Rogue Valley's Chris Koza on vinyl, Quentin Tarantino, and new music
When Rogue Valley released their Winter album False Floors in March 2010, it was the fourth full-length album the band had released in 12 months, part of a larger endeavor that band leader Chris Koza refers to as the "seasons project." Previous albums from Rogue Valley include the Spring album Crater Lake, Summer album The Bookseller's House, and the Fall album Geese in the Flyway.
When you stack all four albums next to each other, that's an impressive 46 songs -- and we aren't talking about simple melodies and cheap lyrics, either. As a songwriter, Koza has a talent for exquisite craftsmanship and grand, sweeping landscapes; to listen to any one of the "seasons" albums is to find oneself pleasantly lost in a new, vast world filled with painstaking intricacies and lush sonic elements. Koza is an immense artist in that way, but even he can admit that four albums might be a little much for some listeners all in one go.
Hence, Koza and company (Linnea Mohn, Peter Sieve, Luke Anderson, Paul Engels, and Joey Kantor) have elected to launch one composite album--this time on vinyl, a first for Koza. The Rogue Valley vinyl album is a selection of 12 tracks, three songs from each album, and is as much a way of remembering the intensive project that took over the lives of the band members for a solid year as it is a new offering from a band that has continued to grow.
Gimme Noise spoke with Chris Koza ahead of the release show at the Cedar, and he let us in on his thoughts on the role of vinyl in the music industry, future plans for Rogue Valley, and what the show this Saturday will look like.
Gimme Noise: Tell me about the release. Why vinyl, why now?
Chris Koza: Well, we wanted to do a real record. A vinyl record just seems to be the popular choice. But we didn't want to make like four records -- making vinyl is very expensive compared to CDs -- so kind of just from a cost perspective, it didn't make much sense to us to have four vinyls. But also the thought behind this record was to create one album to represent four albums, especially for people that can't listen to four albums or aren't interested in listening to four albums. It was our way to kind of put our best foot forward.
GN: So is it one album out of the four seasons, or it is more of an anthology?
CK: It's a selection of songs of each of the albums, twelve songs all together. We had a vote within the band which songs were gonna go on there, and pretty much went with that. There were some surprises.
GN: Tell me about the show and what that's going to look like.
CK: We're going to have an extra percussionist, a couple of string players, give a little bit of a sonic -- but especially a visual flair -- to what we're doing. Just in the way that a vinyl record is bigger than a CD, we wanted to make the show a bigger thing. It's going to be like any of our shows a combination of carefully constructed pop songs to high-octane rock songs. We aren't changing our approach for this show, we're just adding more. And I think having a couple of years to have played these songs makes for their live representation to be very well.
GN: Rogue Valley hasn't done a new music release since you ended the quad package. Take me through things a little bit, because we haven't had any new tracks from you guys in a while.
CK: Yeah, I know. You release four records in a year and it creates a kind of precedence. People are all like, "Oh, so when's the next four albums coming out?" I mean I have a bunch of songs in the works for Rogue Valley, about seven or eight demos, and we like how that's shaping up. It's not a total departure from what we did before, but it definitely has a unique attitude compared to what we did on the seasons records. It's a little fast-paced and... spooky, I guess. Spookier.
We were on tour and we were talking about what kind of direction our new catalog ought to take, and so I wanted to combine some of my favorite elements both musically and artistically. I was thinking about Quentin Tarantino movies and the way he creates soundtracks, and I was thinking about creating songs and how they would come across in a live performance, you know, where the song dynamics are to kind of create the biggest sort of reaction from an audience, and building a lot of it on aesthetic. I think all together, they still work conceptually as being this sort of final frontier, western, New Mexico-apocalyptic zone, I guess that's what I want the concept to be. You know, it's another story. It's not going to be four albums, it's going to be one. We want to take all the songs and demo them and then rehearse them and record them live, that way we can really emphasize the way we want them to sound live instead of just going into the studio and then relearning them for a live show.
GN: Do you have kind of a timeline in your head for that?
CK: I would like to start doing the recordings in the beginning of the spring. I mean, we don't have a big hurry--we're just putting out this vinyl, and it's a complete idea on its own. You know, we put out so much music and it's not easy for people to consume all that music at once. We're still meeting people who are discovering this project that we did, and I don't want to be in too big of a rush to cover that up. I'm really excited for what we're working on next, but we're not in a rush to put it out.
GN: I think it's an interesting part in the music industry right now, the resurgence in vinyl. You were talking about the physicality of it, and its popularity, and think that's very interesting even as we're trending towards digital-only releases and people buying one or two or three songs only off an album. What's your take on it? How do you see vinyl playing a role in the music community today?
CK: Well, I think it causes people to give more attention to what they're listening to. You have a record, and there's a finite amount of songs on there. There's only six songs on one side. You have to pay attention to what you're choosing to play and consciously select something. If there's an iPod playing, you can get halfway through a song, if you have twenty people over and you're having a dance party, you can change something to fit whatever random association came up at that point, whereas vinyl formulates a patience for listening. It's like a slow-play mentality. It's not something that everyone has an appetite for. I don't know that records are essential. I think it's just a lifestyle choice, one that benefits musicians and artists.
In a way, for people that collect vinyl, they're showing their badge of approval for the things that they want to support. I think ever since iTunes came out, people were promoting the death of the album and the fact that people would only buy one or two songs, but for as long as I can remember, there were so many albums where you'd only want to listen to one or two songs anyway. The album or the single isn't dead, I just think every artists has a different strength that they can focus tha energy to. It's easier to market a major pop star with a single than with an album, I think. You need to give that star a sonic anthem.
GN: Do you think making albums is part of a larger part of artistry for you?
CK: Oh, absolutely. I love albums. It's the best way to organize thoughts. You can't always tell the story in one song. What's the point telling the whole story in one song? There are only a few songs out there that create the epic sense--"American Pie," "Edmund Fitzgerald," "Alice's Restaurant," "Stairway To Heaven," these great, epic folk songs, I mean, to have that, that's really rare, where you can just be like, "Okay, well, that's all I need from this artist right now," a work that's so epic that it overshadows everything else that's going on. I think generally every song can be a little slice of a larger picture, and to me, that's why making albums is interesting. It's multiple sides of the same thing.
Rogue Valley vinyl cover art
GN: What was the best part about being able to put a vinyl record out?
CK: Knowing how that process works. There's a lot of moving parts in making a vinyl. That was a good thing to learn, so that next time around we're a little more prepared.
You can join Rogue Valley for the celebration of their vinyl release this Saturday, November 24, with Joey Ryan and the Inks and Meredith Fierke at the Cedar Cultural Center. 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show. $12 cover. All ages.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.