“It’s good to be back,” Zach Rogue says of “Nightingale Floors” (June 4, Vagrant), Rogue Wave’s fifth album, and its first for Vagrant after releasing two albums apiece for Sub Pop and Brushfire during the last decade.
The 10-song set is a return to the jangly, emotional indie-pop that helped the band develop a sizable following on releases like 2005’s “Descended Like Vultures” and 2007’s “Asleep at Heaven’s Gate” before making an abrupt left turn into electro-pop for 2010’s “Permalight.” The latter’s more synthesized sound was partially an effort by the band to create an uplifting mood in the wake of the death of former bassist Evan Farrell. The synth-driven, often danceable “Permalight” featured catchy songs like lead single “Good Morning (The Future)” and became the band’s first album to crack the Billboard 200, at No. 149. But the set failed to connect beyond Rogue Wave devotees, and ultimately became the group’s lowest-selling effort to date, moving just 21,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, compared with 55,000 for “Asleep at Heaven’s Gate” and 51,000 for “Descended Like Vultures.”
Rogue admits that Permalight was the product of “another time with a different mood for the band and a different time for me. We were trying a lot of things and different exercises in control,” he says. “And if anything, I’d say ‘Nightingale Floors’ is an exercise in letting go and not protecting things because we don’t succeed when we try and do that.”
Indeed, the new album is home to two of Rogue Wave’s most sprawling, cathartic tracks to date-“Siren’s Song” and the nearly seven-minute closer “Everyone Wants to Be You,” written following the death of Rogue’s father in 2011, which he credits for shaping the album and ultimately rescuing the band. “It felt almost like primal scream therapy on certain parts,” he says. “We found the emotional side of what we do a lot deeper this time, and maybe that’s because I didn’t know if we’d make music anymore. And I realized what I was missing was that feeling.”
Though the mood does get heavy at times, “Nightingale Floors” also features tracks like the rollicking, anthemic lead single, “College,” and warm acoustic ballad “The Closer I Get,” each of which could likely help extend the group’s track record in scoring big synchs. “Lake Michigan” (2007) was featured in a national campaign for Microsoft’s Zune and several films and TV shows, while 2005 non-album cut “Eyes” continues to pop up in places like a 2010 ad for LG phones and remains the band’s best-selling Sub Pop track. A new song recorded during the “Nightingale Floors” sessions, “No Time,” appears on the “Iron Man 3: Heroes Fall” soundtrack. The act has also been shopping a series of exclusive alt-rock covers for potential use in film and TV, making the rounds of ad agencies, movie studios and network music supervisors in the weeks leading up to album release.
“We all know the value of synchs and what that can create at a marketing level, and we’ve seen it before that it can stimulate the fan base and potentially turn people on to the band’s music in places where they would never otherwise hear the band,” Vagrant Records label manager Dan Gill says. “The band made a great record, and we’re going to position it to succeed and create as many opportunities as possible.”
Rogue Wave sets off on a summer headlining tour with Caveman in June, with another leg to begin in the fall before targeting festivals in 2014. Rogue says “Nightingale Floors” will be much easier to re-create live than the more technologically demanding “Permalight,” and manager Jordan Kurland is exploring options to secure the group an opening slot on a top tour later this year.
“With the type of record they made and the new label, it feels like there’s a bit of new energy around it,” Kurland says. “We knew there were a lot of Rogue Wave fans out there, but starting this process up again is reminding us just how many there are, even at radio and among music supervisors.”