Harvest of Hope: Rise above

Rogue Wave
;with Avi Buffalo
;9 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 13
;The Social, 407-246-1419

The new album, Permalight, documents a period that Zach Rogue would rather not revisit. In September 2008, the leader of Oakland indie pop outfit Rogue Wave injured his neck, leaving him in debilitating pain. For a few months, slipped discs prevented him from moving his right arm and hand, which in turn took away his favorite activity. "I couldn't play the guitar," says Rogue (aka Zach Schwartz). "Not being able to play music – in any capacity – recharged my batteries. I felt this hunger for physical music – music you would move your body to.";By January '09, Rogue could move again, so he picked up his instrument and penned a new batch of songs. In April, his group entered the studio to record Permalight, which hit stores last week.

From afar, his stint being infirm might not appear long. Rogue, however, says the temporary paralysis was a drawn-out hell. When asked about what he did to fill his downtime, he responds, "Cry a lot." (Despite a little laugh, it doesn't sound like he's joking.) His ailment was so crippling that his thoughts became disquieting: "This pain is off-the-charts crazy. I feel like I want to die. If this doesn't subside, my life doesn't have much meaning anymore." Pushed to his emotional edge, Rogue worried that his life might have been ruined. "You can't get out of a spiral of pain. You start thinking about broader issues, like the value of euthanizing someone," he says.

Compared to his tormented reality, Rogue Wave's fourth album is a cheerful experience, marked by iridescent harmonies, twittering bits of synth, and fine-spun, smooth singing. Bouncy tempos and drumbeats produce fast songs, and it's the shortest album the group has done. Lead single "Good Morning (The Future)" begins, "The future isn't it what it used to be/I'm not surprised," but Rogue never resorts to outright bitterness. Permalight's titular song even pays tribute to "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang, a favorite of Rogue's as a kid. 

"It has to do with focusing on being present and not letting [bad times] carry through the rest of your life," explains the vocalist and guitarist. ;Despite that sense of radiance, there is a sober undercurrent: "It's not Dance Party USA," says Rogue. "There are real restrained, hushed moments. Though the record is diverse, there's always a pulse, even in quiet songs like ‘I'll Never Leave You' or ‘Fear Itself.' It's a reminder that you could be far down but you have to hold on and remember that living is a good thing.";Rogue's dire scenario isn't the first to trouble his band. Their past has seen multiple lineup changes. In addition, ex-bassist Evan Farrell died two years ago from "massive smoke inhalation" during an apartment fire, and drummer Pat Spurgeon (Rogue Wave's other crucial member) underwent a tumultuous search for a kidney transplant. ;Optimism doesn't always come easy to the band's founder but Rogue feels like it's necessary. "Optimism is the only thing that seemed to get me through this challenge. As you get older, challenges only become more difficult," says Rogue. "You appreciate the joy in life because you've seen the other side."

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