Chicago. We can say it again: Chicago. It’s been the home to some of my favorite acts like Big Black, Tortoise, Jesus Lizard, Ganser, Ministry, Shellac, Fiery Furnaces, Neko Case, and the list can probably go on and on. Work Party, the quartet of guitarist Grant Craig and brothers Tristan Widloe (vocals) and Justin Widloe (bass) along with drummer Brandon Syph came to fruition after the demise of War Brides and joining Syph (Snow Burial). The band released its debut, My Best Days Are Behind Me (Triple Eye Industries), earlier this year, whipping an assortment of jagged-edged guitars around thundering percussion.
The band’s debut was recorded at Chicago’s famed Electrical Audio by Greg Norman and the abrasive melodicism throughout the band’s release captured every nuance of the band’s sound eloquently. But Work Party isn’t a chaotic post-hardcore for its own sake, there’s much more to the group’s sound than just that. We had the chance to speak with frontman Tristan Widloe about the band’s new album and its dense sound, as well as the band’s love of music.
So tell us who all of you really are… Individually, how did you discover music and fall in love with it?
Tristan. Vocalist. The very first tape I ever purchased was Van Halen’ Fair Warning. I was pretty enamored with David Lee Roth as a kid. In general, I was really into dynamic frontmen. Good voice, good stage presence, both, didn’t matter. Was really into Morrissey for a while there too. I know. I know. But his voice rules, especially when he wore a younger man’s clothes. Honestly, his voice is still pretty damn strong now. Justin, myself, and our oldest brother were really into punk in late teens/early 20s. Picture this disabled kid hangin’ out with other suburban punks sporting jean jackets w anarchy pins, fucked up haircuts, Exploited tees, ripped up jeans, combat boots—the whole nine yards. I thought it was pretty cool. He and his friends turned us on to stuff like 7 Seconds, Bad Brains, Misfits, Dead Kennedys, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Dead Milkmen, and most importantly for me, Naked Raygun. All that shit changed my life. LOVED Naked Raygun as a kid. Understand? was a total game-changer record for me. I’ve probably listened to Wonder Beer more times than Smells Like Teen Spirit. Then the whole Seattle thing eventually happened which goes without saying how much that flipped my life upside down. It just kind of goes on and on from there.
What are your (personal or group) aspirations?
I don’t know… don’t be a douche bag, keep writing music we like, keep having too much fun, keep hangin out, keep recording, keep playing shows etc etc etc. In an ideal world we’ll reach as many people as humanly feasible with our music. And if not, that’s fine too. We dig it. That’s all that really matters. That and being the best son, brother, husband, pet owner, human I can possibly be.
Where do you currently live and how’s that affected your energy, creative output, etc.?
I live 60+ miles west of CHI—couple miles outside of a little town—with my wife and our dog and cat. House kinda sits up on a little hill. There’s woods and a creek out back. Listen to the track “Homeowner”. It’s exactly about that—the mundane occurrences of domestic life/homeownership. It’s pretty tongue in cheek as one might imagine. My wife and I dig living out this way. Privacy. Space. Hearing great horned owls, foxes, coyotes at night. Bonfires. All that good shit. Though our options for eating out are pretty limited—randomly enough a dude from the 85’ Bears has a bar in town. Anyway, I lived in CHI some years back. Love the city but grew tired of being engulfed by it. Creatively, as a lyricist/vocalist, I’m not as pissed off as I was some 20+ years ago. A lot of my creative output back then was fueled by being an angry little turd. Not so much these days. Now I’m just angry about being hungover on conference calls, leaky pipes, my cat puking on the rug, shit like that. Lyrically, I write on a lot of half-truths and then embellish them with made-up stories. It’s a fun way to write. Start with reality, then delve into fiction.
When did you first begin recording and playing live?
I was a little bit of a late bloomer I guess. Somewhere in my very early 20s—I started dicking around with Justin (brother/bassist) defacing Deftones tunes with our buddy Braden, in his mom’s basement in Joliet. From there we eventually got around to writing our own shit—basically ripping off any and all songs from Trustkill’s and Victory Records catalogues—doing the whole melodic/screaming dynamic. It was pretty terrible though we had a blast doing it. I was living in Chicago at the time and would train back to jam in Braden’s basement. Kind of funny thinking back. I moved to the city to be in the city and do that thing in my early 20s but rolled back to the suburbs every chance I could to jam with those two turkeys. That’s about it really. From there many other bands popped up with the three of us. We eventually all lived in Chicago and started a band with a dude named Mike—we found each other on Craigslist. Dude is the biggest Melvins fan I’ve ever met. None of us knew much about them till meeting Mike. We wrote a lot of punky/sludgy shit as a result. The first LEGIT recording experience was w that band, OAK. We recorded with Sanford Parker (he recorded Pelican and a whole mess of other influential CHI bands). We played A LOT of really bad shows. One of which was an all-ages thing in the suburbs. Not only was it a pay-to-play situation but the kids were all sitting on the floor with their legs crossed while we played. Hands down, the worst show I’ve ever been a part of. I could go on for days here…..
The energy on your current release My Best Days Are Behind Me seems like you’re paying homage to the artists that came before you, but you put a fresh spin on it. Do you feel it’s important for listeners to know the history behind the post-punk, post-hardcore music, or even rediscover some of the independent loud music Chicago had made famous?
Eh. Not really. That’s not my job. That’s up to the individual to dig deep if they so decide. And if not? Their loss. But no, I don’t feel the need to educate anyone, aside from my 18-year-old nephew, about rad music—similar to the way my oldest brother educated me. Hell, I have a hard enough time keeping up on bands, both old school, and current.
What would you like music listeners in the States to know about your music?
1) It rules. 2) We’re about as genuine of a group of dudes you’ll ever meet. We all love each other. We love hangin’ out together. We respect the shit out of each other. I’m positive our music reflects that. If you’re into punk, old-school hardcore with zero pretenses, that’s true blue honest, you’ll dig the shit out of Work Party.
How would you describe it to the casual listener?
Ibid. Seriously. Not trying to be lazy here. I just don’t know how else to describe it. Punk/old school hardcore with a smarmy ass sense of humor that you can wave your fist in the air to. That’s about it.
Your last video “Real Charmer” gave us all a look at Work Party. Do you think people take their lives much too seriously? My opinion of that video was just, “Here are a few guys that are friends that make abrasive music and obviously have fun with one another.”
Your assessment is spot fucking on. As I’ve stated above, we love each other and love spending time together. Clearly, that comes through in that video? Fuckin A. Yes, people do take themselves too seriously. And yes, life is a very serious endeavor and should be taken seriously BUT no need to be up your own ass about it all the time. Life is too short for that bullshit. And definitely too short for anyone to think their bullshit is more important than anyone else’s bullshit. And given all the other shit going on socio-politically, which I’m not touching w an 8,000,000 foot pole here—even more incentive to fuck off and get over yourself. By in large, I’m in tune w what’s going on in the world—but that shit doesn’t make it into my lyrics or our music. Let other bands be in charge of that.
The pandemic has changed the way we go about living. Positives or negatives?
Positives: I don’t eat out too much anymore. My wife and I enjoy cooking and imbibing. The pandemic made us realize how much better the food we prepare is than the garbage we eat out—at least out where we live. If I was living in the city, it might very well be a different story. Nonetheless, we enjoy sitting out back at our house, eating/drinking, listening to lots of 50s inspired streaming stations, and staring off into the woods. Obviously more cost-effective and more quality time spent with the misses and our animals. Negatives? Man, I knew there were a lot of douchebags out in the world but fuck…..
Literally, 50% of the country is comprised of douchebags? Amazing. Anyone on the wrong side of that, 50% is dead wrong. Period.