Workers are a long stretch of highway on a hot summer night. They are a blanket of pitch-black sky pocked with thousands of points of light. They are your headlights searching the road ahead, a mystery unfolding as you roll forth into the darkness. They are a sense of calm as you roll off into the void, more curious than frightened.
The Louisville, Ky., trio makes lush, atmospheric music that washes over you, pounding your chest and overwhelming your senses with searing guitars, pulsing bass and crackling drums. The lyrics are dark and tangled, the melodies cresting and crashing. You draw comparisons to everything from Jesus and Mary Chain to The Secret Machines before determining that Workers’ music is an experience unto itself.
Workers were formed in 2001 under the name Your Black Star by singer/guitarist Jeremy Johnson and drummer Andrew Osborn, two kindred spirits bonded by their love of bombastic, fearless rock ’n’ roll. Like a lot of bands, the birthing process proved difficult; bassists came and went before a true fellow traveler was discovered in Brandon Duggins.
They have taken a decidedly unorthodox approach to building a fan base. Rather than fall into the trap that some bands fall into, Workers resisted the temptation of becoming a bunch of local heroes who only play before adoring friends and neighbors. Rather, they threw themselves on the crucible that is the never-ending tour, taking the show on the road to test themselves before unfamiliar audiences.
A friendship with the Japanese band Drum:Kan prompted Workers to venture to Japan, where they quickly developed an unlikely connection with rock-starved fans. Tours of Australia and New Zealand provoked a similar reaction, as well as positive international press, and numerous spins on the influential BBC. Overseas buzz led to deals with labels in Japan, England and Australia, as well as a UK tour with indie darlings the New Pornographers, but the band was still a bit of a mystery back home. Seeing this as less a problem than an opportunity, Johnson, Osborn and Duggins spent the better part of the past three years rampaging through the states, playing in the esteemed South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin and the CMJ Festival in New York as well as sharing the stage with Sleater-Kinney, The Hold Steady and Catfish Haven. “Sound from the Ground,” the band’s American debut, won critical acclaim stateside, tagging Workers with the weighty “next big thing” label.