then take it out. [One you] even use live all the time - it doesn't work in the mix but it comes out."
Even as he writes lyrics, Zach is committed to just let things happen, whether it's waking up from a dream or having something strike him. "Sometimes when you over think words too much, they lose their primal aspects and honesty. If you try to make them too fancy or try to sound too articulate, I think it sounds too cluttered or too forced. I feel like I'd rather be more from the gut and almost dumb it down sometimes," he says. "There's no formula."
Hit them with the criticism that with Descended Like Vultures'
new sound they've sold out and they are ready and willing to meet the challenge.
Evan: "Yeah, it's because we're so rich now. Because we have those fancy cars and we each have our own tour vehicle - our summer homes."
Zach: "I think anyone who actually listened to our music and said it was a sell out, they probably didn't like it to begin with."
Evan: "It's hilarious."
Zach: "There's this built in feeling of guilt or something, or this perception of guilt like if you've found any kind of success you've de-purified your art or something."
Evan: "It's like if you're a carpenter and you have a woodshop in your house all the time when you're a kid - it's like a provocation, and then you get a job in a cabinet shop and then make all these expensive cabinets and you then sell them - are you a sell out? Or are you a craftsman?"
Pat: "How `bout this - you go and you punch a time clock at a job that you hate, but you keep doing it - are you selling out there?"
Zach: "If you go without anything and then follow your heart - if following our hearts is selling out - then they can all fuck themselves because it's ridiculous."
Talk to them over dinner - learn how they aren't a cliché.
E.C. Thomas is an independent filmmaker, photographer and writer in Boston: dragonflyROAR.com