Sappy Joes

The members of Rogue Wave are crazy about each other -- and we're happy for them. Really.

When Gram Lebron heard the record, he had a similar reaction, so he showed up at Rogue Wave's first gig at Berkeley's Ivy Room (when the band was just a trio). There, he explains, "Something clicked, and I realized that I have to be in this band." A few weeks later, he was.

To hear these guys talk about finding one another is like listening to a pair of 40-year-old paramours ooze clichés: "I had all but given up on relationships." "I never thought I'd find true love." Blech! But combine their confessionals with the music they make together, and a bad episode of The Newlywed Game becomes Gone With the Wind.

The best songsmiths make translating complex emotions into three-minute pop songs look easy. Their songs are checkers, not chess: predictable but captivating. Zach Rogue has a similar gift. His hooks caress you like a lover, rather than clobber you like a bully; he can craft a tune from one long, drawn-out meditation on a single chord or a dozen dazzling progressions. Added to this base is his voice, which can sound as vulnerable as Nick Drake's or as sturdy as Paul McCartney's.

Lisa Schwartz


With Black Cat Music and Fifteen Minutes Fast

Thursday, Nov. 6, at 9 p.m.

There is a suggested donation of $5


Mezzanine, 444 Jessie (at Mint), S.F.

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On Out of the Shadow's "Be Kind + Remind," he sprinkles his sweet, whispered vocals over little more than a delicately plucked guitar, urging the gentle notes into an even gentler chorus of "Please be kind/ And remind." (Rogue's lyrics have a pleasantly obtuse quality no more off-putting than, say, "Within the sound of silence.") In welcome contrast to this warmly personal feeling is the skipping rock of songs like "Endless Shovel" or "Kicking the Heart Out," which playfully layers sound upon sound, verse upon verse, making you wait for what's ultimately an epic, celebratory chorus.

While Rogue's record is stunning on its own, it's amazing to see what his assembled band has done with the material. "We've taken those songs," says Spurgeon, "and just tore them all down, taken them down to just basically the vocal part and then built them back up, keeping a lot of the elements of the recording, but then reinterpreting stuff. The album isn't really a rock band. It isn't a band at all."

"Right," adds Rogue. "It's nerd boy in the basement."

Since its first show in February, the group has added keyboards and backup vocals, drum fills and bass lines: It's taken Rogue's already captivating songs and made them even better. And together they've worked out dozens of new tracks. "Love's Lost Guarantee" -- a chilling four-minute power-pop anthem -- is one of them, as is "Interruptions," arguably Rogue Wave's finest work yet. "Interruptions" builds to a glass-shattering finale that features the quartet pulling off a four-part harmony like a gospel choir on a sugar high, amid swirling swatches of distorted guitars, crashing cymbals, and warm organs. Hearing the voices melt into one another for the song's climax is as heartwarming as any Audrey Hepburn movie, especially when the music recedes suddenly, leaving Rogue's charmed tenor alone and pleading, "Leave the light on/ Leave the light on."

In the past six months, Rogue Wave has played shows almost once a week. It has toured the West Coast with much-hyped British retro-rockers the Clientele and opened for Austin indie darlings Spoon at the Fillmore. Just last week, Dawn Holiday, general manager of Slim's and teacher of music business at S.F. State, hosted a show so that her students could get experience promoting a concert. The class members themselves were charged with picking the headliner; out of this city's vast talent pool of up-and-coming acts, they chose Rogue Wave.

The group's waxing appeal is based on its enchanting songs, which in turn are based on the nurturing environment the members create for one another. "When I first started playing guitar, I hid my guitar in my closet because I didn't want anyone to know I was playing, because I was embarrassed," relates Spurgeon. In Rogue Wave, he's encouraged to pick up an ax whenever he's got something to play; his guitar harmonics on "Love's Lost Guarantee" make the song.

"It's like this," he says. "We're all boyfriend and girlfriend. And that's a huge responsibility, when you have two boyfriends and another girlfriend on top of that, ya know? It's like, 'Damn!' So we have to be really open with one another."

"I think there's a feeling of like, 'Wow, this is moving at kind of a quick pace,'" says Rogue. "But at the same time it's like -- honestly, it sounds kind of silly to say -- but I liken the experience of just getting to know these guys, the feeling we have, it's like falling in love. The feeling that we have for each other is so strong."


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