Posted On 15 Oct 2015
Tag: A Sundae Drive, All Access, All Access Music Group, Allison Mcphail, Arcade Fire, Artist Interview, Black Kite, Burglar, Citizens, Cornish Game Hen, Craig Wilkins, Dan Workman, Death Cab For Cutie, Flaming Lips, Gangsta NIP, Glass The Sky, Houston, Mogwai, Nigel Godrich, Nine Inch Nails, Octopus Project, Pixies, Radiohead, REM, Smokescreen, Sonic Youth, Steven Higgenbotham, SugarHill Studios, The Fiery Furnaces, The Postal Service, The Wheel Workers, The Wheel Works Up, Trent Reznor, Tyson Sheth, Whole Other World, Wye Oak, Young Mammals
Meet The Wheel Workers! Based in Houston, TX, they are an indie-rock band that have been making music since late 2010.
Their crisp sound and intelligent lyrics have earned them growing recognition in Houston’s active indie rock scene.
Learn more about The Wheel Workers in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! How’s your summer been going?
Steven Higginbotham: Summer has been very productive. We’re playing a lot of regional shows and deep in the process of recording our 4th album.
Looking back, can you remember first starting this group? How did you all meet? What made you think you could be in a band together?
SH: Craig and I met way back middle school when we had the same piano teacher. Kept contact over the years and after I wrote and recorded the first album, I reached out to him to see if he was interested in helping me play the songs live. We’ve grown a lot musically since then, and Craig now has a big role in songwriting.
CW: Over 20 year budding friendship. Adorable, really. I used to go see Steven’s previous band a ton, so if I can be serious for two seconds, it’s a real honor to be involved in this.
SH: I played in a band called The Wheel Works up in Austin about ten years ago. The idea behind that was a band should work together like gears in a clock. Or that we’re all cogs in the machine. Or something. This new project went through a bunch of other names like “Eddyrock” (turned out to be a murderous gang in California), but nothing worked. Since we still work sometimes with the members of the Wheel Works, I thought about that name again and we sort of re-adopted it.
CW: I like to come up with a different story each time I’m asked this. Nobody thinks our name makes any sense, so I might as well add to that confusion.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
SH: That’s a hard one. We get comparisons to Arcade Fire, REM and The Postal Service. But really, the songs are pretty diverse so it kind of depends what song you are listening to.
CW: Late 90s Radiohead and Death Cab having sex with a Korg.
How do you think being from Houston has influenced your sound?
SH: The Houston music scene is better than it’s ever been. There are a ton of great bands like Glass the Sky, Cornish Game Hen, A Sundae Drive, Black Kite, Young Mammals, and so many more that really making tremendous music. We go out to shows all the time to support each other and talk music.
CW: All of this smog has really given Steven’s voice a warm, round tone.
SH: Well, for me, “Citizens” goes over a long period of my life. Some songs, like “Smokescreen,” were written many years ago and capture a different time but have been updated to our new sound. Other songs, like “Burglar” are more recent and very personal. That song in particular was written during a pretty hard period.
Can you talk about the inspiration for your single “Whole Other World”?
SH: That’s another one that goes back quite a few years. I originally wrote the very first idea way back in 2003 during the Iraq War. I couldn’t believe that America was going to war over what seemed to me at the time such obviously false pretenses. It felt like American had gone insane with fear and I was really disturbed by the whole thing. The news media complicity in the march to war was another big part of the inspiration. I just couldn’t believe the self-censorship and outright falsehoods that were being regularly spouted on TV to get Americans to support the war. So the song is about my disillusionment with that whole episode.
SH: I’m always trying to explore new territory, but at the same time, a lot of the songwriting instincts and melodic tendencies have continued throughout. I think I’m trying new arrangements and instrumentation. But probably the biggest source of change is simply life experience.
CW: I just keep turning up the volume on my amp and buying synthesizers. At some point in the future, we’ll put out an album of nothing but distortion and bleep bloop sounds.
What bands have continued to inspire The Wheel Workers sound throughout the years?
SH: There so many it’s hard to pick just a few, but I love the Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, REM, and the Pixies. More recently, I’ve been listening a lot to Octopus Project and Wye Oak.
CW: NIN, The Fiery Furnaces, Octopus Project, Mogwai, Radiohead, Ganksta NIP.
SH: We’re really fortunate to be working with Dan Workman of SugarHill Studios. He’s a great engineer and producer and has become a close friend and collaborator. Looking ahead, if I could choose to work with anyone, I’d love to make a record with Nigel Godrich.
CW: I mean if we’re talking pipe dream here, Trent Reznor. I also think Ween would be a lot of fun to work with.
What do you hope listeners take away from your music?
SH: I just hope they like the songs. If I write a song someone wants to listen to twice, I think that’s a great compliment. If they go a little deeper and connect to the lyrics in some way, even better.
CW: I hope our music gets stuck in everyone’s heads like a million ear worms, driving everyone to slow madness.