The electric sky speaks. Then movement, speed, rain, noise. Wipers lick the windshield. And life begins again. The shock and release.
The Working Title, a band from Charleston, S.C., captures this unexpected lightening intensity, creating musical moment after moment of aching dips and heart-filled surges. They've known the push and pull of rising stardom, urgent music making and the drive to continue on, regardless of the moody music industry.
When I first heard their CD, About-Face, back in 2006, the sound hit me like a downpour. An edgy, startling moment. The wild need for more. Joel Hamilton's vocals crawled out from each track, beautifully tragic and wanting. Breathy, but strong. With Adam Pavao (guitars), Ross Taylor (drums) and Chris Ginn (bass), this band pummeled the ear with unforgettable, passion-packed dynamics; together, they were in the zone.
A certain cohesive, unspoken understanding leaked into each song. Matt Podesla joined in on guitars, and they delivered Alternative Rock at its best, full of aching, drizzling power. A nervous, thunderous first date night. The moment before first touch. A finger on an eyelid.
But after eight years of working together, Pavao publicly wrote about leaving the band.
Hamilton explains, "A lot is pretty uncertain about the lineup ... what is certain is that I'm going to be doing this tour in July and then I'm going to be doing a TWT record. We'll see what happens after that."
Formed in 2001, TWT soon signed with Universal, heading into the studio in 2003 to track the seven-song EP, Everyone Here is Wrong. In 2006, they released their gripping major label debut, About-Face, and success came down in buckets. But after a three-year relationship, the band and Universal parted ways in early 2007.
"Our relationship with Universal was decent until our record came out," Hamilton says, "Our guy there left the label right when our record was being released. We found ourselves in a not-so-ideal situation where no promotion was being done for our album except what we were doing ourselves. Luckily, we had a good lawyer, and we got out of the deal with the rights to our record."
If he could go back, would he change anything?
"Mostly, no," he sates. "We'd probably have avoided Canada to keep from having everything stolen from us, but, hey, what can you do."
TWT has become one of the most requested bands on Sirius satellite radio. Their music has played on the MTV show Laguna Beach. Several songs have received national airplay. Creating a fan following across the country, they've played with Mute Math, Switchfoot, Goo Goo Dolls, Our Lady Peace, mewithoutyou, Counting Crows and many more.
Hamilton says, "I'll never forget the first night of touring with the Counting Crows and Goo Goo Dolls -- I find myself sitting in a room having a conversation with Adam Duritz and Johnny Reznik about insane girls and I'm just wondering how in the hell I ended up there and who I was fooling."
About-Face is a gutsy release. Soulful songs gel, one slipping easily into the next. It nails that "whole album feel," sparking a swell of desperate feeling, trickling down with innocent haunting.
Hamilton explains that it came from "a lot of raw emotion that I was experiencing at the time. On top of that, I've been inspired through the years by very emotional singers and songwriters such as Jeff Buckley, Adam Duritz, Chris Connelly, Levi Stubbs."
This tour is aimed at supporting Heart, the band's new EP, a more personal, acoustic, stripped-down version of their former work. Asked if their upcoming Southgate show will be intimate, Hamilton responds, "Yes ma'am, you are right on. It'll be more maverick, more sexual, more one-on-one. We'll be passing out condoms and giving haircuts."
And it's no wonder that the band feels the need for an emotional hot shower after a rough trip through the music industry.
On Heart, Hamilton says, "Well I guess it was just kind of fun to make a record for absolutely nothing after going through the whole process of spending way too much money on a record -- like we were basically forced to spend a certain amount of money on About-Face to make the suits feel good.
"It's just not feasible to keep making such expensive records anymore with the way people aren't buying music these days. Unfortunately, the labels are taking way too long to catch on to these things."
From here, The Working Title is pressing on, in whatever form.
Hamilton states, "I guess somewhere along the way, the goal became more or less trying to just keep things together, keep spirits high, maintain, and then it got kind of overwhelming for us, and too overwhelming for some of us. From my end, music will be made indefinitely."
Listen. Someone knocks on your door at 3 a.m. A rush of nerves. Catch your breath. You are more awake than you've ever been awake. You sleepily shuffle to answer it, but no one's there. Maybe the guilty, stormy wind. Breathe in, breathe out.
And then the shrug. The shock is over. Life begins again. The release.©
THE WORKING TITLE (theworkingtitle.com) plays The Southgate House Friday with Junior Revolution, All the Day Holiday, Edison Glass and others. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.