This Seattle six-piece has not achieved notoriety through the traditional buzz trajectory.
When The Head And The Heart formed in 2009, they quickly garnered a cult-like fan base. Things exploded for the band after the self-release of their self-titled debut album.
After burning their own copies of their first record and selling them at shows and in local record stores, the band signed with label Sub Pop. They produced a remastered version of the album, ensuring they would make their way around the world in the years that would follow.
The Head And The Heart have changed considerably since they achieved grassroot success.
The lyrical and sonic adjustments apparent on their sophomore release Let’s Be Still have been directly influenced from their time on the road since 2010, says drummer Tyler Williams.
“It takes its toll on everyone and not just the band members,” says the drummer of touring.
“The people we love have to say goodbye to us all the time. Never-ending flights, little sleep, it’s rough.”
Although, Williams ultimately concedes that through the “hardships, it’s still great”.
“It’s the only thing we all want to do. It’s part of making and creating music and it is amazing to be on a stage and have a crowd go insane.”
The double-edged sword that Williams is referring to would significantly inform the songwriting of Let’s Be Still.
In essence, the album is their response to the highs and lows of being in a moderately successful touring band.“The people we love have to say goodbye to us all the time. Never-ending flights, little sleep, it’s rough.”
“The first album was all about us moving to a new place and meeting new people and hoping this dream would work. Let’s Be Still is more about what happens when you attain that dream, good and bad,” compares Williams.
Although, while the album title and track names such as ‘Homecoming Heroes’ and ‘Gone’ suggest an almost exclusive thought pattern towards touring, the drummer refutes this sentiment.
“The subjects are a little heavier and more outward looking,” remarks the musician.
“While ‘10,000 Weight In Gold’ sounds like it’s about our life on the road, I think the actual meaning is deeper and more universal.
“The song ‘Another Story’ was Jon’s reaction to the Sandy Hook shooting,” continues Williams.
There’s undeniably more to The Head And The Heart than what’s on the surface. If their self-titled debut painted a composed picture of a promising band, Let’s Be Still showcases their desire to scratch beneath and demonstrate how far they’ve come.
“The debut was recorded exactly how we played it live,” states Williams. “There was really no experimentation or thought to production, it was just supposed to be a demo originally.”
There would be no such nonchalance for their second record, with much of the early 2013 spent working diligently on the release.
“We weren’t great musicians when we made the last record so it sounded very basic. I think after being on the road for years, we felt the urge and had more of an ability to branch out.”
And branch out they did. While Let’s Be Still isn’t a serious affront to their loyal fan base, the touches of synth on ‘Summertime’ and ‘Fire/Fear’ confirm their willingness to expand from the sound of their debut.
That said, the record sounds considerably more polished. The month spent on mixing the album with Peter Katis in Connecticut shines through on early listens.
“We didn’t consciously say that we wanted to make a polished record, but we knew it needed to sound more full and more representative of our live show,” says Williams.
It didn’t hurt that this time around, the additional help from Sub Pop would be there right from the beginning of the recording process.“We didn’t consciously say that we wanted to make a polished record, but we knew it needed to sound more full and more representative of our live show”
“This time was totally different though, with a budget and with a bit of success.”
That’s not to mention the anticipation of the fan base they had gained while touring over the previous few years – although, Williams denies that any external pressures impacted on Let’s Be Still.
“There was never pressure from anyone to make a “hit” follow-up,” answers Williams.
“I think the only pressure we felt was an internal pressure to make the best songs we could. We knew what we were capable of and how we had grown as a band, both musically and as people. We wanted to show that in this album.”
Their bigger budget wouldn’t dramatically influence their new direction either.
“We didn’t set out to intentionally write a certain way or a type of sound,” explains the drummer.
Despite the increase in funds and the label support, the most noticeable change for The Head And The Heart would come via the most obvious place imaginable. The studio.
“Using the studio to write songs and layer more textures in was probably the biggest change,” says the musician.
On face value, reading the album title of Let’s Be Still is somewhat ironic. The Head And The Heart are once again on the road playing shows around the world.
Williams is happy to announce that the six-piece are “definitely coming back” to Australia, although he stops short of divulging any festival details.
“We’re still locking everything in but we loved Australia when we came in 2012. Seriously, it was our favorite tour we’ve done and the response we received felt super good.”
With responses like that, it’s little wonder The Head And The Heart are more than happy to embrace the adversity that every musician faces when they leave it all behind for life on the road.
Let’s Be Still is out now via Sub Pop through Inertia