INTERVIEW: Thomas and The Work-Men

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WRITTEN BY: Ross Aronow

Back in March, WHIP had the opportunity to sit down with the Ohio-based band, Thomas and the Work-Men, while they were recording their newest project at Little Brother Audio in west Philadelphia. We talked about their influences, their 2019 live album, and the direction their new music is taking. Their new single “Opaque” is out now on Free Dive Records. 

The band describes the single as… “a vintage feeling ballad providing warmth and love.” Guitarist and vocalist Gino Frederico explains that the track is “…a love song, but it’s about finding love….Opaque is about knowing there is something out there for you and pushing through all obstacles to get it.” 

Stream “Opaque” everywhere now! And check out the interview below…

Ross: I’m here with Thomas and the Work-Men at Little Brother audio in west Philadelphia. Do you guys want to real quick introduce yourselves and let the people know what you play and then we’ll get into the interview.

Thomas: I’m Thomas Workmen, I play drums.

Matt: I’m Matt Miely I play guitar and sing.

Gino: Gino Frederico. Guitar and sing.

ML: I’m Matt Luebbers, but with multiple matts in the band, Luebs would be fine. I play bass

Luke: I’m Luke I play saxophone, sing a little and I do keys. And Thomas is forcing me to do a little aux percussion now.

Ross: So, first thing, usually how I like to start off: for people who don’t know Thomas and the Work-Men, how would you describe Thomas and the Work-Men? What is the sound and what is the music that you guys make?

Luke: The sound is…I think the best way to describe the sound is that it’s very rock and roll, but we also have a lot of very free components to it, it’s very funky and hip hop influenced. That comes from Gino’s influences and Matt’s influences growing up…It’s very like alt rock and punk, but we also take this very like jam band approach to it. We keep it under 10 minutes it’s very under control. In the new stuff we’re it’s very rock and roll, we’ve got the horns and everything…it makes you want to move.

Ross: I noticed from listening to your work, you guys pull from so many different areas and genres like you said. Is that something you guys set out to do or is it that you started jamming and that’s just what happened.

Matt: I’d say definitely the latter. The whole way that the band formed initially was just getting together and jamming around in the basement of a house on our college campus. So, that evolved to the point where we were playing actual songs…we kind of looked at each other one day and “I think we’re in a band or something”. Then we started taking it more seriously and prepping to play out…I think you really get that from the sound of the band.

Luke: With all the genres we’re pulling from, that kind of the strength of larger bands. We’re a 5 piece and Matt Luebbers here is actually our second bassist, the band formed with a different guy, it’s all good relations he just moved out to Colorado. But…when you got five guys from totally different backgrounds coming together to make music, we’ve all got around our own favorite band and our own favorite sound and we’re fighting to get that heard more and we’re also all fighting to get a good balance…

Ross: So, you guys have a live album out already. Was that always a goal of yours to have that precise studio vibe and also have the live energy and play songs they’ll come what they become? 

Luke: I think it started when we were playing songs from Speak In the Vernacular 1 and 2 [the band’s first two EP’s] we realized “ Oh, we’re not doing these 100% the same that they’re on the album, but we really like the way we’re doing them…so let’s get these recorded…!”

Gino: In the timeline of the band, why the live album happened – the jamming comes from how the band evolved…we started jamming a lot just as a source of entertainment and then songs were being written. We were like “Hey we should record this music” and that’s how our first album happened. At the time we had just picked up Luke and the songs were already written. He recorded on the album but it was all very quick…We put out the record and started touring on it…We wanted to switch things up from show to show so we were adding sax solos in certain places and doing some things that we didn’t have the opportunity to do on the studio album…With the Free Dive record and the music we’re recording now with Tyler [Ripley, engineer at Little Brother Audio] it is a lot more thought out as far as the song writing goes. Jamming helped us learn each other’s strengths…and that’s why the songwriting has become much more cohesive in the last through months.

Ross: So the band started in Ohio, but we’re in Philadelphia where you guys are recoding your new record. What brought you guys here and what’s that experience been like making music in a new city?

Gino: As far as how has it been being here, it’s amazing. We’re getting up every day and we’re going to record all night until we can’t anymore and we’re doing it for 7 days straight. This is a studio experience that we never really got before…And a new city is really cool!

ML: …It is nice to be in a new setting and only think about the music and not think about going home and playing video games with your roommate later….I’ve been learning all kinds of things here. Like the word “jawn” – Tyler’s been using that in a bunch of emails and I’m like “What is he saying? He’s describing a preamp to me right now.”

Ross: We talked about Influences earlier, is there anybody that lead you to pick up your instruments or start writing songs that lead you to this point?

Thomas: Neither of my parents were super musical, but my older sisters picked up the clarinet and saxophone at a really young age….I started out playing clarinet for a month and hated it. Then my parents, probably reluctantly, bought me a drum set. But my mom, she was always a push for me to open up that creative side of my personality.

Ross: Once you started playing the drums, were there any artists that really made you decide that this is what you want to do. 

Thomas: I was a huge Fallout Boy fan, Paramore…I literally learned to play the drums from plugging in an iPod and playing along to those songs.

Matt: I would second the pop punk phase…One of the big reasons I started playing guitar was Tom DeLonge from Blink 182…As I started to learn more about guitar I think that shifted…John Mayer is one that comes to mind, he’s hard to not think of because he’s an absolute legend. And more recently, Marcus King…

Gino: Vocally I’m really influenced by Mac Miller. He’s a rapper but the way he delivers his vocals is so different to me compared to other rappers because he has so much emotion in it…And as our lives changed as we grow older, his music changed so he’s always been a huge inspiration for me.

ML: My dad was nonmusical, but he had a lot of good taste and he got me started and all the classic rock. My mom played some piano and sang so she was more encouraging…but I was not allowed to play a rock instrument….I played clarinet and stuck with it for 5 years. At that point I was 13 and I had enough lawnmowing money to buy a bass. I had a bunch of friends who played guitar and drums and I just wanted to play in bands…The song Red Barchetta by Rush. That song – that’s what a bass does. If you’re listening to this [or reading] go out and listen to that song.

Luke: I grew up listening to Blue Grass…My mom played bass in a bluegrass band, so she was always pushing for me to do the music stuff…I picked the sax at like a 5th grade music day…I just stuck with it. I had a little alto and I saw the older kids with the bigger ones, and I wanted that one. That was a tenor and I’ve been playing the tenor since then. As I moved through school and got new professors, they’re always telling me, “Hey, never stop playing.” I’m influenced by all sorts of music…but at the end of the day it’s just a bunch of instructors and conductors telling me “Hey, don’t stop” so I just keep playing…I stopped playing for a year and Gino texts me and asked me to come play sax. So, Gino was the most recent person to remind me to keep playing.

Ross: The music you guys are recording right now, how is different than the music you put out last year? How has the band changed and all that stuff?

ML: I think very. I’m the new guy…and I’m really excited to put my sonic mark on it….I think the band has adopted a more focused structure especially with Luke’s passion for theory. There has been some really interesting twists and chord changes. I love playing a 1, 4 , 5 funk all day…but some of Steely Dan, Chicago fans…I’m really picking a lot of that stuff and it seems like it’s turning out that way. 

Luke: It’s much more focused, we try to take a good approach of – we have verse ideas, chorus ideas, are they structured in decent ways. We put a lot of thought in how these songs fit together…Some days it’s just playing in the attic and wondering where to go we all shout out chords that could come next and we keep going until we find something that sticks. I’m always shouting go to the four…Cory Wong always goes to the four. We’re going to have a horn section now too; I’m going to have some friends up there!

Thomas: This is our first project we’ve had that we all get to put our own personal touch on it…We put it all together in our attic and we get our personal touch on it that way.

Luke: We’ve been making demos for all of these songs too and really practicing what it’s like to put all of these songs together and play the parts in front of a mic. 

Gino: And I think that came from Free Dive. One of our challenges of being on a label in Philly…we can’t wake up next week and drive to the studio and lay down a new idea. We’ve got one week to do this, so we wanted to be extremely prepared.

Luke: We’re Thomas and the Work-Men (don’t forget the hyphen). @workmenmusic, @freediverecords. Thanks for having us!

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