Below, you can read our interview with Rogue Valley’s Chris Koza, and listen to their latest album, radiate/dissolve. Check out our full music review of radiate/dissolve by Rogue Valley, HERE.
Q: Your roots are originally from the insanely beautiful Portland, Oregon. What was the final tipping point for your uprooting, subsequent journey, and transplanting to the Midwest?
A: Wanderlust must settle someplace, right? I love Minnesota. Of course, home will always be Portland, Oregon, but when I go back there now, so much has changed! It’s a different place. Minnesota has been home for many years now, and I love the climate, the culture, and the amazing arts scene the Twin Cities have to offer.
Q: You’re a big part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul music movement—which seems to be growing now, exponentially. Is there something legitimately magical about the music there? (If so, what is it?) OR, with the digital music phenomenon, do we simply have more access to it now?
A: I would say the digital music phenomenon opens up the doors for scanning through sounds by any searchable or taggable parameter. There’s always been great bands from the Twin Cities – talk to anyone here who’s been around for awhile and they’ll rattle off multitudes of unknown legends.
Q: Regarding your musical beginnings… Do you recall the first time you picked up a guitar? From that moment, how long did it take until you knew music was your path?
A: Yeah, it was in the lunchroom at my high school, freshman year. I was terrible, and didn’t care. I played music from a young age through college, but it wasn’t until a couple years after graduating from St. Olaf where I thought I wanted to give it a real try.
Q: What was you first guitar? Do you still have/play it?
A: The first guitar I played on was actually my Dad’s guitar—an obscure 60’s Crucianelli Panoramic parlor guitar which seemed to trap the sound within the body. But I loved playing that thing. I’d tune it to the intro of “Enter Sandman” and pluck the riff over and over.
Q: Can you recall writing your first song? (Feel free to provide a few lyrics!)
A: Haha, I wrote songs pretty much right when I started playing guitar. Nothing that memorable though. I’m sure I rhymed words like “love, glove, shove, dove, etc…” And still do sometimes.
Q: How/when did the current iteration of Rogue Valley come about?
A: Bassist Paul Engels joined the group in October 2012, so since then it’s been the same members, except for a show here and there.
Q: Like most bands, Rogue Valley has gone through some personnel changes. How do you approach those kinds of changes? Does it ever get “easy”?
A: It’s never easy. Changing personnel is difficult whether it comes from the band or the musician side. I can’t say that it’s something I enjoy going through.
Q: You guys have been touring quite a bit. What is the most wonderful aspect of road life? What is the most challenging?
A: The most wonderful part is being in new places and seeing old friends. I love being surprised and inspired by the people we meet and the places we play. New stories! The unknown is ever-curious. The most challenging are the creature comforts the road sorely lacks. For all of our touring, there are plenty of nights where we’re all cramming into the same hotel room and enjoying Subway sandwiches for the 17th time.
Q: While listening to radiate/dissolve it feels like—from the songwriting to the instrumentation & production—an entire new level of creativity was accessed. How did this happen? Can you pinpoint a central inspiration, mood, feeling, or thematic presence which may have led to this?
A: Thanks for the kind words! We feel strongly about the album too. We spent a lot more time letting this one simmer on the stove than the previous albums which were all released in one year. radiate/dissolve took five! Like the previous albums, the starting inspiration was rooted in place: the American Southwest. From there, sightings and characters emerged to illuminate stories, new and old.
Q: What are you guys up to right now? Rest? Tour prep?
A: We’ve got a couple of shows in NYC in January and another in the Twin Cities, so we’re looking to make those as amazing as possible.
Q: You get to collaborate with anyone of your choosing (dead or alive). Who is it?
A: Tough question. At the moment, I would say Rufus Wainwright.
Q: Your favorite album of all time? (Yup, you gotta choose one.)
A: At the moment, I gotta go with Radiohead’s, The Bends.
Q: Your favorite song of all time? (Again, only one!)
A: At the moment (an important qualifier), I would have to say Elliot Smith’s, Everything Means Nothing To Me.
Q: What would you like fans to know about you that they’re most likely unaware of?
A: That we listen to all kinds of music—deep cuts and hits, new and old. We love music even if what we play is somewhat focused. I do think our eclectic tastes come across in our albums, but it’s not like the stereo in our tour van!