September 30, 2013
The Band of Heathens can be a hard group to pin down.
First, the band’s personnel has shifted several times over the years, going from four songwriters, to three, to two currently. The group’s sound has also evolved, and was never easy to pinpoint exactly anyway.
But songwriter Gordy Quist, who now pens the tunes along with co-founder Ed Jurdi, says the constant change is both natural and conscious–and he doesn’t worry about being categorized. Quist talked about the changes and the band’s creative process during a telephone interview last week. The band will play the Iron Horse Music Hall on Thursday.
The last major personnel shakeup of the band is a few years in the past now. Talk little bit about how that affected the evolution and the sound of the band.
The band has always been in a state of change, even from the beginning. From each record to record we’re always trying to do something new. We just had a stretch of about five years where the band remained the same, so this change is probably more drastic than on some of the previous records. But honestly, it’s not something that makes us uncomfortable. It’s never about trying to re-create what we had. It’s about, “okay, here’s who wants to be here and who has something to say, so alright, here we go. Here’s the band.”
Well, the new album certainly is more acoustic, and I don’t want to say it’s less rock ‘n roll, because still has an edge to it. Was that something you intentionally we’re heading for you just kind of evolve that way?
It’s probably a reflection of the music were listening to now more than anything. But it was also a conscious decision at the same time. It was a matter of looking at the batch of songs that we had–we went into this record with a lot more songs than we ever had before–and we just felt that sound kind of fit the sentiment of the songs.
So what is your songwriting process like? Is it a collaborative process or do you guys write on your own?
It goes all sorts of different ways, but there certainly is collaboration. Even if I bring down a song that I feel is completely done, when you bring it to the band, the arrangement gets tweaked and it’s never the same as how I envisioned it would go. Which is great – to me it’s one of the best parts about being in a band. But Ed and I do a lot of writing individually, but sometimes we will purposefully not finish a song and bring it to the other person so we can finish it together.
You guys often get categorizing in that “Americana” category. I see you more as a rock ‘n roll band. How do you guys see yourselves?
We say the same thing you do. We say it’s a rock ‘n roll band. But calling us Americana is also cool. There’s a real cool scene going on with Americana. As far as labels, I don’t like them, because a lot of bands I like don’t fit under a label. But I think it’s just a tool that people can use to congregate around something. A label is just something they can rally behind – or against, I guess. (Laughs.) I try not to get too concerned about it. Some people think we are a jam band, some people think we’re a country band. And all those things are cool because we certainly incorporate elements of those things our music.
So you just play the music and don’t worry about labels?
A: Yeah, artistically, I think it’s the smart thing to do. Business-wise it may not be though. (Laughs.)
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September 30, 2013