Artist: Thomas and the Work-Men
Album / Label: Good Company / Free Dive Records
Rating: 8 / 10
A few months ago, I had the chance to sit down with the guys from Thomas and the Work-Men and learn about the history of the band, and their upcoming plans to release a new EP, Good Company. Their current roster includes singer and guitarist Gino Frederico, singer and lead guitarist Matt Miely, and bassist Matt Luebbers on strings, while namesake drummer Thomas Workman and saxophone/keyboardist Luke Mullins round out the quartet.
The band recorded the album at Little Brother Audio in Philadelphia, with producer Tyler Ripley of Free Dive Records. They had previously recorded a live album in Philly with Ripley and loved how well they all meshed together. In fact, the group told me that working with Ripley pushed them to be better.
“After we did the live album, we knew we had to work with Tyler again!” says Frederico.
With that in mind, the group put together a portfolio of well crafted thoughts and made the trek east, staying with Frederico’s family in New Jersey and traveling to Philly in the daytime.
“We had to have everything ready to roll once we left Columbus, because we knew we were only going to actually be out there for a week,” says Frederico.
“We kind of had to adopt a ‘get after it’ attitude, and it really helped us get things done,” adds Workman.
The album begins with a sprinkling of bubbly saxophone notes, a testament to the writing influence of Mullins, their newest member. The group said that they were excited to have him writing on the record and that it would certainly reflect on the tracks.
Dominos is lyrically sharp, with a chorus line of “And so I go, go now coast to coast, and if I fall, I fall like dominos – don’t stop me if I go too far.” It’s an easy track to introduce an album with, showing just the vastness of the band’s collective influences, while providing a road map to their mantra for those who had not listened before.
The album’s title track opens with a bouncy little piano sound, before the rest of the group joins in. Luebbers and Workman provide a spacious back beat, while Frederico and Miely lay down an array of jazzy riffs that guarantee any listener will be magnetically pulled from their chair to dance. It just feels good to listen to these five in tandem. Frederico told me in their previous interview that there was a certain “mood” that followed through the record, and while it wasn’t a concept album, you’d definitely be able to follow it.
“It started out with 11 ideas, but we ended up with six great songs that we’re really happy about.
“We really like that the songs have good summer energy,” said Mullins. “We like the idea of having fun stuff with different moods and tempos all together.”
No more is that attitude showcased than in their second single, Sunshine. The song was written for (and dedicated to) a friend of the band, who had passed away in a car accident. There’s an airiness that travels through the entire four minutes of the track, taking your ears out onto a porch with a cold drink in your hand. There are multiple layers of brass instruments, and Mullins said that the band had pulled in a few session musicians from the area to flesh out their sound.
“It was nice having a few more people around who powered their instruments with their mouths,” Mullins added, chuckling.
A simple solo guitar leads you into Opaque, a song which the band says is about finding love. You can again feel the concrete support beams coming from the rhythm section as the other three members build around them. On first listen, the song might seem a little busy, but there’s plenty of room to groove and jam as you progress. The chorus features a call-and-response type effort from Frederico and Miely, which is perfect for getting any listener (or potential crowd, once this pandemic is over) singing along.
I’ll Be Up continues the lyrical theme of togetherness and support, while battling through the wildness of the current world. “And it’s time – just climbing out the window to sit on the roof, watch the stars that are shining – I could get back to that place if I wanted, I’m reaching with my heart and my mind” touches on a hint of anxiety and restlessness, two emotions that I’m sure we’ve all experienced in the past five months.
The album is wrapped up with the sonic funkiness of Motive. Frederico’s vocal prowess could be related to several different similar singers, but he melds everything together to create a unique style that is completely his own. There is a lot of ambiance on the album’s final track, as if you’re walking through a hazy cacophony haze with flashing yellow lights. The guitars soar, the cymbals splash, and of course the saxophone brings it all together. You couldn’t ask for a better sound to finish the EP.
Despite driving from New Jersey to Philadelphia every day for two weeks to record the album (before returning home to Columbus), nothing at all feels rushed or out of place. The sound of this blissful sextet is difficult to characterize other than one simple word… Fresh. The band has managed to aurally capture what the world should sound like in June, July and August.
The band actually had the opportunity to showcase some of these songs at a live drive-in concert a few weeks ago at Coffman Park, as part of the Groove U C-BUS Sessions. While I wasn’t able to attend, I saw some pictures and video of the two-day event, and watching the band perform on stage made me feel a little more normal, even amongst the chaos of 2020.
And if there’s anything we all need right now, it is a little hope and positivity. A little groovy fun time; an extra spring for our collective steps. It seems as though the rest of the world is in agreement with me, as the album debuted at #4 on the iTunes Top 200 records, only behind powerhouses Taylor Swift and Hamilton. That’s one hell of an achievement for five dudes from Columbus.
- Good Company
- I’ll Be Up