PROGRESS REPORT: Mixing their latest album, Permalight recorded at Sweet Tea Recording in Oxford, Mississippi. Due March 2, 2010.
As for most people, 2009 was a bad year for Zach Rogue. Of course sadness and introspection was already a huge part of his band Rogue Wave’s last album Asleep at Heaven’s Gate. “Ironically, [this] has even been a more difficult year. There’s been more death than I’ve ever had in my life,” Rogue says. Add to that a freak neck injury from last fall that left Rogue unable to move his shoulder or play guitar for a couple months, and Rogue Wave would have another album full of inward-looking songs about loss and anxiety. Instead, Rogue’s temporary paralysis made him appreciate the simple act of moving his body. “When I started playing guitar again because I got feeling back in my hand, I felt like I was a little kid again, because I was actually glad to play the guitar and start writing songs,” he says. And he wanted to celebrate. “I’ve decided that when you experience enough death, that you make a decision: Are you gonna wallow in it or are you gonna make the best of it and enjoy what you have? Because I’ve seen lately that it goes pretty fast.” he explained. “[So] this record is not about self-pity at all. There’s some anger in the lyrics and laughing at some of the hypocrisy, some lyrical darkness and stinging non sequitirs and all that, but musically, rhythmically, it’s up.”
“Up” means Permalight is, as Rogue says, more about “physical music, about the visceral experience of hearing music and letting your body move to it.” He and Rogue Wave’s Pat Spurgeon recorded this album differently, too: Permalight was recorded over several broken-up sessions at Dennis Herring’s Sweat Tea Recording studios in Oxford, Mississippi (population: 19,000). Previous albums kept the band close to Oakland. Herring, who’s worked with Elvis Costello, Animal Collective, Modest Mouse, and tons of others at his Oxford studio, also produced Permalight. Working with Herring was such a huge change for him and Spurgeon, that at times Rogue thought Spurgeon would break down. “Sometimes Pat was filled with rage and sometimes he was ecstatic,” laughs Rogue. Part of Spurgeon’s frustrations could have been Herring’s blunt advice during recording, advice that Rogue appreciated. “[Herring] was the vantage point of seeing my tendencies, like when I get lazy or repeat myself, and he could make those hard decisions,” Rogue says. Some of Herring’s wisdom? “‘You know what, man? You need to edit this song. It’s boring if there’s no one singing for three minutes,’ ‘Stop congratulating yourself on this chorus. This song’s actually pretty sad and boring,”‘ or, most succinctly, “‘Fuck subtlety.'” “Sometimes I thought he was trying to kill me,” Rogue says. Instead, Herring helped Rogue and Spurgeon get out of their comfort zones and create songs like “Stars And Stripes” and “Good Morning,” which became more outsized than anything they’ve done before. Not every track is a dance party, of course, but Rogue wanted every song on Permalight to be a literal or metaphorical shaking off of negative emotion. In fact, one of the templates for the title track was Kool And The Gang’s “Celebration,” a song that reminds Rogue of seeing the Oakland A’s win when he was kid. Another Permalight song, “Fear Itself,” may need a string quartet for Rogue Wave to pull it off effectively. Fuck subtlety, for sure. But Rogue’s optimistic. “We’ll probably get kicked in the ass a bit for it by the Twitter bloggers,” he admits. “But I feel good, and last year I didn’t think I was going to play music at all anymore, and to go from that to this record is pretty exciting.” And worth celebrating.
Here’s the tracklist:
01 “Solitary Gun”
02 “Good Morning”
04 “Stars And Stripes”
06 “Fear Itself”
07 “Right With You”
08 “We Will Make A Song Destroy”
09 “I’ll Never Leave You”
10 “Per Anger”
11 “You Have Boarded”
12 “All That Remains”
And here’s how it looked while being recorded:
In addition, the documentary about Rogue Wave’s Pat Spurgeon, D-Tour, is available to watch as a stream at PBS.
If there’s a band you want Progress Report to drag out of the studio, or bed, for an update, e-mail [email protected].
[Rogue Wave in-studio photos by Erin Austen Abbott]