Austin Heathens band together
Some bands are better heard live. The Band of Heathens is one such band.The Austin-based band is made up of musicians who started out doing solo projects before they jumped on stage together and discovered their undeniable chemistry. The band’s three frontmen, Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist, connected in 2006 at Momo’s in Austin, where they each had a standing weekly gig on the same night. They experimented with sharing the stage and eventually came together, with no single leader calling the shots. That’s not to say they don’t sometimes step on each others toes. “It’s human, but I think that it inspires a certain amount of creativity to get back up and try a different approach,” Brooks said. “And you never know what you’re going to find on that different path.”The band, which will perform at State Bridge Amphitheater tonight, released their third studio album this year. “Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son” is the first record composed of tracks they didn’t first hash out on stage.”It’s an ongoing thing and sometimes song by song it’s different but there was a lot more of, I would say, a spontaneous kind of approach because we had never played any of these songs live before. So it all kind of happened the first time in the studio,” Brooks said.
There’s a balance of power within the band that’s constantly shifting.”Often times if one of us has written the majority of a song, it seems like you get a little more authority on that song, get a little more weight to swing around,” Brooks said. “But then people will occasionally have a really powerful idea that everyone recognizes, or at least the majority, and then we’ll go that direction. So it’s a moving target.”Brooks led the work on “Enough” and “Gravity.” “Enough” is a social commentary on the world we live in, but Brooks said he didn’t initially set out with that in mind. “I was just kind of enamored with this little chord progression and humming along and that’s what popped out, and that little inside rhyme seemed to get some gravity, if you will, and then just off I went, pretty much just stream of consciousness, jotting it down,” he said. “There’s lots of stuff that didn’t actually make it in the song that got weeded out, there was too much of it but yeah, it tickled my fancy, so I ran with it.”He said the chorus of “Enough” evolved as the band members, who also include bassist Seth Whitney and drummer John Chipman, collaborated on it, an example of how that group effort pushes the music in the right direction. When he first wrote it, the chorus had a more folky sound to it, but no one was very happy with it. “Of course I was kind of like, ‘well, damn it, I think it’s pretty good,’ but I went home and sat with it a little bit, played around with it, and all of a sudden this little more hard-edged funky soul kind of chorus, that melody seemed to present itself and it just totally made the song a lot better,” he said. “That’s a great example of how we may not necessarily collaborate on every single portion, but when something doesn’t always go your way … it actually turns out better because of that.”
The final three tracks close out the album with a New Orleans theme, beginning with “Free Again,” a snarky tune commenting on last summer’s oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Brooks said the city is important to the band because of its musical influence and its proximity to Austin.”You know we’re all in the Gulf Coast there; we’re all affected by those weather patterns and so much great music has come out of that town,” he said. “I don’t think Austin would be the kind of town that it is without New Orleans having that sort of geographical influence.”Although the songs from the new album were originally worked on during recording, attendees can still expect a lot of improvisation on stage tonight. Brooks said the band has heard good things about State Bridge Amphitheater, and that he enjoys playing outside – as long as it’s not raining. “One time we played I think in Copper and it was some small number below zero I believe,” Brooks said. “That wasn’t the greatest experience. But yeah it’s great to play outside when it’s proper ambient temperatures for humans.” After Colorado, the band’s tour will take them back to Texas. “There’s a great culture of music (in Texas) obviously as you know,” he said. It’s great when you can play close to home and not be gone all the time.”Jill Beathard is an intern at the Vail Daily. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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