The guys in Philadelphia’s Southwork love color — the louder the better. We’re talking neon oranges and yellows and blues and pinks. When they’re on stage, the seven-piece band looks less like a rock outfit and more like a carton of rainbow sherbet come to life.
And then there’s the band’s prized possession, “the kaleidoscope machine,” a groovy blue, yellow, and orange duct-taped electric guitar. “When we’re not playing music, we like to put orange, yellow, and blue duct tape on our instruments and belongings,” says lead singer Mike Vivas.
Southwork’s music is somewhere between early Chicago and T-Rex — imagine that for a moment — and it’s filled with a peculiar mixture of child-like joy and adult psychedelia. “We feel as though our current sound represents the current era in that many bands today are also inspired by multiple genres across the vast musical history that exists in 2014,” says Vivas.
For Vivas and company, a love of music was discovered early in life. The Southwork vocalist began playing music as a kid, singing and strumming guitar alongside his cousins, twins Alan and Joe Smith, who took up baritone sax and drums, respectively. The meat and potatoes of the crew fell into place in middle school, with Tony Trov on tenor sax, uke, and percussion; Nick Anastasi holding down the bass; and Mike Vogel tickling the keys. When trumpeter Erich Miller and drummer/percussionist Joe Reno joined the group, it was time to take the show on the road.
“We released our first record in December 2012, so when we were planning the tour to promote the album, it felt natural to head South for the winter. With that it mind, we went to the internet and were lucky enough to find out about Awendaw Green,” Vivas says. The guys in Southwork played at a Barn Jam soon after. This week they’ll be returning to the venue.
Southwork’s latest EP, Seasons Passing, is a happy-go-lucky effort, complete with light-hearted vocals, playful uke, whimsical whistles, friendly flutes, and an array of horns and harmonies. The four-track compilation was completed in the summer of ’13 and recorded entirely at Southwork’s home studio on an eight-track tape machine. The old-school recording process is balanced out with a current alt-indie vibe that encompasses the whole disc, from the funky fresh “Wear Your Heart Out” to the ukulele-driven vocal track “Love Her ‘Til The End.”
Recently, Vivas and Southwork have been recording their second full length album, Wear Your Heart Out (a nod to the EP track) on a newly restored Tascam MS-16 1″ tape machine. “Finding the right man to restore the machine was a project within itself, but worth every second once we had it up and running,” Vivas says. The group recorded most of the album live and wrapped up sessions within 10 weeks. The guys have one more mixing session to go and the record will be finished, so some debut tunes should be readily available at this week’s show.
“We bring as much psychedelia to every show that we can, but we’re always making slight adjustments to our stage show from venue to venue for whatever works best,” says Vivas. You can also expect a little wit thrown in between songs. “We’re into working on our best sarcastic observations over caffeinated beverages.” Love Best of Charleston? Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.
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