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Local Band Column: Wirkus

This story was published September 1, 2005 in The Cavalier Daily, U.Va.’s student newspaper.

“Maybe one day we’ll be able to pull off wearing leather suits,” sighed Luke Rabin, the drummer of student band,Wirkus. Nate MacFarland, guitarist and one of the group’s three vocalists, interrupted him and laughed, “Yeah, with those crazy V-neck shirts!”

So the beat goes on. MacFarland and Rabin are two members of Wirkus, a rock band that plays most of their shows in the Charlottesville area despite the fact that the two other band members, Nathan Mitchell and Bradley Doggett, attend other schools.

Wirkus formed in 2003, and much of the band’s history has included dealing with the distance between members.

“We’ve played music together for a really long time. …We play off each other easily because we’ve been doing it so long,” said Rabin, who met the other band members through church.

“But to put it simply, it’s a pain in the butt,” MacFarland said.

The hardest part about being in a college band is finding time to practice in the midst of, well, class.

“It’s so hard to get everybody in the same place, without having their lives in the way,” Rabin said.

Still, the beat goes on, although the guys admit that keeping in touch with everyone in the band “is the biggest test of our patience.”

In my years and years and years of interviewing bands (we’re looking at … what, 15 months now?), I have never heard a band speak of themselves the way Wirkus does. They are wise beyond their years (as much as I hate to sound like my mother), especially when it comes to their faith.

The band’s name comes from a member of their church who had both “an enormous amount of influence on all of us” and “the craziest gut ever,” Rabin said. (Mr. Wirkus is an ex-Marine. ‘Nuff said.)

“We don’t call [our music] Christian music because that carries a huge stigma,” Rabin explained. “It means something to us, but we’re not going for that label.”

“We’re trying to find our sound,” MacFarland said. “We’re looking for our own unique spin.”

After MacFarland mentioned the Wirkus sound, I thought it was a good time to ask the question that many musicians affectionately call “The Bitch” — I asked them to describe their music. To the layperson, this is about as offensive as asking a basketball player what position he plays, but no band likes to hear it, and I feel sorry for them as I watch them squirm to put themselves into words. (Although it doesn’t stop my asking.)

Wirkus handled “The Bitch” with the maturity and charisma that seems to characterize their band (or at least Rabin and MacFarland).

“Now you may not have heard this term before,” they laughed, “but we consider ourselves in the ‘post-emo rock’ category.”

“We’re not like a lot of the bands of today. We don’t scream or anything,” Rabin said.

Instead, Wirkus is influenced by the emo bands of yesterday — forerunners of the genre like Further Seems Forever, Copeland and Mineral.

So what can you expect when you go to a Wirkus show? A wall of noise, mostly. Yet this particular wall contains delicately constructed parts and surprisingly complex patterns, along with the unique style of each of the three vocalists. High energy. Intensity. One helluva rock show.

So the beat goes on. Check out Wirkus in Tuttle Lounge Sept. 2 at 9 p.m.

Guess where else the beat is going on? In this column! I’m not self-promoting, kids, I’m just informing you that although tableau is changing shape and form, I’ll still be here to keep you updated on the local band scene.

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