Denver trio Shadow Work describe their brand of music as “moody art rock.”
Vocalist and guitarist Rafael Nava says he is a big fan of folk music, so the emotion comes through in the lyrical content and tones of the band’s songs. “I’m definitely more on the moody side,” he says. “I try to bring that to the table with Shadow Work in my own way.”
“It’s kind of a fusion of soul influences,” adds percussionist Ben Zickau. “There’s also a bit of prog rock in there. When you put them together it just lends itself to a darker aesthetic, [with] Hard-hitting drums and instrumental sections. That’s the way it tends to come out.”
Shadow Work will release their latest single, “Fox in the Coop,” on Thursday, May 19, as a follow-up to the 2021 EP. robben island. Nava says that the song is about feeling exhausted and trying to please everyone. “I felt like, at this point in my life, there was a lot of commotion left and right with my relationships and I was just trying to keep everything in its place instead of letting it loose on everyone else,” he says of writing the song. “Keep it internal, which in itself can be a whirlwind.”
Nava says the title is a southern saying he heard growing up in Georgia and spending a lot of time in Mississippi. “I always heard it in Mississippi when I lived in this lake house,” she remembers. “He felt so appropriate at the time we were thinking of song names. For this song, he brought a couple to the table, and this one seemed to stick.”
Bassist Joseph Slzanic says the bandmates, who hail from different parts of the United States, met in Boise, Idaho after a chance encounter on a street corner. Zickau played his drums and Slzanic liked his rhythms. They exchanged information, but nothing came of it. They crossed paths again about a year later through a mutual acquaintance.
“I knew Rafael from a previous band,” recalls Slzanic. “Once I met Ben, I knew they were both creative. I thought we should all play together and we met in my garage.”
The band has been based in Denver since last winter, and Nava says he has found his inspiration in the city’s rich music scene. Seeing so many great bands makes him want to be a better musician, he says, which is why he likes to name local people instead of a band like Radiohead or Crumb.
“The idea of who we sound like never comes,” he says. “What inspires me now is that there are bands around me like Ramakhandra, Sum Beaches, Los Toms, Crooked Rugs. Those are the musicians who inspired me more than any other famous artist. Those are the people I see grinding. … It has definitely been very beneficial for us to have these good relationships with the musicians around us in the city.”
Zickau says the city’s music scene has been open and welcoming, and has influenced the way the band plays. Sharing a bill and playing with other people, especially bands and artists who may play a different style, has been an educational experience.
“Music ultimately comes down to community at some point,” says Zickau. “There is something to be said to emphasize the people who are close to you rather than who is on the poster in your room.”
Shadow Work plays the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, at 7 pm. June 17. Tickets are $12.50. “Fox in the Coop” premieres Thursday, May 19 on all major streaming platforms.