December 2, 2012

Work Drugs

Work Drugs, an American chillwave and dreampop duo from Philadelphia, haven’t made a splash yet.

Though touring alongside such indie heroes as Battles, Maps and Atlases, and Umphrey’s McGee, and even leaders of contemporary indie pop like Two Door Cinema Club and Peter Bjorn & John, Work Drugs themselves have garnered only a modest following of fans. But that probably won’t be the case for long.

The origins of this band are unique – its members met in sailing school, of all places, and bonded while cruising along the Baja of Mexico. Hours spent adrift in the water seem to have cut all the worry from their lives: everything about the music they create, from their lyrics to their melodies, is relaxed, carefree, and smiley.

Work Drugs, the quaint little band that it is, simply specializes in making music that makes you happy.

This desire to cheer the listener, coupled with the band’s carefree vibes, opens up a lot of opportunities for the band to explore avenues that others might shy away from. For example, who in their right mind opens an album with a half-baked cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”? Never mind that their version is actually an original and enjoyable listen – the simple fact that Work Drugs include the song on their album is a risk.

But it’s one that pays off. The song rolls gently along, basing its melody around synths, guitar noodles, and minimalistic shadows of the chords that made up the original song. These changes don’t affect the integrity of the melody; rather, they enhance it. Adele’s version is so well known that everyone in America knows how to sing it, and these guys know that – it gives them room to play around. And playing around is what they’re best at.

Their sound first brings to mind the similarly chilled stylings of darlings Real Estate, though the comparison isn’t a perfect one.

Real Estate and bands like them may have the vibe, but the lo-fi sound that Work Drugs have achieved on these records is one that is hard to reproduce – especially on a major-label budget. What they lack in means, though, they make up for in prolific output – having put out five records in the span of less than three years.

Carefree, light-as-can-be, no-worries vocals coat the synth-heavy, dreamy atmosphere of the sound like chocolate sauce on ice cream.

Newer track “Against All Odds” features some power-pop-influenced banging drums – perhaps a sign that Work Drugs are stepping out of their comfort zone and into the more electrified taste of the pop fan base.

Their most popular song as of yet is their single from Summer Blood, “Rad Racer” which has done the best job so far of mixing all the Work Drugs has going for it; hazy aesthetics, lo-fi sound, catchy instrumentation, with that pop sensibility that is necessary to get a record to catch fire.

The music they make is, strictly speaking, challenging. It’s more like easy listening.

Image Credit: Work Drugs

It’s simple, not quite formulaic, and relaxed.

The poor guys are trying so hard, but have such limited means, that they can’t even afford to re-press more copies of the LP after they’ve sold out. A post on their website says, “It’s official.  Summer Blood is sold out.  Thanks to everyone who supported the album.  Let it live forever on Spotify and Ebay.”

Work Drugs is the true definition of an authentic, Grade-A indie band. They’re so earnest about their sound, but also about their situation, that it’s hard not to feel for them, and to love them. The members emanate a chill and relaxed vibe, but not in a hazy, pothead way. They’re just happy. It must be fun to be in this band.

When pegged for a description of their band, Work Drugs came up with this:

“Work Drugs is a Philadelphia-based sedative-wave/smooth-fi group fronted by Thomas Crystal and Benjamin Louisiana. Work Drugs makes music specifically for dancing, boating, yachting, sexting, and living. Please enjoy please.”

So follow their instructions. Use this band as the soundtrack for your happy, relaxed, existence. That’s what this kind of music was made for.

And please enjoy please.

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