Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
Most of the people we're surrounded by - at least here - don't think about music or talk about it or chew on it in a comparable way to the way that I do. There are a few of us, just a few, who try to reach the music. Most of the people we're surrounded with here, and most places we'd bargain to say, don't feel the need to think much about the details that many of us find important - why we're really in love with someone, why that one sequence in "Juno" choked us up when it really wasn't all that sad or all that happy, why, today, we feel good, why that song that we're just now hearing for the first time has made us deaf and blind to everything else happening at that moment. Most just sit in their reclining chairs and mumble like a pre-programmed bot about how there's nothing but crud on television that night or they drift off into that vapid world of cynicism where everything that goes on still leaves them thinking and feeling like a white movie screen during the many hours that aren't showtimes.
It's hard to blame them sometimes for the tendency to just turn off for extended periods and just go through the motions. Then, maybe they meet someone who can speak with such grandiose appreciation and wonder about something that they'd taken as a non-anything, a figure of complacency - something that was just there, nothing to look at, or just nothing that was seen. Two months ago in Esquire, a piece ran about a man building a boat in his backyard with only $25,000 to spend, intending on sailing alone across the world. He is married and recognizes the tremendous dangers involved with a trip of this sort are great enough that he may not make it back alive. Even so, he feels compelled to strike out and do this. He has no death wish - but he has no choice. It's his way of existing. He feels aglow with the challenge. A quote in the story from Ken Barnes, another man who attempted the same thing but nearly died off the coast of Chile, has been bouncing around my head ever since and in this long-winded introduction to the Bay Area rock and roll band Rogue Wave, it seems unlikely important. Barnes told this man, named David Vann, that he didn't regret his trip, saying, "You're living your life, not just existing. Most people just exist. And they might think it's crazy, but they don't know what it's like to sees stars down to the horizon, a moon bright enough to read by, and waves high as mountains, bright as diamonds. You're too awed to be scared. You look at it and think, Nobody, unless they risk it all, will be able to see what I'm seeing right now."
Listening to all three Rogue Wave records - the Sub Pop releases Out of the Shadow and Descended Like Vultures -- and the latest on Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records, Asleep At Heaven's Gate, it's easy to imagine that you're hearing someone, or some very magnetic people, trying to verbally describe a glacier to you. They're attempting to quantify the sheer magnificence of that big, glistening mass of ice and heft. They're people who could talk about The Rocky Mountains and make you believe that it's not just a lumpy, gray mountain range, but a little bit of special, and a whole lot of stardust or the like. Zach Schwartz or Zach Rogue sings as if all he sees and is inspired by is snow-capped.
It's a beautiful way to go about it for sure. It's the same as the first day of a good, hard frost during the middle of the fall - on a day that everyone knows will still reach into the mid-60s for a high temperature - when you sneak outside to snap the morning newspaper up from the white peppered sidewalk, the hands melting the thin film of ice from the plastic baggie, and seeing your hot breath escaping as a cloud of cotton for the first time since the previous March. It helps send tingles. Rogue doesn't have a lukewarm bone in his body, choosing to showcase the technicolored spectrum of breezy pop that he always seems to have cooking in a full-body kettle, above his kindling or coals. How he got that way is for his mother or father to tell us. How he found associates like the irreducible Pat Spurgeon, Gram LeBron and Patrick Abernethy - each of the same formative appreciations - to flesh out the intimate sounds of buried treasure is for him to tell. How they've all maintained the fastidiousness for the brightness of wonder and life might involve taking regular visits, on clear mornings, around the bends of Treasure Island and looking across the bay and just gasping. It should do it.
*Tragedy struck the Rogue Wave family* two days before Christmas last month as former bassist Evan Farrell died in an apartment fire when he was in Oakland to perform with his old band Japonize Elephants, one of the first bands singed to Secretly Canadian Records. Current Rogue Wave member Gram LeBron was sleeping in the same 100-year-old house the night that an old heater ignited the blaze, but he was able to make it out safely. The band is still shocked by the loss of their good friend, who has most recently been playing with Jason Molina in Magnolia Electric Co. and leaves behind two young sons. "A PayPal memorial account has been set up for contributions. »":https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=xclick&business=gogoyayaliveson%40gmail%2ecom&itemname=Evan%20Farrell%20Memorial%20Fund Please do what you can to help his family.