The Werks Discuss 'Sonder', Future Releases, & Much More January 25, 2019 13:24

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Over the last four years, Live & Listen has allowed me the opportunity to discover more new music than I could have ever imagined. Whether it's a newly established up-and-comer, or a band whose name I've heard for years, it's been an amazing experience. There are times where I've simply found myself in the right place at the right time, and that's exactly what happened on July 4th, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. 

The epic voyage to Chicago for The Grateful Dead's "Fare Thee Well" shows was ultimately a city-wide music festival. You had a countless number of bands performing both before and after the big shows at Soldier Field. Following the Saturday night show, I ventured over to The Chop Shop to finally catch my first taste of The Werks. I was absolutely floored and really haven't stopped digging into their catalog since. 

Here we are nearly four years later, and I've been fortunate enough to work with the band on a number of shows, attend the annual Werk Out Festival in Ohio, and watch the continued growth of an incredibly unique group. Upon hearing the band's latest release, Sonder, just last week, I had to reach out to get the low down. Check out the full conversation with Chris Houser (guitar), Jake Goldberg (bass), and Dan Shaw (keyboards) below and make sure to give Sonder a good listen as soon as possible.

Last week you guys released Sonder, the new three-song EP. It seems as if you guys are taking a new approach to releasing new music this year. How did the band come to this decision?

Chris: Across the board in 2018, streaming numbers went up drastically. The number of album sales did not. We're trying to keep up with the times, be honest with ourselves, and stay in tune with the way things are moving in an ever changing world. We want to make sure that the music we're putting out is being listened to.

If someone is even buying an album these days, they don't always make it to the end. They're usually off on something else by three songs in. We figure we would focus on putting out a digestible amount. Not to patronize our audience, or any audience, for that matter. Something that is more relatable with current times, and also spread out new releases throughout the year. We've had a lot of fun with it, and we're all really excited.

Jake: It definitely has a lot to do with the streaming platform, the way tracks are laid out, and the average span of your average listener. Like Houser said, working on multiple releases throughout the year, and almost having three different themes for three different songs. 

Did you guys knock out the material for each release in the same studio session?

Jake: For the most part, they were done in one chunk of time. We'll revisit some of them in the studio, but yes for the most part. 

Chris: We've found a studio that we're really comfortable with, and an engineer that we really look forward to seeing every time. It's a very comfortable place for us at this point. We plan on spending even more time in the studio during our off time, because we're constantly working on new music. Hopefully more of these releases will happen in the future. 

Let's talk a little bit about these three specific tracks. When I first listened, I noticed that each really represents the different elements of The Werks. "No Prisoner" has more of a classic, old school Werks instrumental feel to it. "Stars Collide" has a nice catchy vibe and really showcases Rob's vocals. "Flatiron" gives you a nice dose of that dark, "Werktronic" side of the band. 

Chris: nailed it!

Anything interesting you can tell me about this group of tracks?

Chris: Let's start off with "No Prisoners." That one is largely Dan's "deep brain" child. 

Deep brain? Oh man...

Dan: Yeah, I've always been attracted to the ways that rhythm guitar lines are actually lead lines in a lot of classic rock songs. I originally planned for the song to have lyrics, but as we were working on it, it evolved into an instrumental. The goal was to have something that's almost a cross between Led Zeppelin and Edgar Winter with some catchy rhythm guitar licks.

Love hearing that. 

Jake: In terms of these three songs, like you said, I think they capture different aspects of the band really well. In writing each of these songs, we wanted to be unapologetically ourselves. Let's not try to create something that we think is going to sell, as opposed to something that we actually want to listen to. I think that really comes through in the tracks, which is why we're enjoying it so much.

I'm sitting here looking at the definition of the word "Sonder" right now. Very cool. "The realization that each random passerby is living a life as viviid and complex of your own - populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness..." Where does that word / concept play into this release?

Jake: Honestly, we just wanted to expand people's vocabulary. Now people like yourself are looking that word up.

Mission accomplished.

Chris: It's a pretty amazing idea to be conscious of. 

Jake: I think that answer will become more prevalent as future tracks are released. The theme of "Sonder," as well as the music. One of the cool things about the staggered release is the anticipation that comes along with it. 

Agreed. That "Sonder" concept really plays into a mindset that I'm constantly trying to be conscious of. Everyone is on their own journey. You never know what's going on in someone else's life. Don't be quick to judge anyone, because we're all out here fighting the good fight every day. 

Jake: Absolutely. You see it all the time in life and music. 

Photo by Josh Timmermans: Noble Visions

You guys are in the midst of a 10-day run, and you'll be getting home just in time for Winter Werk Out?

Jake: That's right. Our big event of the winter. 

Tell me about how that expansion on the Werk Out is playing to your advantage and helping build on this culture which continues to grow each year. 

Chris: It's been great. It's fantastic for us because there's always a bit of lag or depression once The Werk Out is over. There are just those feels, man. It keeps the name and the brand coming out of people's mouths. Everyone is constantly talking about The Werk Out. We're out here on the road spreading the word once again. 

In the early years of The Werk Out, we talked about possibly doing something in the fall. It turns out that the first weekend of February was the right time to do it. Every six months we get to have a Werk Out, and that's a great thing for us. I think it's as long as people want to wait. 

That's a nice, healthy balance. A good Werk Out every six months keeps everyone in shape. 

Jake: It was really cool to bring it to a venue like The Bluestone. We haven't had much prior experience there, and I know most of our other bands haven't either. It just wasn't a venue that was used much in our scene. To be able to bring people to this beautiful room in the heart of Ohio is pretty special. 

For me personally, I've been on stage with The Werks at all three Winter Werk Outs. It holds a special place in my heart. Not that the summer Werk Out doesn't, it's been amazing to watch this event come to life and grow each year. People are really into it.

So how is the rest of the spring shaping up? How's the schedule looking?

Jake: We're going to be busy. We'll be touring through the southern belt and eventually getting down to Florida. 

Chris: We're always excited to get down south. We're doing a two-night run at Aisle 5 in Atlanta. We're also hitting the Carolinas, Knoxville, and Nashville. We're back on the horse and hitting the road strong, and we're having a lot of fun and doing our thing. I've kind of started telling everyone that we aren't out here to fuck around. (laughs)

Jake: We're out for blood, and we're taking no prisoners. 

Jake and Chris...I know you guys have had some major life developments in the past year. Tell me about how fatherhood has shaped you as a musician and human being. How has this next chapter of life played out thus far?

Chris: It has certainly made us harder workers. 

Jake: teaches you a lot of patience. It's really cool being able to share something as sacred as music with your offspring. It's crazy. I sit down in front of a piano with my daughter and play. Sometimes I'll be playing bass or guitar. She looks at me and smiles and it's just She becomes more a part of my life, and music becomes more a part of my life. It just makes everything more important, you know? Music included.

Chris: I'm really looking forward to seeing Mark grow up. Having him realize that it's possible to follow his dreams. Make his dreams his goals, because that's what daddy's doing. We don't have a lavish lifestyle by any means. We earn an honest living, a modest living. Success is in the eye of the beholder, and I believe the same applies to happiness. I know that I'm very happy and grateful.

That's what it's all about. 

Chris: Yes it is. 

Before we wrap this up, I've gotta hear what Mr. Dan Shaw is fired up about this spring. Let's hear it, Dan.

Dan: Other than the finishing touches on the new material, I know we're out here now, but I really love traveling out west. Colorado is great, but even up north of here. There's a lot of wide open space.

Jake: Dan loves wide open spaces.

Chris: He loves The Dixie Chicks.

Jake: He loves hotel pools.

Who doesn't love hotel pools?

Dan: I love getting out and traveling the country. I also love the creative process in general. We have plenty of both ahead of us, so I'm pretty excited about that. 

Well you guys stay safe out on the road. Bring it back home in one piece for the Winter Werk Out, and we'll see you in Atlanta in just a few weeks.

Stream The Werks' Sonder via Spotify here:


1.25 Denver, CO w/ The Jauntee
1.26 Vail, CO
1.29 Minneapolis, MN
1.30 Milwaukee, WI
2.1+2 Columbus, OH (Winter Werk Out)
2.13 Charleston, SC
2.14 Jacksonville, FL
2.15 Punta Gorda, FL
2.19 Gainesville, FL
2.20+21 Atlanta, GA
2.22 Knoxville, TN
2.23 Nashville, TN