Following their hearts

Amid growing popularity, the members of The Head and the Heart are staying true to their craft

Harmonious indie folk: Seattle’s The Head and the Heart sold 10,000 copies of their debut album before SubPop Records signed the band. Shawn Brackbill

Dropping grad school or a steady day job to start a band is not usually regarded as the smart thing to do, but for indie folk darlings The Head and the Heart, that’s exactly what needed to happen to make the band a success.

Hailing from Seattle, the band is made up of singer-guitarists Josiah Johnson and Johnathan Russel, keyboardist Kenny Hensley, violinist Charity Rose Thielen, bassist Chris Zasche and drummer Tyler Williams.

Speaking by phone with The Uniter, Williams reveals during a recent interview why he left the band he was in, Prabir and the Substitutes, to join The Head and the Heart.

“John sent me a demo of Down in the Valley in May of 2009 and I just fell in love with it,” Williams explains. “I had been playing in the same band and touring the same route on the east coast for two-and-a-half years at that point, and I was ready to give it one more shot at music.”

The grassroots beginnings of the band led them to sell 10,000 copies of their self-produced, self-titled debut album by word of mouth alone. In 2010, they were picked up by SubPop Records, which subsequently remastered and re-released the disc.

The band’s sound is a mix of harmonious vocals and uplifting acoustic guitars, and can be described as dance-folk.

Williams is quick to point out that the band isn’t coming from a folk purist place, but rather is trying to do an experimental, feel-good take on playing honest music.

We’re definitely coming to terms with the idea of being known on a larger scale.

Tyler Williams, drummer, The Head and the Heart

“I think we tapped into something that we all felt in our hearts, a communal kind of familial thing,” he says. “You can see that people want to have fun and people want to have a reason to smile or to just get involved in the show.”

Over the course of touring across the U.S. and Europe, The Head and the Heart has become renowned for their energetic and engaging live shows. They have opened for acts such as Vampire Weekend, the Dave Matthews Band and My Morning Jacket, and have performed on the television show Austin City Limits.

Yet with such recent successes, Williams insists that it hasn’t gone to their heads.

“We’re definitely coming to terms with the idea of being known on a larger scale. I think mostly what’s changed is our inspiration towards music,” he says. “We’re getting into new territory with the new songs that we’re writing.”

This songwriting inspiration comes mostly from the experiences of traveling and the ever-persistent tug-of-war between logic and emotions that the band’s name alludes to.
Williams has a pretty good idea of where he’d like to go with the band in the next year.

“Probably to the moon - that’d be cool,” he jokes. “No, I think we’re mostly looking forward to recording in January. We have a bunch of songs written and we’re working on a bunch more, and basically picking producers and the studio where we want to work.”

Published in Volume 66, Number 28 of The Uniter (June 27, 2012)

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