The Head and the Heart: As a band, we've come to this crazy place

Photo by Curtis Wave Millard
Seattle band The Head and the Heart have the cure for anyone that is looking to find endearing new music. The folk-rock sextet's sophomore release, Let's Be Still, plays out like a series of charming vignettes or pockets of half memories, both lyrically and musically.

On break from practice in Nashville, Gimme Noise spoke with guitarist/vocalist Josiah Johnson before the band's two shows at First Avenue about the new album and his perceptions on the current music industry.

Gimme Noise: Let's Be Still just came out last week. It's tough to tour right after an album comes out, because the audience may not know the new stuff yet. How have people been responding to the new stuff when you guys have been playing it at the small festivals?

Josiah Johnson: Really good. For the most part, you get a generic, "Oh, I love the new songs!" It's a very nice thing to say, but who knows how they will hold up. We've had a few people who have listened to the new album a bunch give me some really cool feedback -- saying that they keep having a new favorite song every week or something like that. I think all of the songs on the first album all had a very similar tenor or feel to them. If you liked one song, it's reasonable you were going to like another song.

Gimme Noise: Did you set to make songs that were different from each other this time, or was it something that happened as it naturally progressed?

Josiah Johnson: I think it happened because we went out on tour with pretty great bands like Death Cab for Cutie, My Morning Jacket, and Iron & Wine. All of these bands have so many facets to them, and I don't think we ever stretched that out with the first album. These bands were our influences and who we've learned from in the last few years. They have all extended their careers beyond their first singles, past their initial sound, so I think it naturally progressed in the same way for us.

Gimme Noise: Did it feel uncomfortable to push yourself in new directions when you were writing?

Josiah Johnson:
I think the style of the first album we stumbled into since it was just a few of us who got together and said, "We're gonna play these songs live," and then we recorded the album. It was mainly just us recording the parts we played live. It was a very simple process in that way, and with a stripped-down style like that, there's not a whole lot you can do wrong in the recording process. I think this time the songs are a little bigger -- they have a broader scope to them, so it was definitely a learning process to try and figure out how to have this bigger vision of a song and how to fill that space. I think we messed around with our instruments and within tones to get across what we were trying to do. It was definitely a learning experience, but I think what was really fun was the opportunity to go in the studio and have a little more time this time and learning how to do things on the fly. It was pretty great.

Gimme Noise: On the first listen, I noticed it was a lot more polished versus the last album. The last album was a lot more gritty.

Josiah Johnson: Yeah, the first one sounded like a bunch of kids in a room.

Gimme Noise:
Not in a bad way.

Josiah Johnson: Yeah, it wasn't a bad thing at all. Everything was a learning process around that first album. Before we started touring, we had played maybe 10-15 shows together as a band. The rooms on that first tour were very small, and this time around -- we've been touring for three years -- we've gotten a lot tighter as a band, and we've grown as musicians. I feel like records are a chronicle of where you are at a moment. Right now as a band, I could tell we've come to this crazy place. We now play to a thousand people in these huge halls the echo and reverberate. I'm really glad this album sounds different, and that the sound is an accurate portrayal of what we sound like when we play now. It's a cool thing that marks the passing of time.

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