Band of Heathens: Austin, TX group brings their Americana sound to town

You’ll find a helluva lot of singer-songwriters trying to make their mark in the iconic music town of Austin, Texas. And out of that scene emerged a group of musicians and friends — Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist and Seth Whitney— who all could have made their way to stardom with a solo career, but instead joined forces and created a super group of sorts known as Band of Heathens.

“We all had a residency at Momo’s and were all playing throughout Austin and that’s how we got to know each other,” said Quist (vocals/guitar), during a phone interview as he and Jurdi were driving to an acoustic duo show. “We came together because the scene in Austin at the time was a lot of musicians not really worrying about money and just collaborating, having fun playing live music with each other almost every night of the week. If we weren’t playing we were hanging out and supporting each other. Eventually, all of our groups and projects kind of merged together and we started working as a unit.”

The band released Sunday Morning Record, a highly acclaimed album in 2013, which expanded their Americana based sound, leading the band into a new direction. (They have received plenty of comparisons to the Black Crowes, Little Feat and The Band.)

Sunday Morning Record was born in the midst of change,” said Quist in a press release. “Life changes, lineup changes, geographic changes. It was a rollercoaster of a year, but that change served the album well and became our muse.”

As interesting as the situation was, the four current members – Quist, Jurdi (guitar/keys/vocals), Trevor Nealon (keys/vocals) and Richard Millsap (drums) — were happy to release the album and play the tunes live for fans.

“It’s always rewarding to create, record and write good tunes and then put it out there and see how fans react,” Quist said. “And once we get on the road behind the record, the songs take on a whole new life. It’s fun to see how the songs evolve on stage over the year, going down different roads with each song is really fun and the reaction and interaction of the fans keeps us growing.”

The band is already working new songs for the next album, although they aren’t sure when it will be released. They are however embarking on a unique recording process with a song entitled “Carry Your Love.” The day after speaking with Quist, he and the band were going into the studio to record the song in one day. The name of the song will also be the name of their upcoming tour when they stop at the Green Frog on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

“Since we haven’t recorded it yet, I have no idea how the song will turn out,” Quist chuckled. “We’re just going to go in and crank it out in a day. We have a new song and the touring coming up, so we wanted to think of an interesting way of promoting it. It’s all going to be last minute, so it’ll be exciting to see how it all turns out.”

Expect to hear “Carry Your Love” and many others of the band’s tunes during their upcoming show, which will feature a set list, something the band only started doing a few years ago.

“For years we never used a set list, we would just call out a song on stage. It was fun, but it was like being on the edge of a train wreck because nothing was ever planned,” Quist said. “Although the chaotic element was fun, there is something about a show that flows and transitions nicely. Writing a set list has been a refreshing change from just winging it.”

Another interesting part of the Heathens show is that just minutes after it ends, the show and photos are available as a live recording on a USB drive, offering a unique memento of the show.

“We have been recording the shows and making them available to fans for about two years,” Quist said. “Our road manager Josh does a great job recording the show and taking photos throughout the day to capture the moment. It’s a fun way for our fans to relieve the show experience.”

The group tries to tour the Pacific Northwest at least once a year, especially after a previous run-in with a Washington state resident thanks to some ribbing of keyboardist Trevor Nealon, who is from Tacoma.

“We had just crossed the border into Washington and Trevor was cawing like a Seahawk and telling us how great the state was. We stopped at a gas station to fuel up and we all began teasing and ribbing Trevor about how bad Washington was and this woman overheard us, but she didn’t realize we were joking around. As we were leaving the station, she knocked on our window and mentioned hearing us talking about how we didn’t like the state. We told her we were kidding and Trevor was from the area and she laughed and said you got me. She then threw a golf ball piece of trash through our window and walked away laughing. We looked down at the wadded up paper and inside it was a bag of weed,” Quist laughed. “This 50-year-old lady in a Lexus thought we didn’t like her state so she gave us a welcoming gift to change our mind. So long story short, we love Washington.”

And after their upcoming show at The Green Frog is over, Washingtonians will love Band of Heathens.

For more about Band of Heathens, see www.bandofheathens.com. 

Published in the September 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine