Historically, when academic pursuits come to an end, it’s generally important for early 20-somethings to put to rest their bohemian ways, to find gainful employment and eke out some semblance of adulthood.
In contemporary reality, that’s rarely the way it goes, particularly for artists of any type. Upon reaching young adulthood, those with right-brained futures in mind do what anyone does when presented with this situation: They play in a rock band.
Norman’s Ricky Salthouse is no exception, save for a little touch of irony: His band is called The Workweek. Rounding out Salthouse’s guitar and drawl are Carly Gwin on vocals and guitar, Rick Dean on bass and Salthouse’s brother Jason on drums.
The expected musician’s pilgrimage, if not into investment banking or office monotony, then, is exploratory immersion in another city’s music scene. In 2005, Salthouse moved to Lawrence, Kan.
“I moved there with a girl who was going to school there,” he said. “Lawrence seemed like a cool place to go; I liked a lot of bands from there.”
Those familiar with the area’s music scene in the early- to mid-2000s will recognize names like The Appleseed Cast, The New Amsterdams and The Get Up Kids. Also notable is indie-rock group The Anniversary, the 2004 demise of which led founding member Josh Berwanger to focus on a solo project that eventually flourished into intermittently active Lawrence band The Only Children.
“I met Josh at one of (The Only Children’s) shows. I went to see them play, and we just kept in touch for some reason,” Salthouse said. “When I moved to Lawrence, he and I were still talking to each other through e-mail. The band had broken up a little. He and his wife, who’s also in the band, had just moved back to Lawrence and were trying to put the band back together. He knew I played guitar, so he asked me to join.”
Salthouse’s initial involvement with The Only Children spanned two years, one album and three short tours, including one as support for Meat Puppets. After the last of those tours wrapped, Salthouse returned to Oklahoma.
“Why did I come back? The girl kicked me out,” Salthouse said. “We broke up, and The Only Children, we weren’t doing much at the time.”
In his downtime, he continued writing and recording his own songs. Shortly after his return to Oklahoma, a former music project with his brother, then called Rubbish, reformed as The Workweek. Salthouse also then started working with Gwin, whose now-defunct solo project Sharktooth was in its infancy.
“When I was writing the Sharktooth songs, I had him play,” Gwin said. “He was around all the time, so I started making him have these mini-band practices with me.”
Several months into the formation of Sharktooth as a performing band, Gwin decided it was time for a change.
“It was fun, but I needed help making my songs better,” she said. “I wanted it to be more rockin’, and I really wanted Ricky to play guitar instead of bass. Around Christmas, we decided to go for it, and if we were really going to work together, then I needed to kill Sharktooth.”
After practicing for a few months with its current lineup, The Workweek began playing locally, starting with a performance at the “Momentum” art show and a stint at the Norman Music Festival ” a gig that came courtesy Norman musician and one-man-band extraordinaire Mike Hosty.
“I told Hosty, who’s a regular where I work, that I wanted to play the festival,” Gwin said. “He just said, ‘Call these numbers,’ and I did, and we got on the bill somehow.”
Like many musicians, Gwin and Salthouse have some difficulty finding a precise description of their sound.
“I usually ask friends what they think it sounds like so I can steal their answers,” Gwin said,” but it’s really good. Everyone will like it, I think.”
“I just say rock. Rock music,” Salthouse said. “Somebody told me Americana once. I’m not sure about that.”
Gwin described a show at The Deli in Norman. “We had just finished playing,” she said. “I was taking my guitar off, and this old man was yelling at me from two feet away: ‘Nickel bag!’ I thought, ‘Is he asking me for weed?’ and he yelled again, ‘Nickelback! Like, Puddle of Mudd!’ So maybe we sound like Nickelback.”
More accurately, perhaps, The Workweek is a blend of folk and country ” “Old Dolly Parton is fabulous,” Gwin said ” with ’60s and ’70s rock influences. More specifically, both songwriters share a noticeable affection for The Beatles, Hank Williams and more recently, local folk musician John Fullbright.
Future plans for The Only Children include a potential new record ” “Josh is a high school girls’ basketball coach, and after the season is over, he’ll probably get to work on that,” Salthouse said ” and future plans for The Workweek include the same.
More immediately, he will perform double duty at Opolis, performing with The Workweek and The Only Children ” whose lineup will include Berwanger, Salthouse, Workweek bassist Dean and former Anniversary drummer Christian Jankowski ” on Friday. Jeff Richardson of Locust Avenue is slated to open.
The Workweek with The Only Children and Jeff Richardson perform at 9 p.m. Friday at Opolis, 113 N. Crawford in Norman. “Becky Carman