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. Expectations can stifle a band, but the trio confronted them head on.
In fact, confrontation was the key word with the mid-2007 release of the band’s raw and aggressive EP “Beasts.” For “Beasts,” the band again toured the US, this time with the likes of Pelican, Clouds, Earth and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. They received rave reviews and found a personal niche, but more importantly, “Beasts” marked Workers’ first collaboration with producer Erik Wofford, known for his work with the Black Angels, Voxtrot, and Snowden. If the band found a direction within the harsh extremes of “Beasts,” they found a true navigator in Wofford, prompting the band to start work on a follow up in late 2007.
The result is the self-titled LP “Workers”, to be released February 6, 2009. On “Workers” the band no longer prompts the obvious comparisons to influences and peers of their previous efforts. Gone is the former preoccupation with sadness, death and depression. The indiscriminate anger of “Beasts” has been replaced with an inspired fire from within. Singer and lyricist Johnson still flirts with darkness, but “Workers” is an album about life. Confident and headstrong, the band veers into more uplifting realms with focused song-writing, powerful arrangements, and a greater sonic palette. An increased appetite for experimentation and atmosphere, coupled with Wofford’s innate ability to capture more than just wave forms in a room creates a rich tapestry of sounds, textures and grooves. “Workers” is both a celebration and an oral history a life in America, but more importantly it is the sound of an American band who has found its true voice. Prefix Magazine once predicted that Workers “may just be the band to spark American indie-rock’s true resurgence.” “Workers” may just be the album to prove it.