Band of Heathens

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The Band of Heathens prepares to release Double Down CD/DVD Set filmed in Denver

:: The Band of Heathens ::
:: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom ::
:: March 16 ::

By Brian Turk

With rock and roll swagger and singer/songwriter sensibilities, The Band of Heathens combine the best of both worlds from each genre — rockers who know how to tell a story.

The band formed after Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist met playing separate singer/songwriter sets in an Austin club. These three were on a regular bill at the music venue Momo’s, and they eventually began sharing the stage and working with bassist Seth Whitney. Drummer John Chipman joined the band in 2007, and keyboardist Trevor Nealon joined them on the road four years later.

The last time The Band of Heathens were in Denver, they decided to set up shop and bring a large crew with them. For a bill dubbed “Double Down in Denver,” the band played two nights at Cervantes’ Other Side, and recorded the weekend for a DVD and CD package.

The Marquee caught up with Gordy Quist while he was just finishing up a songwriting session in Austin, and he gave his take on the last time they were in the Mile High. “I thought it turned out great, as far as what we were trying to accomplish. It was our first time trying to do two nights in the same city, which is something I think we’d like to do in the future. It’s nice to post up in one place and get to enjoy a city a little bit. It also creates more of an event — a community event, for people to travel to. That was our initial vision for the weekend, and as far as that goes, I think it was a success. I was shocked, and pleased with how many people traveled really far to come be a part of it,” said Quist.

That weekend on Welton Street was a hell of a production, and with cables and crew members running through Cervantes’ door, they were able to capture what it’s like to get down with The Band of Heathens. “It ended up going really well, as far as the audio and video recording was concerned. We actually didn’t know if we were going to be able to pull it off. We didn’t know if we were trying to do too much. A bunch of people stepped up and helped us out. The cool thing about playing, and recording two nights, is there is a ton of material. We may have repeated one or two songs, but we were able to get a lot of material recorded. We were hoping to get one DVD and a CD out of it, but it turned out that it all turned out so well, that we decided to make it a two volume set,” Quist said.

But while the recordings turned out strong, not everything has been rosey for The Band of Heathens. Just weeks after recording Double Down: Live in Denver, one of the principle songwriters, guitarist Colin Brooks, decided to leave the band. But with two other talented songwriters and guitarists, the band has been able to go on without missing a beat. “He wanted to move on and do some other things. In some ways it caught me by surprise; when we were shooting the DVD, none of us knew that was coming directly down the line,” Quist said. “But everyone needs to do what they need to do to be happy and pursue what they want to pursue. We are all still friends and everything is all good between us. It’s definitely going to affect the sound, but will it be lacking in any way? I don’t think so. We have re-approached everything now as a five-piece instead of a six-piece, and it’s fun. Everyone in the band is excited to be doing this. There is more space in the band sonically, and there are times when you feel like you are playing with a totally different band.”

Considering The Band of Heathens formed as a side project featuring three singer/songwriters with guitars, it has always been a team effort. “From the beginning, everything was really collaborative, and we have tried to keep that intact. There’s an obvious give and take. It’s like any relationship as far as compromising, sharing, knowing when to put your foot down and hold your ground, and knowing when to open it up. For us, it has really worked. It’s fun to open it up and just see what happens. You bring a song to the table and keep an open mind with wherever it’s gonna end up. For us it’s been fruitful,” Quist said.

The legendary group, The Band, brought Americana to mainstream America via Canada and Arkansas, and Quist is excited about the recent resurgence in popularity of roots and Americana sounds. “The main stream, on some level, has really hooked into roots music. Just look at The Avett Brothers or Head and the Heart. It’s cool! It’s all cyclical,” he said.

It is that return to roots, or maybe never having left them, which defines The Band of Heathens’ sound. They are rock, and Eouthern, but not necessarily Southern rock. They are Americana, not implying an old-time sound, but the melding of different sounds of America. One of those sounds is country, and these guys are just good old boys out to have a good time. The thing is, they still write meaningful songs like the singer/songwriters they will always be. As the band collaborates on these songs, the lyrics always hold as much weight as the refined, roadhouse, roots rock that comes kicking out of the speakers.

 

:: The Band of Heathens ::

:: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom ::

:: March 16 ::

 

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