The Head and the Heart's sound is evolving
The world is spinning fast for the Head and the Heart. Although the Seattle band only came together in 2009, its fine balance of strong melodies, unforced vocal harmonies, imaginative arrangements, and rhythmic drive quickly built such a local buzz that there was a tussle between labels to sign the sextet.
And the pace increases. THATH went to Europe four times in 2011 and was in Australia this February. When the Georgia Straight reaches drummer Tyler Williams, he’s in a van on a tour of the U.S., driving through Minneapolis.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” he says. “A month ago, we played our biggest gig yet, at the Sasquatch Music Festival held in the Gorge. There must have been 15[,000], 20,000 people—it was super packed and in a beautiful setting to look out on.” For Williams, however, the outstanding gig was in Richmond, Virginia, from which both he and THATH guitarist Jonathan Russell hail. “We played the National in March—a place I’d always hoped I’d perform in, and my hometown crowd was amazing. That felt so good.”
The band coalesced quickly three years ago in Seattle’s Ballard neighbourhood. It was at the open mike at the Conor Byrne pub that Russell, newly arrived in Seattle, and fellow guitarist and singer Josiah Johnson heard each other perform and decided to try writing together. One song led to another, and soon they became a trio with keyboardist Kenny Hensley and then a quartet with violinist and singer Charity Rose Thielen.
“Jon [Russell] and I grew up together and used to be in a band,” Williams says. “He sent me a demo of ‘Down in the Valley’ and I kinda fell in love with it and came out west, but we needed a bassist.” Chris Zasche, the genial bartender at Conor Byrne, was not only a fan but an up-and-coming musician, and he filled the spot.
The band was rolling. “We practised most days and within a month booked studio time to do a full demo, and that ended up becoming our record because we kept going and writing songs, and self-released in June,” Williams says. The eponymous album sold an impressive 50,000 copies, and THATH got snapped up by Seattle indie label Sub Pop, which rereleased it.
“Folk is just the expression we chose for that record,” Williams points out. “Our sound is evolving to become less folk-oriented, more something unique to ourselves. The Beatles are a big inspiration for a lot of us. We’ve got a few songs written for our next album, which we hope to record this fall, and we’re performing some of them already. But I’m not going to say how they or the album will sound. We may end up with something completely different from now.”
For who’s performing when and on what stage at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, please go to their website