Jack Killen, originally from Nantucket, Mass., is an East Coast rocker at heart, and his band WORKOUT has begun to prove that there is still a demand for drums and guitar and an abundance of fist-pumping crowd seekers on both coasts.
Based out of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Killen, the lead singer and piano player, is joined by long-time friends and rock allies Jason Langdon on bass, Alex Forbes on guitar, and Tim Traynor on drums.
Today they are ready to hit the night clubs and concert halls with music from their second studio release, “Rockit Science,” and can be found playing throughout NYC in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as up and down the East Coast in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.
I met up with Killen last week at Kellogg’s Diner in Williamsburg to discuss the new album and his theory behind the makings of a rock and roll band in 2014.
What is it that’s so appealing about being based here in Brooklyn?
When I moved here, it definitely made economical sense to move here. All my friends that moved here lived here so it definitely made sense. But after I signed my lease here the rent went skyrocketing.
My favorite thing is I love the bar scene around here. I know it’s different now, but I still think there’s a lot of character here and even in Queens. There’s still a bunch of classic bars left in New York City.
We’re trying to do a party bus, and we did it before when went to a bunch of bars in Manhattan, and we took a bus where we fill it up with a bunch of people and go to these classic places. We work with a beer company called Estrella Galicia, which is the number one beer company in Spain - it doesn’t have a huge market but it’s very narrowly marketed in Queens. But they’re sponsoring it. We’re going to leave from Bia (67th S. 6th St. in Williamsburg), and there is going to be free beer on the bus. We’re going to take it to the Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher St. in Manhattan), a legendary gay bar, and we’re going to play a show there.
We went to Desmond’s on Park Avenue last year and played there, and that was really fun. It’s just a gem on Park Avenue. There are all these big hotels and high end places, and then Desmond’s is just a classic Irish bar, totally still the way it is on Park Avenue.
On the bus there will be a D.J. and dancing, but the whole idea is to go to really cool places.
We just released our second album, “Rockit Science,” which we’re really psyched about. We worked on it for about a year and we recorded it at two places and that came out in December.
How did you first start getting involved in music?
I remember just sitting with my friend one summer and he was learning to play guitar and trying to learn how to play three chords and then never really tried to learn a song ever again. But then I immediately started writing some tunes. My music personally has changed quite a bit. When we started it was more hippie, but then gravitated more towards rock and roll in my later teens. This wasn’t really in bands, but just messing around. I got together with my friend Jason – who is the bass player in the band – we started our first band together.
Me and Jason were working together for just about 12 years and we’re still plugging along. We had a band called Dance Bot 3000, which was before Andre 3000 came up with his name. Back then we played a lot of warehouse parties and art galleries. We also did a lot of electronic stuff back then too. These are separate bands and stuff, but we played with a lot of variety.
I think in the end, we were just all about being young and driving down the beach, listening to classic rock stations back in Massachusetts.
You guys play a very pure rock and roll. Do you think that is lost in today’s rock scene?
Yeah, that’s what we think too. Obviously we’re influenced by the 70’s and 80’s, and I guess we’re also influenced by 90’s rock. People always ask me, “what’s your sound?” I’ll tell you right away, obviously I love Queen, obviously I love Guns ‘n’ Roses and then I also really like Warren Zevon with all those weird lyrics, like in “Werewolves of London.” “I’d like to meet his tailor.” It’s just crazy and those totally off-lyrics.
We try to splice that hyper-emotional, super intense emotional lyrics, with some absurdity, but that’s basically what I believe life is. The audience often laughs but then they say those lyrics are really good.
So how do you separate yourselves from comedy rock?
We actually opened for Tenacious D at SXSW, but we do always walk that line. The thing is, we always have fun and we like to drink and go into our vices, but I think it’s perfect. We’re hard working and we practice three times a week.
How is playing for the West Coast audience different from a city like New York?
The attitude is way different on the West Coast. I don’t care what anyone says, but New York is just the peak of aggressive, tense, no b.s. and a straight to the point attitude and that’s way different from over there. There just isn’t that spark like here that is just like, “take no prisoners,” and that definitely fit our music.
Do you guys care about satisfying your audience?
Yeah, we’d like to at least get more popular and we have that attitude. We want more people to hear about us, absolutely. In the end, we’re all best friends and I don’t think many bands get to enjoy that. I get to come together with four of my best friends and these are the guys I hang out with all the time and outside of it, we’re still always together.
How does the songwriting work?
We’re really good at communication so that’s been good. But if it’s a song that I sing, I’ll bring in some chords and a chorus together. But these guys have been huge because these songs always start out as big piano ballads and they help me turn it into a rock and roll song.
For one song, it started as this crazy dirge-y ballad that was really like funeral music, but then I brought it to them. Jason would come in with one lick on bass and they all arranged it. It really is a team effort. My strong point is lyrics and song structure and these guys are into arranging and adding to the composition. It doesn’t really start as a jam like some bands come in saying we need to write a song.
They bring in their songs and we just pick it apart and arrange it. We’re all just obsessed with being in a rock and roll band so we can’t really get away from that.
Join the WORKOUT Party Bus on Thursday, March 6, at their pick-up point at Bia, 67 S. 6th St., and hit the road with the band as they travel to the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher St. for a concert and Burlesque show starting at 9:30 p.m.