:: Lincoln Center :: September 22 ::
By Levi Macy
Sticking to the straight and narrow or laying caution to the wind and going for what just feels right is an internal struggle a lot of people must face at one time or another in their lives. Should we follow our head, or our hearts?
This is the dichotomy that lead six strangers from different parts of the country to give up day jobs and academic pursuits in order to chase a dream that in a little over two years has become a beautiful reality.
“For all of the people looking in on it, it seems like a really short time. Going from record stores and open mic nights to where we are now,” said Tyler Williams, percussionist for The Head and The Heart, in a recent interview with The Marquee. “To all of us, it was like this long natural journey. We are living in a fishbowl or bubble of sorts. You don’t really know what’s going on in our fishbowl when you are just looking in on it.”
The band found its start at an open mic night in a Seattle bar. Each member coming from different musical backgrounds and geographic locations provided both a unique dynamic and some difficulties at first. “I went to high school and played in bands with [vocalist/guitarist] Jonathan Russell. He sent me a demo of ‘Down in the Valley’ a while after he had moved to Seattle and it was so much more mature than anything I was doing or had done in the past,” said Williams. “It gave me the hope I needed to actually think pursuing music as a career was possible.”
With the success of the song “Down in the Valley” and the entirety of their self-titled first album, the band was thrown on the road and right into the midst of the communal aspect of touring. “We all had to learn how to get along with each other. All of our personalities are pretty different. We all grew up in different places and cultures. At first it was just a mess, tons of fighting and arguing. It has evolved into a family. We are just six goofy people trying to figure things out like everyone else. It still trips me out sometimes when we are asked to sign CDs. It is a little strange going from coffee shops to large theaters, it definitely took some getting used to,” Williams said.
Initially, The Head and The Heart had no intention of releasing their first album to the public. It started only as a demo, but with the addition of a few songs it was clear that they were on to something special. At first, they didn’t even shop it around to labels, completely distributing it as an independent entity. Before too long a solid buzz began to surround the six troubadours. “We had a lot of interest from what seemed like major labels. They were all really attractive, but nothing really stuck out. Not much incentive to go one way or the other,” he said. “We were selling all of our albums on our own and doing just fine. It came down to Sub Pop or Warner Bros. Sub Pop is just that label we all grew up on, so it was an easy choice.”
Now, its been almost three years since the official release. The band has been touring relentlessly, constantly growing its fan base. They’ve gone from opening up for big names to headlining sold out shows throughout the country. They’ve had to learn not only how to live with each other on the road, but how to stay relevant to the fans, new and old, Williams explained. “It seems as if we have new fans coming in every day. For us, it gets complicated sometimes to keep it fresh when we have been playing the same 11 or 12 songs every night for three years,” he said. “It gets difficult to write on the road, but as soon as we finish this next fall tour we are going to spend a few months and finish writing new material. I think its going to be really cathartic for us when we actually get off the road. Honestly, I can’t wait to hear what it sounds like.”
What most sets The Head and the Heart apart from a lot of their indie-folk contemporaries is the complexity of their arrangements in combination with their instrumentation. Additionally, their depth of lyrical content provides a canvas that not many bands have to work with. “The theme on the first album that we latched onto was being in a new place — moving from home and basically readjusting to new things — the whole narrative of growing into adulthood and kind of having to leave people and feelings behind,” said Williams.
With so much success both independently and commercially under their belt in such a short amount of time, it could become easy to lose track of where they’ve come from and why they do what they do. They may be selling out tours and opening for some of the biggest names in music, but they still take time to play record stores, coffee shops, and house parties whenever the opportunities arise. That, in and of itself, is a testament to the staying power of these six goofy people just trying to figure things out.
“As far as the future goes, we really just want to make music that has depth and means something to everyone who listens to it,” Williams said. “Hearing stories about how our songs have moved people is why we do this. We just want to make the best possible music we can.”
:: The Head and The Heart ::
:: Lincoln Center :: September 22 ::
:: Boulder Theater :: September 23 ::
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