It’s the Wednesday before New Year’s Eve. It’s a short workweek, you really have no desire to continue working until 2016 at this point, so you set your sights on the final hurrah of 2015. Who will you party with? What will you wear? The biggest question is, where will you go? Are you feelin’ this:
“I’m gonna spill my drink all over me and everyone else in a desperate effort to scoot past six rows of lemmings at the bar for another $12 cocktail tonight. But it’s ok because it has burn coconut curry habanero bitters and an organic free-range egg in it!”
“I’m gonna find a music banger with some cool people that don’t really care what I’m wearing, so I can let loose and slosh my drink all over floor dancing my ass off!”
Personally, the latter sounds like a much better way to ring in the festivities. But even if the former sounds more enticing to you, I promise that The Werks’ two-day New Year’s Eve extravaganza at The Madison Theater this Wednesday, December 30, and Thursday, December 31, is guaranteed to float your party boat further towards fun times and great memories than the rat race of the Cincy bar scene. If you’re not familiar, these dudes are local: they built their groove just a few miles north in Dayton 10 years ago, and they’ve come a long way since then with two full albums, a national tour and even their own music festival.
Raise your hand if you don’t like epic homecoming anniversary celebrations with friends that rock! My thoughts exactly.
We caught up with The Werks’ Chris Houser (guitar, vocals) and Rob Chafin (drums, vocals) to discuss their origins in Southwest Ohio, how local crowds uniquely influence their live shows, and what to expect from the NYE shows coming off their latest album release, Inside a Dream.
RS: You guys are from the Southwest Ohio region. What was it like trying to catch your break coming out of Dayton?
Chris Houser (CH): Starting out in Dayton was nice. The locals really love their local music, so they kept us humble. We had to work really hard to build our market there, so getting to know the music scene and fellow players in the city really helped that. Canal Street Tavern was home to a lot of proud moments, as well as some free shows at the Art Street Amphitheater on The University of Dayton's campus. I really miss the Super Bowl parties that we used to play in our friends Dan and Terri's living room... it sounds silly, but those were the days. The hardest part by far was learning about the whole touring thing, and about working our asses off for next to no pay. Starting out is hard no matter where you’re from, but the key is to never stop – keep pushing yourself to get better, and eventually it all pays off.
RS: The Werks play quite a few different kinds of shows in Southwest Ohio. What’s the vibe like here compared to elsewhere in the country? Is it unique, or do you find that your fans and the feel for the shows is pretty consistent everywhere you go?
CH: The local shows are really fun. With out-of-town shows, people may not be completely familiar with the band and songs; but with Ohio shows, the crowds seem to expect more out of us each time, so we usually try to do a little extra exploring for them. The fans really push us to do more, and be more creative than the last time they came to our show, and we are grateful for that. There is definitely more of a comfortable vibe, more like playing for our friends and family there (because we really are). But, as time passes and we keep expanding our music in other markets, we’re beginning to feel that family vibe everywhere.
RS: What are some of your standout local memories?
CH: Playing the Fraze Pavilion in Dayton with Umphrey’s McGee is up there, and this year’s "Werksgiving" show at Oddbodies was a blast. The Werk Out is always the best though.
RS: On that note, The Werk Out has grown quite a bit since its inception. What has surprised you most about the experience? What do you really dig about it?
RC: What has surprised us the most is how big the experience has become since moving it to Legend Valley in 2012. The first few years at Zane Shawnee Caverns, we super magical and created the sense of community and artistic freedom that has been the foundation of the event. So we love that everyone treats each other like family at the event, and we always want those great vibes.
RS: How would you like to see your fest grow in the foreseeable future?
Rob Chafin (RC): We definitely want to expand heavily on the “arts” side of the festival – it’s very important that everyone feels welcome to express themselves artistically and participate in any way they can! We love the fact that it’s grown to the size that it has now, but we always want to keep that “small festival vibe” no matter how big it gets.
RS: I noticed that your sound can vary from set to set. How much of your performance flow is planned, and how much of it just happens? What’s that like on stage for you?
RC: Setlists vary every show and we try to keep it completely different, to ensure that every set is unique to that specific show. Sometimes when we play for our home crowds (Hoopla, The Werk Out, etc) we tend to feel more comfortable with exploring deeper setlists, but you never know with us! While we tend to get detailed with our setlists, a majority of the performance is heavy improvisation. There’s a lot involved in creating music on the spot with three other guys, so it’s about listening and reacting to each other. The beauty of improvisation is taking risks and exploring uncharted territory… because that moment where everything clicks is what improv music is all about, and that’s what makes this kind of music very special.
RS: The Werks just released a new album, Inside a Dream. Walk me through your vision: what inspired the band, and what do you think is special about this release?
RC: “Inside A Dream” started as a concept album from the very beginning. We wanted to make something that was not just a collection of songs, but something people listened to from beginning to end, like how Pink Floyd and other acts used to do it. We wanted everything to flow together and have a central dream-like feel through the entire album – the concept of “dream” is in half of the album.
RS: What can fans look forward to about your shows this week in Cincy?
RC: We are returning to the Madison Theater on NYE for the first time since 2010, this time for two nights! Since it’s our 10-year anniversary as The Werks, and we are bringing in most or all of the past members of the band for the show. We’ll be joined and Cincinnati’s own Peridoni and Pink Talking Fish (Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, Phish tribute band), who is doing a special set of “Animals” by Pink Floyd on the 30th – it’s going to be super epic!!
The Werks plays their two-night, 10-year anniversary/New Year’s Eve shows on Wednesday, December 30, and Thursday, December 31 at the Madison Theater. Falling between $17 and $25 for one show or $35 for a two-night pass, this party is the next most affordable thing to banging pots and pans while watching the ball drop in your living room. Find more info on Madison Theater’s website, or visit CincyTicket to lock it in.
Party hard, make friends, love life. It’s gonna be a great start to 2016.