Workhorse Kings ride the ‘Carousel’

By Luke Wilusz

Dan Dougherty is a man of many talents. When he’s not busy writing and drawing his daily comic strip, “Beardo,” or illustrating the ongoing zombie Western comic book “Rotten,” he’s writing, practicing and playing guitar with Workhorse Kings. Dougherty recently took some time away from his art, his writing and his music—not to mention planning his wedding—to talk to The Chronicle about the blues rockers’ first CD, “Carousel,” their upcoming shows and their plans for the future.

The Chronicle: You draw an ongoing comic book, a daily comic strip and do a lot of freelance illustration work. How do you have time to be a band’s frontman?

Dan Dougherty: I have to keep a pretty strict schedule, and my bandmates would hate me if we stopped at this point. As far as the artwork goes, I pretty much work from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed because I have so many deadlines. But we have practice every Monday. I really just love doing all this stuff, so finding the time for it is not a chore, you know? It’s something I want to do.

The Chronicle: How and when did Workhorse Kings get started? .

DD: It was [more than] two years ago. My brother [Kevin Dougherty] and I have played music probably since I was 14 or so. He played the drums, I played guitar, and I’ve hardly ever not played with him … We hadn’t done anything in a while, as a collaboration, so we were kind of hungry to get that going. Enter my friend Marco Pellillo, who at the time was a guitarist, but is also a phenomenal keyboard player, and we decided the sound of the band was going to be a little more keyboard-oriented. We went through a couple of bass players before landing Anthony [Bartkowiak], but once we did we pretty much had the groundwork laid for what ended up being on the album.

The Chronicle: Do you write all the songs? .

DD: I’d say, like, 90 percent of them. It’s always a collaborative thing. Even though I come up with the structure and the lyrics and the direction of the thing, it wouldn’t be what it is without everybody involved. And Marco did contribute a song to the album he composed, called “On Again Off Again.” But yes, I am the primary songwriter.

The Chronicle: Are there any artists or bands who influence you in terms of how you want your songs to sound?

DD: Lyrically, I really enjoy some of the elder statesmen of, I guess you could call it indie rock. Nick Cave, Tom Waits, those kinds of guys. I really like guys who create characters and talk about the dynamics of human frailty. [Musically], I think we really were influenced most just by having a keyboardist. It was a new experience for all of us to have a keyboardist in the band. Writing the songs to revolve around that was a challenge, and it was also very rewarding.

The Chronicle: Tell me a little bit about “Carousel.”

DD: It was released [on] July 10. We had recorded it in two sessions, one at the end of last year and the second one—the big one—in spring of this year. We started recording the first three or four tracks independently, without any sort of representation, and then a label—Hirsute Records—picked us up to record a full album and promote it.

The Chronicle: Now that “Carousel” is out, what plans do you have for Workhorse Kings? .

DD: We have a couple of things. We’re looking to expand the band. Some of the sounds we created on the album require so many people we’re looking to have some additional members or at least additional contributors. We’re looking to tour the tri-state area, try to get into more college festivals and such. Beyond that, once we’ve promoted this album and made our millions off of it or whatnot [laughs], we want to make another album. So that’s kind of where we’re at right now.

Workhorse Kings next show is Oct. 16 at Goose Island Wrigleyville, 3535 N. Clark St. Visit for ticket information and upcoming shows or to listen to sample tracks from “Carousel.”