Today’s Feature – May 19-20: The Band Of Heathens

May 20, 2008 at 10:49 pm (Today's Feature)

Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist, Seth Whitney and John Chipman always dreamed of playing music for the world, music that meant something to them completely, winning fans and awards along the way. While they all probably had some inkling that their individual and immense talent would some day lead to such things, they almost certainly had no idea that they would accomplish it with one another. After taking home the 2007 Austin Music Award for “Best New Band” at the start of last year’s SXSW Festival however, they realized they had tapped into something significant.

Each of the five artists that make up The Band of Heathens were playing in separate acts at one point, each with a different time slot every Wednesday night at the same club in Austin, Momo’s. Originally sitting in with one another’s band to shake things up, they called themselves the “Good Time Supper Club,” but that would soon change. More and more attention flowed their way and suddenly local newspapers were labeling them “The Heathens.” After recording “Live from Momo’s” together and playing shows for larger and larger audiences, the fella’s realized they had more than side project on their hands – they had “The Band of Heathens.”

Now they’re wrapping up their first studio album with pal Ray Wylie Hubbard, something that “sounds like an old record that Levon Helm, Ry Cooder and Lowell George buried in a time capsule in 1973.” The unique force behind the collection comes from the efforts of three different songwriters as opposed to one, leading to tunes that reflect styles from ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll to down home country rhythms. Much like the live records, this latest release carries over the same exciting atmosphere that every Heathens show embodies, now fine-tuned for your enjoyment.

While you can check out their DVD/CD live show, “Live at Antone’s,” you can actually sit front row at a gig today. You’ll witness first-hand how every member is “allowed to express themselves and explore their instrument, but is ever conscious of the sound as a whole.” You can also check out YouTube to see the band, as Barack Obama used footage from a rally that the Heathens played for a commercial during the Super Bowl. Check out it out, and then look for shows coming as the CD drops this week. Get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: The Band Of Heathens

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did the The Band Of Heathens first form?

Gordy Quist: The Band of Heathens was an accident that formed out of a loose residency gig in Austin back in late 2005. We were originally called the Good Time Supper Club but somehow the newspaper ended up listing us as the Heathens every week. We recorded a live show and released it as Live from Momo’s in 2006 and also released a live DVD, Live at Antone’s in 2007. The band is obviously rooted in touring and live shows, but we’re looking forward to putting out our first studio record this year.

PEV: Growing up who were you listening to? Do you remember the first concert you attended?

Ed Jurdi: Growing up my parents had a pretty eclectic record collection. Everything from Mozart to Wilson Pickett. Lots of ’70s singer/songwriters and great bands from that era like The Beatles, Stones, The Animals, Cream, CSNY. We always had lots of blues and soul music playing, Sly and The Family Stone, Sam and Dave, Aretha, stuff like that. The first concert I went to with my parents was probably some folk music, Judy Collins or Peter Paul and Mary; we used to go see a bunch of shows when I was a kid. The first show I went on my own with friends was Bon Jovi and Skid Row, it was in the middle of all of that terrible hair metal, I had the ripped acid washed jeans, and the bandana, I was a total mess, probably 12 or 13 years old at the time. Later that year I found Van Morrison’s Moondance and The Black Crowes Shake Your Moneymaker. Those records saved my life.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you stepped on stage, live as a band to perform. Did you think you’d be where you are now?

Colin Brooks: I think the first time I stepped onstage was when my Mom picked me up so I could reach the mic behind the pulpit at the Church of God (are there any other kind?) in Mio, Michigan. I sang, “I’ll be a cowboy, a Christian cowboy….” When the Heathens (before we were the “Heathens”) first stepped onstage we had no real idea what we were getting into. Nobody had any plans to be a band let alone the “Best New Band in Austin”!! It was readily apparent, however, that there was something special about how we all interacted together and it didn’t take long to become our main focus. We have, from the beginning, been very blessed to gain attention and lots of new fans everywhere we go.

PEV: What is the best part about performing live on stage as a band?

Seth Whitney: This band is very connected and comfortable performing live together. Everyone is allowed to express themselves and explore their instrument, but is ever conscious of the sound as a whole. Anyone who plays music knows what a rare thing that can be, and no one in the band takes it for granted. The best part for me is learning new things about a song within those moments of exploration.

PEV: Was there a certain moment in your life that you knew music was going to be a career for you?

John Chipman: I was fairly young – I knew I was going to college to major in music. I knew as a teen playing in bands that music was the only thing that made sense to me. I could have never envisioned the path it would take, however, and as I have grown a little older I have realized that the important thing about a music career really isn’t the reward at the end of the day, but rather waking up every morning knowing that you are still on the path… and if you are lucky, you stay on the path for the rest of your life.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live The Band Of Heathens performance?

Gordy Quist: A different show every time. Ups and downs. Ins and outs. Lots of rock ‘n’ roll with harmony. And sometimes Seth auctions off his beard from the stage for extra money.

PEV: Tell us about your upcoming work.

Ed Jurdi: I think we’re just in a place where we are making the music we want to. I don’t think anybody in this band is interested in fulfilling any quota or creating music to be identified with anything other than creating things that inspire us. That’s our goal, whether it be a country song or a blues song or rock and roll song. We’re really trying to create music that’s important to us, and hopefully it finds people out there on the wire that are searching for the same thing.

PEV: How is it different from other albums out today?

Colin Brooks: We have 3 egomaniacs in the band instead of just one…. Seriously though, our sound is forged from the fires of 3 individual Oracle/songwriters who each bring a unique vision to the altar but submit to the will of the gods. The rhythm section confers with the gods to see whose ego gets crushed today and who gets the golden chalice from which to drink the blood of the vanquished band member. This of course leads to a very unique product…

PEV: How is the new record different from your previous works? How have you grown from your earlier works to where you are now?

Seth Whitney: Well, first off, this next album is a studio album. Our first two efforts were live albums. The thing about this band is that we’re rooted in live performance, and every night is different. In the studio, we were able to really hone in on the things we liked about particular parts of songs, and fine-tune them. In those earlier albums, we were just playing what came naturally.

PEV: Having won many awards, most recently, The Band of Heathens won “Best New Band” in the 2006-2007 Austin Music Awards, to name a few (Note To Readers: The list of awards The Band Of Heathens have won is extremely long. I recommend looking at their site and be prepared to be impressed). How have all your friends and family reacted to your success?

John Chipman: Their support is fuel that you need to keep going when the train may get derailed from time to time. You invest so much time doing something that is important to you and when your family and friends are on board – it means the world. All of our families have been absolutely fantastic.

PEV: In all your traveling, which city, International or US, do you think offers the best appreciation for music? As well which has been your favorite to perform?

Gordy Quist: Hmm. Denver, Colorado, has been really good to us. So has Atlanta, GA, Houston, TX, New Braunfels, TX…. It’s hard to say. There are lots of great cities that support Americana music. Our hometown Austin, TX, might have to top the list for a city that offers the best appreciation for music though.

PEV: Who is in your CD player or on your iPod right now?

Ed Jurdi: Gary Louris – Vagabonds, Jeffrey Foucault – Ghost Repeater, The Black Crowes – Warpaint, Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson, Drew Smith – Drew Smith’s Lonely Choir, Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist you think we should all be looking into today?

Colin Brooks: We have so many great artist’s here in Austin and many of our friends around the world are so talented that its hard to name just one, so I’ll just name a few. Suzanna Choffel, Soulstress and dream weaver. Sam Baker, storyteller/shaman. Anais Mitchell, magically delicious. Nels Andrews, threadbare scarecrow.

PEV: On the day of a show are there any special rituals you have to do or superstitions you have for a good show?

Seth Whitney: The only ritual the entire band acknowledges as a whole is our use of Nag Champa incense on stage. Everyone in the band also has there own special rituals for shows. They list as follows:

Gordy – Wears the same pair of underwear every show. Unwashed. (This carries over from his days playing football at Dartmouth. Same underwear.)

Ed – Listens to the Karate Kid theme song while holding the Crane Kick pose.

Colin – Writes at least one passage for his upcoming manifesto, to be published sometime after the year 2012.

John – Pumps Iron.

Seth – Wears fishnet stockings under his pants. (Thus the nickname, “Fishnet Pimp”)

PEV: How has life on the road been for you? Best and worst parts?

John Chipman: The road is the best and worst of what we do. Winning over a totally new audience is like a victory of sorts. At the same time, when you go into a place and the crowd stares at you like a dog that has just been shown a card trick, it can be really deflating. Fortunately this band has had very few of the latter. Without a doubt for me the hardest thing has been being away from my wife and son. There is nothing that comes close except for maybe the strange odors that emanate from the van after a stretch of a week or so on the road.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of The Band Of Heathens?

Gordy Quist: We have daily readings of passages from Tommy Lee’s book, Tommyland: The Ride, while we’re on the road. It’s hysterical. Tommy is either barely breathing or a complete genius, we’re not sure which. The latest passage was a list of Tommy’s publicist’s rejection letters from other celebrities that refused to give a quote about Tommy for the book.

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your down time?

Ed Jurdi: Hanging out with my family, listening to music, writing, doing the things that everyone else does. We like to break out the grill and hang out with some friends and drink beer.

PEV: In one word, describe The Band Of Heathens.

Colin Brooks: Superkaliphragilisticexpealidotious…or more commonly known as “Supercallafragilisticexpyhaladocious.”

PEV: What has been the most memorable part of your career as The Band Of Heathens?

Seth Whitney: I can’t speak for everybody, but for me, the most memorable moments are when we’re playing live on stage and really locking in. The crowd is feeling it, and there’s a kind of electricity in the air that brings everyone together for a few moments. It’s why I started playing music in the first place.

PEV: What is next for The Band Of Heathens?

John Chipman: We have so many irons in the fire right now. We are really focusing on the upcoming release of our studio album. We will be on the road a tremendous amount this summer in support of it.

For more information on The Band Of Heathens, check out www.bandofheathens.com

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1 Comment

  1. Ana said,

    Great Austin band…

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