The guys in pop duo The Working Hour - vocalist Andy Riesmeyer and drummer Peter Doherty - are tired. They've been playing music together for eight years - a good run for any band, but especially impressive since both members are only 20. "In a couple of years, it will be safe to say that we will have been doing this longer than we haven't been," says Riesmeyer.
Legend has it that the band got its start when 12-year-old Riesmeyer was walking through a shopping mall. "I saw this T-shirt at like, a Hot Topic or something, that said, 'How to Get Chicks.' It said something like, 'Be a doctor, be good at sports, or, if all else fails, start a band.'" Acutely aware of his and drummer Peter Doherty's disinterest in biology and lack of athletic skills, Riesmeyer decided that music was the way to go. The two spent the first two years screwing around and making noise in the Doherty's basement, eventually recording their first song, a cover of "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins. The record got heavy airplay in Doherty's mom's minivan.
By the time they hit high school, the pair had decided to pursue music full-time. So, for the next four years, while Doherty attended Cathedral and Riesmeyer attended North Central High School, they spent their free time rehearsing and writing songs in Doherty's parents' garage. "They were probably the worst songs ever," laughs Riesmeyer. At the time, they were playing under the moniker The Urban Rednecks, a name they dropped in 2007. "We were afraid that people thought we were playing, like, Kid Rock-style stuff, some horrible rap-country songs or something, so we just had to change it," says Doherty.
They arrived at "The Working Hour" as an homage to a song off of one of their favorite pop records, Tears for Fears' Songs from the Big Chair
. The name change was only part of a long list of changes the band went through in the two years leading up to the making of the band's new albumUnbreakable
"We went through a lot of identity issues. Since it was just Andy and I trying to play, we tried electronica, looping, back tracks, everything," says Doherty. They spent much of their time churning out songs until a cohesive idea of The Working Hour was formed. "We sat down there, writing songs, for over two years. A lot of them were full eight-hour writing days. We probably have about a hundred songs, enough to release two more albums," says Riesmeyer.
The two years of "band boot camp" were part of the plan laid out for them by their mentors, Indianapolis hardcore band and Doherty family friends the Zero Boys, who guided them through rehearsals, writing, and recording. "I'm pretty sure every single member of [The Zero Boys] has contributed to our band in some way. I mean, Mark [Cutsinger] basically taught me how to play drums from the beginning," says Doherty. The Zero Boys not only lent a hand musically, but guided The Working Hour through the dizzying business side of the industry. But the fortune of this happenstance arrangement isn't lost on the two young guns. "We just feel so lucky, so grateful for their help," says Doherty.
The fruit of their efforts, Unbreakable
, is a remarkably polished, cohesive album that showcases every ounce of those two years of work. Produced by Zero Boys frontman Paul Mahern, the record offers a variety of power-pop arrangements that are catchy and well-developed, complex and rich. The album's subject matter may be age-appropriate for their combined four decades of life - girl is loved, then let go, then regret sets in - but the instrumentation, production value, and overall quality belongs to a much older group. The band became a trio for the sessions with contributions by the equally young and equally talented Ethan Walden on bass.
Riesmeyer, whose vocals bear resemblance to Ben Folds, seems to always be smiling when singing, an extension of the bouncy, ebullient mood of the music. The Working Hour seems to be in that special window of time when a band is playing well, and hasn't yet had the thrill of performing toured out of them. Their excitement is infectious, especially when when the guys break out their killer covers of "Don't Do Me Like That," and "Wild Night."
The next challenge for the band will be figuring out what will happen when Riesmeyer turns 21 four months before Doherty. Who will wait outside the back entrances of bars and clubs? Doherty looks nervously at Riesmeyer. "We've been in the bars before. They're not that great. I'll be outside with him."