The Werks just wrapped up an amazing run in Colorado this past weekend. While they were at their stop in Denver, I got a chance to pop in and talk with the band for a little while.
Be sure to check out their tour schedule.
Check out some of their recent SBD recordings (including the Colorado run!)
And, check out the full photo gallery here.
You guys look like you’re starting on a pretty huge tour going through the spring and most of summer. How’s it feel to be on the road right now, and knowing you’ve got this pretty huge stretch ahead of you?
Chris Houser: I think it’s great.
Dan Shaw: Yeah, I’m ready for it. I mean we’re musicians and we like to tour. I mean, that’s the point. We’re supposed to be on the road. If you don’t like that, then you should not do what we do (laughter from the band). Yeah, it’s awesome.
CH: This is something that, as a band, it’s the kind of tour that we’ve been hoping for and praying for since we got started and got to know other bands that do lengthy tours like this. So, we’ve been dreaming about doing this for years and we’re very excited.
Rob Chafin: I just like to ride on the bus. (laughter from the band)
DS: And clean the bathrooms.
Dino Dimitrouleas: Yeah, and look out the windows.
CH: Catch things before they fall to the ground.
Looking forward to this tour, do you guys have any stops along the way that you’re particularly excited about?
DS: I love Austin, Texas, and that’s next week. I’m really excited to get back there. And then there’s all the festivals, which each have their own flavor.
RC: Every city has its own unique flavor and culture and people. I love New York and Chicago and all the big cities, but also the smaller cities too, like Boulder.
DD: I think this is a really great tour because all the stops are really quality stops. There’s no, we don’t look at this tour like “aw no we’re stopping here”, it’s just that all the cities are really cool cities and we’ve a lot of really good friends in a lot of these cities. So this whole tour will be really exciting. We started in Costa Rica, we came home to the Hoopla in the Hills festival in Ohio, now we’re out in Colorado! I mean it just doesn’t stop. Then we’re going to Texas, and it’s just back to back to back action packed. So we’re really excited for sure.
Speaking of Hooplah, how was that festival? It looked pretty cold that weekend.
CH: It was colder than shit! But you know, inside that tent it was a completely different atmosphere. It was hot, it was sweaty, it was intense, I mean it was everything we hoped it would be. Really, the music was all top notch.
DD: The people were amazing too, It was so good to be back in Ohio and have a big three night run where we can really sit into the jams, and didn’t really feel pressed to get everything out in one set. We had three real long sets, and for us coming into Ohio and being able to relax into the sets was a super positive experience for us.
DS: Houser and I also got the chance to sit in with EOTO. The EOTO and friends set. So it was cool to be in the hot seat, it was a highlight.
RC: I would say too that the festival was great, but most importantly the crowd, the people that were there and stuck it out the entire weekend given the weather and the circumstances were warriors.
You guys have been doing some pretty big shows lately, like I noticed recently you were opening up for Umphrey’s McGee and doing some shows with Lotus. How’s that been to be on the big stage playing with some of the bigger bands within the scene?
RC: It’s great.
CH: It’s comfortable.
RC: I mean at this point bands we used to look up to in the past are now becoming our friends, and it’s cool to open for our friends and play in front of these big crowds. They’re so nice to share their fan base with us, and we love adding to the shows. It’s always fun.
CH: It’s gotten comfortable, you know. I mean the first couple times we started out opening for Hookah. Back in the day that was the first band that was bigger than us that we opened for and at first it was kind of scary. It’s not like that anymore. We’re like, yeah we’re gonna do our thing. It’s gonna be great, we might fuck up maybe, maybe not, but it’s gonna be great.
DD: I love it, I mean it’s usually like a 45 minute or hour set, it’s early in the night. We get to hang out afterwards and watch our peers do their thing. You get to interact with the crowd a lot more and meet people. It’s always a really positive experience playing those slots. I enjoy them thoroughly.
CH: Usually it’s just a power hour.
DD: Yeah. Just throw down for an hour and then watch great music.
RC: And you get to drink Greenfield’s (Lotus) beer while he’s playing (laughter from the band).
Let’s talk about the new album. You guys have been busy in the studio lately. Mr. Small’s Sessions was just released in September, and you guys are already working on a new one (Inside A Dream). I saw the Inside A Dream live for the first time the other night in Fort Collins, which was pretty amazing. I was wondering if you could share any other tracks from the live rotation that are going to be on the album.
RC: There are still a few tracks that we haven’t played live yet that are going to make it on the album, and we’re going to keep it that way until we release the album. But as far as songs that will make it on the album that we play right now, we have Alive, Find Your Way…
DD: Drop’s gonna be on there. For You is gonna be on there. The Answer, You’re Not Alone is gonna be on there. Opus 66. Inside A Dream, obviously. Waiting Room is gonna be on there.
RC: And three secrets!
When you guys write new material, how collaborative is the writing process?
RC: I’d say the majority of it is very collaborative. Sometime we write a song by ourselves and we bring it to the table, but a lot of times we bring ideas to the collective and we all kind of piece it together. It’s a cool process, I like it.
CH: Yeah, we’ve gotten really comfortable with writing songs like that. Trusting each other’s ideas with our own babies that we’ll bring to the table. But when we get together the ideas seem to flow pretty smoothly. It’s been a learning process, but it’s also become a much easier and much smoother process.
DD: And we go both ways, I mean sometimes we’ll bring something to the table and it just wont catch fire. Other times we’ll bring a song to the table and it comes together in five minutes. It’s all just about how it sparks with each other and how it comes together. The creative process has been really good, which is why we’ve been doing these albums so quickly back to back. In the past year we’ve just had so much material come to the forefront. And we even have so much more material that we haven’t even dove into because we’ve been so busy with the album and touring. There’s just a lot of fresh material coming out right now, and we feel like we’re in a really good spot with our creativity and what we’re writing right now. Not only is this new album gonna be great, but people can look forward to a bunch of new songs coming out in the next year or two for sure. We’ve kind of gotten in a sweet spot with the creative process.
DS: We’re definitely on the verge of a renaissance for sure. We’ve just got tons of ideas, all of us do, and we’re ready to send them out. It’s just gonna take some time, with us being busy on the road, it’s hard to take time with the writing process sometimes. So if we just had the time, just a couple weeks in May, and we’ll be able to turn something out.
Dan, I was wondering how much of the new material you’ve had a big influence on? I’ve definitely noticed your influence on the sound of the band since you’ve joined.
DS: It’s still very collaborative, I mean we write everything together. One of my favorite American composers, Duke Ellington, when he wrote parts he wrote the name of the musician that he was writing the part for. He didn’t write “first trumpet”, he wrote the name of the guy in the band because he wrote parts for that person. That’s why he was the greatest composer, he wrote parts for people. That’s just my big thing when it comes to writing, is that you want to showcase a band as a people. You want to showcase the people in the band. So, it’s not just sound, you know; it’s character. No four people will sound exactly like us. So that’s what we need to do, is be us. That’s my big writing sentiment, for sure. (CH: Beautiful)
DD: And Dan has brought a lot to the new material. He has his hand in a lot of the new stuff that we’re writing. We all work particularly well with Dan, he’s a really easy going guy, he’s very laid back. He more inspires inspiration as opposed to cover it up in creativity. He tried to open everyone up. He nurtures ideas very well, and it’s really easy to work with him in a creative aspect. Which is part of the reason why I think these new covers and new originals are pumping out, because it’s so easy. I mean no one is afraid to say anything about a particular song or play a particular song, like Sandstorm or something out of left field. There’s no restrictions it, you know.
I remember seeing you guys do the Sandstorm cover at the late-night tent at Wakarusa last year, and I really don’t think anyone saw that coming (laughter from the band).
CH: That was the first time we did it. For so long I had no interest in playing the song, and eventually I said “we’ll do it” and…
RC: I was just like “wait til you see, wait til the crowd hears it”
CH: I was like “whatever I hate this song, I don’t wanna do this”, and we did it and everyone, literally..
DS: It was like a wave
CH: ..first off everyone’s hands went up, and then all the sudden the hands started bouncing up and down (band laughter). I was like, “shit”. And I just looked over at Rob and started laughing.
DS: The grass in that tent turned into a trampoline
CH: Yeah, and I really looked back on not wanting to play that song, and…every time we do it now it’s always a smash.
Let’s talk about Werkout. Exciting new just came out this week.
DD: We’ve been waiting to say that one for a while.
So, this is the 6th year of Werkout. And I gotta say when I saw the bill for the first Werkout, knew it was gonna be a big event for the Ohio scene, but now it’s ballooned into something so much bigger. Did you guys see that coming when you started?
DS: It started as an idea for a party for our friends, other touring friends, put it all together. And of course you know we had ideas of grandeur to have a big festival. Last year was kind of a surprise to me, the response, kind of all of a sudden clicked all around. I think moving it to the summertime really helped a lot. A lot of other factors. And it feels great because it feels like the sky’s the limit. And we’re growing it slowly, smart, and not trying to get ahead of ourselves.
How are you guys feeling going into this year with the lineup being so huge and with the history of the festival at this point.
CH: We’re really excited. As far as bringing Umphrey’s on, it’s definitely one of the biggest names we’ve had at the festival.
RC: Sidenote: Umphrey’s hasn’t played an Ohio festival since 2007.
DS: So 8 years ago.
DD: At the end of the day, it’s the natural growth of the festival. We’ve never really rushed into anything. This is the 6th year, and we’re finally bringing in what would be considered real big headliners. And it’s just the natural progression of the festival. We’ve let it kind of do its thing, and after the success of last year it just made sense to have a bill like this. So going into this year I think we’re all excited. We want to turn as many people on to the cool thing that we have with the Werkout, and the Werks, and the Werks family and bring as many people as we can to that energy. I think we’re all very excited. (agreement)
DS: It’s gonna be a party.
And last year you guys did this really cool collaboration with Dopapod and Papadosio for the Dark Side of the Moon set. That seemed to get some really good reception. Do you guys have any aspirations of doing another big collaborative set with other bands this year?
DS/RC: (in unison) No comment.
RC: We are always open to collaboration.
DD: Anything in life is possible. When it goes to collaborating with other bands, it was so much fun for us as players and as friends to work with these guys. These guys are friends, you never get to work with them, but you’re in the same field so then to turn around and be friends and then get into a work capacity, it was a really cool path of discovery.
RC: We’ve definitely loved the collaborative sets, and we look forward to doing many more in the future. (chuckling all around)
RC: Nice official answer.
RC: I just don’t want to say something for this year, and then we don’t end up doing it.
So as fas as improv on stage, and when you guys are playing in looser setting, what do you guys do to keep on top of your jams. Do you guys use any methods like signaling, or do listening exercises?
RC: I think keeping eye contact is a big thing for us. When a change is coming we all kind of look around.
CH: Before the change is coming before we actually get in the moment, listening is number one.
DD: And before the set a lot of times we’ll kind of highlight ok, this song, tonight, we’re gonna go out there. We’re going to take this the distance. And not only that but I think on stage we do a really good job of pushing each other. Like throwing a left turn when everyone’s thinking a right hand turn. Because sometimes when you go there, that’s the best place the music can go. You’re expecting the worst result like, “OH why’s he doing that?” and all of a sudden it clicks. And it’s, “OH this is the greatest thing ever.”
CH: A lot of the times it’ll take a weird note to take the jam in a different direction, which it would never have reached had it not been for that weird note.
DD: It’s really easy to get into your bread and butter when you’re improving, but I think we all do a really good job of trying to push that envelope and not just regurgitate the same jam over and over again, to really take it out there to take it in a different direction to try something brand new that we hadn’t tried in that song. So it’s really kept the jams fresh for sure.
RC: I think taking risks too is a big thing in the type of music we play. Because if you fail and fall on your face, at least you tried. But if you tried something different and it pops, that’s the magic of improv, that’s when…
CH: That’s when all of us smile.
RC: Yeah yeah. And as a fan, when I see a band do that and that magic happens that’s what makes the fucking show. It’s not the music it’s not the show, it’s that moment in time. And I was there man.
DD: When you get into that improvisation, that’s when it becomes more than the song. We take Find Your Way, and we take it out there, and it’s still Find Your Way technically, but it’s the Werks at that point.
DS: It almost didn’t matter where we started at that point.
DD: Yeah, and that’s us. It’s us.
One more question about this upcoming year and future plans. If you have any, what specific goals would you like to accomplish in the next year, or tour, or anything.
DS: The sky’s the limit.
RS: Red Rocks. That’s a huge one.
CH: That’s big on our list. That’s real big on our list.
RS: We’d love to play Jamcruise too.
DD: All those shows are great, and the way I look at it they’ll happen when they happen. For me it’s more about just keeping doing what we’re doing. It’s about material. Realistically, goal-wise, I’d love to see us have 2015 like we had a 2014 where we really got a lot of new material out, where we really dove in and had a lot of discovery. And really honed the product that is the Werks. That’s what I’m really looking forward to this year, I think we’re all in a really good place right now to really take this material to the next level and just reach more people, and just spread the love that is the music.
RC: To expand, I think in three words I can say what he’s saying…. Madison Square Garden.
(laughing all around)
DS: I’m just trying to go from crow pose to headstands. (more laughing) Maybe in a couple of years.
CH: Every year, we get better at it. And as long as we’re able to do that, then I’ll be happy.
From the fan perspective, I feel like you guys have been progressing since the first show I saw.
DD: That’s what you need. You can’t stay stagnant. You gotta move somewhere, and you’re either moving forward or you’re moving backwards. And if we’re moving forward it’s a great place for us to be.
DS: At the end of the day, that’s the only thing you can control. You can control your own progression, your own movement.
Will the Werk It! stickers ever make a comeback?
CH: Yeah, we’re gonna bring back the Werk It stickers.
DD: We had to retire them for a little bit, because you can’t… they got crazy there for a minute.
CH: There was a time when they got everywhere, people were getting pissed off. When we brought them to All Good the security thought we had acid on them. We got thousands and thousand of stickers, you guys think we dosed them? Really? What kind of money do you think we’re rolling in. Just giving away thousands of hits of acid? We can’t do that.
DD: So we got them away for a while, so I think this year for festival season. If not this year for festival season, then next year for festival seasons we’ll roll out the original Werk It stickers, take over the scene, put them on everything.