Music News

Shadow Work Finds Influence in Denver's Rich Music Scene

Shadow Work releases a new single on Thursday, May 19.
Shadow Work releases a new single on Thursday, May 19. Courtesy Shadow Work
Denver trio Shadow Work describes its 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 as well as the 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 the soul influences,” adds percussionist Ben Zickau. “There’s a bit of progressive rock in there, as well. When you put those together, it just kind of lends itself to a darker aesthetic, [with] hard hitting drums and instrumental sections. That's just the way it tends to come out.”

Shadow Work will release its latest single, “Fox in the Coop," on Thursday, May 19, as a followup to the 2021 EP Robben Island. Nava says the song concerns feeling burned out and trying to please everyone. “It felt like, at this point in my life, there’s a lot of commotion going on left and right with my relationships and just trying to hold it all in place instead of releasing it on everyone else,” he says of writing the song. “Keeping it internal, which in and of itself can be a whirlwind.”

Nava says the title is a Southern saying he heard while growing up in Georgia and spending a lot of time in Mississippi. “I always heard it in Mississippi when I was living at this lake house,” he recalls. “It felt so appropriate at the time when we were coming up with song names. For this song, I brought a couple to the table, and this one seemed to stick.”
Bassist Joseph Szlanic says the bandmates, who hail from different parts of the United States, came together in Boise, Idaho, after a chance meeting on a street corner. Zickau was playing his drum kit, 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,” Szlanic recalls. “Once I met Ben, I just knew these guys were both creative. I thought we should all jam together, and we met up in my garage.”

The band has been based out of Denver since last winter, and Nava says he’s 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, so he’s keen on naming local people rather than a band like Radiohead or Crumb.

“The thought never comes of who are we sounding like,” he says. “What inspires me now is that there’s bands around me like Ramakhandra, the Sum Beaches, Los Toms, Crooked Rugs. Those are the musicians who inspired me more than any other famous artists. Those are the people I see grinding it out. ... It definitely has been very beneficial for us to have these good relationships with musicians around us in town.”

Zickau says that the city’s music scene has been open and welcoming, and it has influenced how the band plays. Sharing a bill and playing with other people, especially bands and artists that might play a different style, has been an educational experience.

“Music does ultimately boil down to community at some point,” Zickau says. “There is something to be said for emphasizing 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 p.m.. June 17. Tickets are $12.50. "Fox in the Coop" debuts on Thursday, May 19, on all major streaming platforms.
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