High Sierra: Hard ‘Werk’ pays off for Ohio jam band

Tahoe Onstage

Chris Houser and The Werks jam the Vaudeville Tent at the High Sierra Music Festival.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo

Since releasing their eighth official album last March, Dayton, Ohio-based jam band The Werks has shown no signs of slowing down. The group has managed to maintain its grueling touring schedule, organize the eighth annual Werk Out Festival, and continue writing new music.

After the High Sierra Music Festival, The Werks will take its first brief respite from touring since March before beginning an East Coast run on July 13. That tour will include the festival that they’ve hosted for the last seven years as well in Thornville, Ohio. In addition to three nights of The Werks, the event also will feature Dopapod, Twiddle, The Floozies and more.

“The Werk Out started as a party for us and all of our friends eight years ago and now we’ve got a new location in Thornville that we’re excited about but we still get to have a whole bunch of our friends play,” said drummer Rob Chafin of the fest.

This relentless approach to touring has helped build a rabid fanbase and after experiencing their live performance firsthand Friday at the Vaudeville Stage, it’s no wonder why. The four members of The Werks are all masterful musicians who, through dramatically sweeping dynamics and subtle communication, engage through improvisation.

“We like to play with big ears” says guitarist and vocalist Chris Houser of the importance of awareness in spontaneity. “There’s some eye contact but it’s mostly important to keep your ears open, sometimes Dan and Rob will link up for hits on the drums or something like that and me and Jake will join in too.”

The quartet’s magic is apparent on the aptly titled recent release as well. “Everything started as a demo that one of us would come up with and bring to the workspace. We got it all set up there then went and recorded with Joe Viers (Blues Traveler, Twenty One Pilots) at Sonic Lounge,” keyboardist Dan Shaw says of the recording process, “Joe was a great tie-breaker of sorts, a great creative presence.”

Although it’s only been four months since their last album, the members of The Werks are all eager to write, record, and release new music, “We’re planning on getting into the studio very quickly and releasing a whole album of new music soon,” Houser said. “With the success of the last album and the experience we gained with ‘Magic’ we learned that we can set a goal for ourselves and achieve it in a very short amount of time. We proved to ourselves that we can do things that we thought were impossible. So we’re very excited and are writing new material all the time. Really just can’t wait to get time to put it all together,” he continues.

Fans of The Werks will soon be reaping the benefits of the hard-working musicians and their undying desire to create. They’re sure that their busy touring schedule will bring them back to Tahoe soon, so keep an eye out for upcoming dates in the area.

-Spencer Kilpatrick

Tahoe Onstage

The Werks drummer Rob Chafin works the High Sierra Music Festival.

Tahoe Onstage

Jake Goldberg on bass in the Vaudeville Tent at the High Sierra Music Festival.

About Spencer Kilpatrick

Author Spencer Kilpatrick graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in English. He hates the Lakers and his top three emcees are Blu, Earl Sweatshirt and Nas.

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