Following relocations, new arrivals, personnel changes and all those things that constitute life, The Band of Heathens’ Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist finally got a spare moment to sit down and discuss the future. Each only had one question for the other?
“You’re in, right?”
The answer from both was “yes,” clearing the way to begin writing and recording what has turned into their fourth studio album, Sunday Morning Record.
“When that’s off the table and you’re not thinking about that at all, it’s like ‘all right, let’s get to work then,’” said singer-guitarist Jurdi. “And it’s really fun. The creative process and getting to make these records and go out on the road and play shows, it’s a privilege, and it’s a great joy for us.”
But when life gets in the way, a band can lose track of what got them to where they are today or force them to make compromises that never would have even been thought about previously. Luckily, that’s never been an issue for the Austin rock and roll band, so when Quist said in a press release that the new songs “were written while we were pondering some major life changes and digging to find the essence of what the band is,” Jurdi sees it as a positive developments, not a negative risk.
“It’s always been risky, and that’s been the whole essence of the band,” he said. “Any project that I’ve been involved in heavily where I’ve released material, whether it’s solo stuff or playing with other bands or this band, it’s always been risky, because our mentality isn’t to go out and try to do the same thing or something that we’ve perceived as successful because it resonates with people. I think we know what we’re good at in terms of being musicians and how to present the songs, but ultimately for us, we’re gonna go where the muse takes us. In life, there was a lot of stuff going on: guys leaving the band, I moved to Asheville, North Carolina earlier this year, and Gordy had a baby this year, so there’s a lot of stuff going on.”
Not to mention that the Heathens (Jurdi, Quist, Trevor Nealon, Richard Millsap, Ryan Bowman) are running their own ship in terms of releasing the album on their own label, BOH Records, and dealing with all the fun (note sarcasm) stuff on the business side of things. But again, Jurdi sees this as part of the gig, so to speak, and at this point, the Heathens business is running like a well-oiled machine.
“There are a lot less things to think about now,” he said. “When you’re younger and playing shows and your new record comes out, it’s just wild and madness and out of control, and you’re not even really thinking about what you need to be thinking about. Now we’re focused and we’ve got a system down.”
So when the band hits the stage, like they will in New York City’s Mercury Lounge on Tuesday, it’s all about the music – not about the business, not about other distractions; it’s all about the songs.
“For me, the whole experience for the fans should be like my experience with the bands that I like,” said Jurdi. “And once you get to a point where you can appreciate that there’s a human element involved and people are doing something creative as a part of their life, that makes the experience more full. But people come out to a show, they’re working hard too, so they want to come out and enjoy themselves and have a good time. That’s really my job ultimately, to do my art and do whatever I want to do however I want to present it, and entertain them.”
And Jurdi remembers what it was like to be that person in the crowd.
“In one way, it was always cool to imagine that your favorite bands were gilded,” he laughs. “They just walked on water and walked out on stage and you’re getting the best two hours of their day and the best percent of their being that they have to offer.”
Perhaps that’s the secret to their success and longevity. Coming out of the competitive Austin music scene, the BOH learned their trade on the job, playing show after show until they got it right.
“If you can exist in Austin and play there for a while, you can get your thing together, which is what we did,” he said. “We literally played every week at the same club on a residency until we had this act together. After that, we said ‘we should think about taking this on the road and see how it goes.’”
The rest is history for a band that has been around since 2005. And when you do it the way they have on the road, you not only become proficient on your instrument and eventually develop as a songwriter, but you also learn how to put on a show that can keep someone’s attention for however long you’re on stage. Needless to say, this tour will be no exception.
“The shows will obviously feature the new material a lot and we’ll sprinkle in some old stuff as well,” he said. “Like always, the shows are done pretty much on the fly, they shift dynamically night to night, and even within the show itself. We’ve been playing and doing this for a long time, so we just kind of feel it out and try to put on a really good show and try to incorporate as many elements of the band musically, stylistically, and dynamically as we can to keep it interesting for the listener.
“The live show in music is kind of the last bastion of freedom in terms of not really knowing what you’re going to get,” continues Jurdi. “It’s like rolling the dice, and I still think there’s a lot of people that are into that experience that want to have that, and if that’s the case, then they’ll be coming to the right place if they come to see us.”
The Band of Heathens play The Mercury Lounge in NYC on Tuesday, October 1. For tickets, click here.