"Reading Cryptonomicon is like talking to the nerdiest and coolest person you've ever met. All of the major themes are there (the duality of man, sexual longing and unrequited desire, ambition, etc.) and all of the possible historical truths described in it are really interesting. It's this sprawling, verbose, and sometimes convoluted story-but even still, the writing and the style just kills."
Zach Rogue is explaining the Neal Stephenson novel that inspired his band's name, Rogue Wave. In the book, Stephenson explains these ocean waves as large as 10-story apartments that were once considered a nautical myth; now, they're accepted as a reason huge ships sink in the middle of the ocean.
In comparison, Rogue Wave, the band, is a ripple on a remote coastline, something nice against your ankles. Their debut EP, Out of the Shadow, came out last year on Sub Pop Records, and they've gotten ultra-cool gigs with bands like Mates of State and gigs at last year's Noise Pop Festival, a who's-who in the indie world.
Out of the Shadow is an apt title. The essentially one-man recording came out of the small yet cultish shadow of his former band, Desoto Reds. It was also out of the shadow of Rogue's unemployment, since he flew to New York to actualize the songs in his head after he was laid off from a crappy job.
"I was working for a web development company in San Francisco-working just crazy hours, 70-80 hours a week sometimes," Rogue explains. "When I got laid off after a few years, I realized how much I loathed my job. I needed a new environment."
So he asked his friend Bill Racine to help him out. Racine had worked with producer Dave Fridman, helping out with albums by the Flaming Lips, Mogwai, Café Tacuba and Sparklehorse. Together, they laid out the delicate folk songs of Shadow. The record is simple, melodic, tender-but beneath songs like "Nourishment Nation" and "Postage Stamp World" lies the micro-sized din of handclaps, keys, pedal steel and harmonies.
The result is folk-pop with a vibrant underworld of cool noise.
"That's the kind of art that really gets under my skin, lasts the longest," says Rogue. "As a listener, I don't need to be hit over the head to understand something thematically or melodically. I wanna not really fully understand something. I wanna be mystified by it. I wanna feel like there are some things a person can just never know completely-truth is something you receive in glimpses.
"Pop music uses redundancy as the blueprint for how it is constructed-that's what makes you wanna sing the chorus over and over again in a song you love. But since we all know that is true, I think there is a way to accept that structure and still use restraint and never throw all of your cards down on the table at once."
Sub Pop people threw their cards down on the table when they heard Out of the Shadow. To pull off their current tour-the West Coast with labelmate The Album Leaf, the Midwest and East with blues-rockers Two Gallants-Rogue is with the four-piece band he assembled using the 21st-century version of the classifieds: Craigslist.
"I decided that instead of auditioning people in a studio, I would meet them in a bar first, to see what they were like. To me, music isn't about how quickly you can repeat what you heard on the record or how much skill you have on your instrument. It's whether or not you connect with those that you are playing with." B
Rogue Wave's connected people play at the Casbah with The Album Leaf and Sunsets & Landscapes, 9 p.m. on Jan. 20. $12. 619-232-HELL. www.roguewavemusic.com.