If there is one thing you will never heard said about The Werks (or its members) it is that they don’t work hard. The Dayton band is on the road, out playing with friends, recording an album or generally just immersed in music nearly 100 percent of their lives. This work ethic, combined with the joy that music obviously brings these talented musicians (and obvious music-lovers) has brought them national recognition within the jamband set.
This year will be no different for these self-professed road warriors as they hit the road on a mind-blowing festival circuit that includes the Hangout Music Festival, Wakarusa Music Festival, All Good Music Festival, Dark Star Jubilee, Camp Bisco, Electric Forest Festival, Gratifly Music and Arts Festival, Happiness and Harmony Festival, Bear Creek Music Festival, Summer Camp and their own festival The Werk Out Music and Arts Festival.
We sat down to talk with the band about their sound, festival season, the road and other general shenanigans.
Active Dayton: Your musical style is often called “Psychedelic Dance Rock” – How did that name come about?
Norman Dimitrouleas: (laughs) There isn’t really a true way to label our sound.
Chris Houser: Yeah, we’ve been labeled so many things.
Dino Dimitrouleas: It’s kind of hard to label what we do into one name. Some nights it is psychedelic dance rock, some night it’s hard rock, some nights it is more of a singer-songwriter feel. It really changes by the set list.
You oftentimes play a cover or two during your sets, what are some of your favorite songs to cover? Or what would you like to cover in the future?
DD: My favorites are the ones that are truly unexpected. Killing in the Name of (Rage Against the Machine) was one of my favorites because it was such a curveball for the audience.
ND: And it really seemed to work.
CH: Luckily (laughs)
DD: Yeah .. I guess we just love the shockers. Maybe even a slow, cheesy dance song. Our audience can expect the unexpected.
Rob Chafin: Sex Machine was so much fun at All Good.
CH: Final Countdown at the Werk Out was amazing with Jason Hanson on kit. He actually learned the song a couple of hours before we took the stage. Best Feeling the year before at Werk Out with Michael Kang of String Cheese Incident was amazing as well. We really do a lot of covers because they are so much fun.
ND: Jukebox Hero. We kept getting asked by this fan to do Jukebox Hero and we finally said yeah … let’s do it.
RC: Foreplay/Long Time by Boston would be one that would be fun to play.
You guys are seemingly playing every night and coming off a tour right now … what do you love about being on the road? And what is your least favorite part?
DD: My favorite part is the experience of going to different places around the country and meeting new people. Each town is different, but also kind of the same.
ND: Best part: Seeing the road family. Worst part: Being away from the home family.
DD: Yeah one of my least favorite part is when you are on the road, you are in the grind. If something goes wrong back home, your hands are kind of tied as to how you can help. That’s hard.
CH: But this is our dream and that is part of what you have to do to live the dream.
RC: Being on the road is amazing because it is like we have best friends in each city. It is a very close-knit family feel. And we are travelling the country visiting our best friends.
CH: I would say that building those relationships around the country is the best part, and I agree that being away from my family is the toughest part (Chris has young siblings).
How has the travel schedule changed over the years?
DD: When I joined the band (summer 2011), the band was already touring hard. I would say that it has gotten a little more comfortable over the past year.
ND: When I joined the band (2008), the s!#t was not comfortable.
CH: Yeah, we recently (in the past 9 months) have gotten a bus which sleeps 8. That is much more comfortable than in the past when we were sleeping in any space we could find on the floor of the van.
ND: And one of us yelling up to the front, “Turn the heat on back here!”
DD: Yeah, before the bus we would sometimes pull into town with no sleep.
RC: And having highly terrifying experiences, like pulling into town once with no brakes.
Personally, I have seen about 10 shows over the past year since I discovered your music last year at All Good. In that time, I have always have thought you guys look like you are having the best time on stage. How do you bring the joy day-in and day-out?
DD: No matter how bad it gets being on the road every day, I try to remember that we are on stage, doing what we want to be doing. It is indescribable. We were all music lovers who remember the feeling of seeing live music. It is multiplied when you are on stage connecting with an audience in the moment. Even on our worst day it is still exciting. We appreciate all of these things and try to send out good energy.
CH: Yeah, but it doesn’t happen every time. Some days are rough and sometimes we are not playing our best.
ND: But that is the great thing about the band. We have three other people to lean on and help pick you up. We also implemented the smile rule.
What’s the smile rule?
RC: When someone messes up, rather than getting mad or frustrated, we just smile at them.
So because I always think you are having a great time, really it is that a lot of you are messing up?
CH: (Laughs) Yeah, basically we are all just f#@$ing up all the time and it looks like we are having a blast.
As a professed music-lover and concertgoer, I have to say you guys and your crew are amazing guerilla marketers. I see your stickers all around the country. How did that idea come about?
CH: Laughs .. well the first stickers came out in 2005. They melted off cars when it rained. We handed out business cards and stickers everywhere. Hell ... we wore our own band’s shirts. (laughs)
DD: We have been known to give merchandise and stickers away. We want our audience to take a part of our show away with them.
ND: The Werk It stickers took on a life of their own.
RC: We had to trademark them.
DD: People would ask us for rolls of stickers. Not ‘Can I have a sticker? But can I have a roll of stickers?”
RC: I remember last year at All Good … I stood at the top of the hill and rolled a whole roll down the hill. It was crazy the people were like piranhas diving for stickers. It was wild.
Rumor has it you have a new album in the works? Is a new album on the horizon?
CH: We are hoping for the fall.
RC: We would love to release it at The Werk Out.
CH: But we don’t want to rush it … so if it is ready by then, great. If not we will release it when it is ready.
DD: It is hard to say when it will be ready before we even start recording (just starting after Galactic Passport Tour concludes). But we are very excited.
As you are on the road most of year, how do you find the time to write new material? Do you write collaboratively or is it generally one of you bringing the song to the group?
CH: We all are constantly coming up with new ideas. Rob and Dino are the strong songwriters. I occasionally have my moments of inspiration.
ND: Yeah. There are even some rare times when we are alone with our instruments and we get to work on some things.
DD: Well … some songs write themselves. Seriously, there are some songs that I have written in 20 minutes. Others I will work on for weeks at a time – trying to get all the parts into the right places. You have to just stick with it. I will sometimes record ideas on my phone and later listen back and try to piece things together. I am constantly looking for inspiration.
Speaking of music festivals … I have to say that I thought your set at All Good last year was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. What is it about All Good that makes you want to come back year after year?
CH: It really is just a privilege to play that festival. Tim Walther (All Good Music Festival founder) has always been super supportive of us.
ND: I think this is our third year straight playing it. It is an amazing time and a great festival. I think one year there was a press release to come check out the Werks in an early set. I think it said “Come rage with The Werks at the crack of noon.” (everyone laughs)
RC: Being a part of All Good is fantastic. Its stature, the other bands, really the whole thing is so well put together.
DD: Yeah, they put on a major production. It is amazing to play in our home state, amongst legends. Last year our set was between Bob Weir and Phil Lesh (founding members of the Grateful Dead). We were sound-checking on the side stage, while Bobby Weir was finishing up his set, and I looked over and said “Houser! Houser!!! I’m playing with Bob Weir right now.
You are also heading to the beach for the Hangout Music Festival … who are you excited to see there? What made you want to get on that bill?
CH: Mainly word of mouth. Everyone who we spoke with about the festival or has been there has said nothing but great things. And it is on the beach.
ND: AND it is on the beach. Anything that is on the beach I am cool with.
DD: And the lineup is amazing.
ND: Stevie Wonder! (pauses for dramatic effect) Stevie Wonder!!!
RC: AND Tom Petty.
So do you guys often stay and check out the scene and other music? Will you stay at Hangout?
CH: It really depends on our tour schedule. But usually for the bigger festivals, we will stay the whole time.
RC: Yeah … if you are wandering around the scene … you will definitely run into us. We’re not only musicians, we are fans as well. We won’t pass up the opportunity to see great music.
Same question about Wakarusa Music Festival. What is your favorite part of playing that venue or that festival? Who are you looking forward to seeing?
ND: This is our third time at Waka. And it is definitely one of my personal favorites. I have seen some crazy things go down at Wakarusa.
CH: Wakarusa has always been a great time. And they have always been fantastic to us. The organizers have helped us a lot by putting us in great slots and really helped our band’s growth overall. We love playing there.
ND: One of my favorite moments came a couple of years ago. I was up by the rail catching Perpetual Groove’s set. This guy came flying up and jumped over the barricade. I mean this guy just Michael Jordaned it and he was wearing only his underwear. He dove straight into Adam’s (Adam Perry) keyboard. The band had to play without keys to finish up the set. The guy (stagediver) must have been really feeling it.
CH: He was feeling something.
Oftentimes you bring guests onstage to play with you? Who are some of your favorites from the past? And who do you hope to collaborate with this summer?
CH: John Gentry Jr. – hands down. He sits in with us regularly when we are in the Dayton-Cincinnati area.
ND: The Kung Fu Guys are some of our favorites. Johnny Neel (former Allman Brothers band keyboardist) is great because I can sit back and watch.
RC: The String Cheese Incident guys were great.
CH: Jaden Carlson (the 12-year-old guitar prodigy) sitting in with us in Breckinridge was killer. She learned four songs off our album and played great.
DD: Having someone sit-in makes the same old, same-old different and special. We have played these songs thousands of times, but we play better and have to be sharper when someone else is playing with us.
CH: It also produces a lot of ideas and allows us to take the music places it’s never been before. We have a lot of respect for all of the people we play with.
ND: People we would love to play with? Stevie Wonder!!!!
RC: AND Tom Petty
You also play host to your own festival? The Werk Out Music and Arts Festival in September. How did you go from playing festivals to hosting your own? How involved are you in the band selection and logistics?
CH: We are the most involved we have ever been this time around. We worked with Steve Trickle (Trickle Productions) of Legend Valley
ND: He used to handle a lot of the Hookahvilles
CH: and he has been a great influence and asset in helping us get this off the ground.
DD: It really was like “How can we host a big party for all of our friends?” We bring a lot of the bands we play with on the road into Ohio. We often-times hand-pick bands that we want to showcase, or to be a part of the party. There are all levels of experience levels. From bands just starting out to others who are more established in the scene. Regional bands to bands like Lotus who are more established but we want to be a part of our party. Every band is special and every band is treated as equally important.
ND: It really is a public party – for our friends and family.
RC: And Trakstar (an electronic dance music side project of Todd Stoops of Kung Fu and Rob Chafin who according to the rest of the band have no music yet and are a Michael McDonald cover band) will be making its first U.S. appearance.
To see The Werks this summer, be sure to check out on one of the following festivals.
at Legend Valley (formerly Buckeye Lake Music Center) near Columbus:
Dark Star Jubilee: http://www.darkstarjubilee.com/
All Good Music Festival: http://www.allgoodfestival.com/
The Werk Out Music and Arts Festival: http://www.thewerkoutfestival.com/
Or take a road trip:
Hangout Music Festival: http://www.hangoutmusicfest.com/
Wakarusa Music Festival: http://www.wakarusa.com/