The Band of Heathens is making the touring rounds through New England and New York this week at some of our most warm and intimate venues – it’s a real treat to see and hear THIS band perform in such tiny rooms. Click on the venue link in your area for more info on the specific performances. And press play on some of the bands music to listen while you read The Live Beat’s interview with Ed Jordi, guitars and vocals. The band is touring in support of their latest studio recording, Sunday Morning Record, which puts some of their most personal and heartfelt story songs together with gorgeous and melodic, country soul music.
As always, we’ll see you at the show!
Tuesday June 17 – Fairfield, CT – Fairfield Theater Company
Wednesday June 18 – Fall River, MA – Narrows Center for the Arts
Thursday June 19 – Northampton, MA – Iron Horse
Friday June 20 – Boston, MA – Cafe 939
Saturday June 21 – New York, NY – Hill Country Barbecue
New England Roots?
The Live Beat – I understand that there is a New England connection to the Band of Heathens? Can you put that into perspective for our New England based readership?
Ed Jurdi – “No, the band was formed in Austin. I just grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, and spent many years kind of touring around New England and doing my own stuff up here. You know, I still have a lot of friends and family up there and a lot of nice ties, so it’s always nice to be back up there and see some old souls and stuff like that.”
The Live Beat – How was it you wound up in Austin?
Ed Jurdi – “I always kind of traveled a lot playing music and was interested in traveling and exploring new places. At some point I just kind of wanted to try going somewhere else and checking it out and Austin kept coming up on the list, you know? So I just wound up flying myself down there, living there and meeting all the guys that wound up being in the band. We all shared a night at a club in at a club in Austin doing a residency. We just pretty loosely fell into a collective and started doing shows together on Wednesday nights and did that for about a year. We were doing Wednesday nights at a club called Momo’s in Austin, which is no longer there. I met a lot of musicians and Gordy happened to be one of them, we just clicked pretty well. Each of us was doing a solo thing, and just kind of condensed our things into a band. It was just a lot of fun and that’s where it all started for us.”
The Live Beat – The music of Band of Heathens has a very laid back, acoustic and western feeling, as well as a feel and sound of early seventies music, such as The Eagles, The Harmonies on “Miss My Life,” stick out to me for instance. Who were some of your Influences, and how have those influences affected your musical choices and songwriting/lyrical choices?
Jordi mentions having listened to everything from The Beatles and Stones and James Taylor and Cat Stevens, old soul and R&B, Wilson Picket, Otis Redding, Sly & The Family Stone, and really anything and everything in between. But, he adds, those influences worked into his songwriting from the background.
Ed Jurdi – “I think, like anything else, your influences maybe inform what you do on a deeper subconscious level, you know? I just think it’s the kind of thing where, as you’re becoming a musician, or whatever it is you’re doing, these pieces get put into your tool box, for lack of a better metaphor. You start to be able to call on these things. That’s kind of how you learn what you’re doing, you listen to stuff and you figure out how it was done. And then, hopefully, you take that and make it into your own thing. I do think the last record we did was a more acoustic thing and a laid back kind of thing, with a early ‘70s singer songwriter vibe like you’re saying. I think the band live, and in general – like if you look at our whole catalogue – it’s kind of an interesting progression of sounds. So we just happened to have been in that mind set when we made this new record, representing the quieter side of our songs.”
Cha… cha… cha… changes!
The Live Beat – You’ve described SMR is “…a record of changes.” Can you describe some of the changes and experiences that each of you were going through at the time frame that you were recording songs for this record? How did these experiences influence the song writing for this record?
Ed Jurdi – “Well, you know, I think it’s hard for me to say on that because I’m so a
The Live Beat – But somewhere along the line you lost a band member or two, Colin Brooks? Did he leave or was he pushed out? Are you all in good terms? Wasn’t he a co-vocalist and songwriter as well with the two of you?
Ed Jurdi – “He left, and we’re all on good terms. I think like anything else, it gets to a point where you have to make big decisions and try to find different paths in your lives. You know, to do this at a high level and to be good at it and feel like you’re plugged into something, it’s kind of gotta be all or nothing, and I think other people that do it know what I’m talking about. In terms of it being all or nothing, I me an it’s really gotta be you’re first priority, to be a part of it, to chase the songs, you know? To be a part of touring, to be a part of writing, to be a part of being on the road. Just being a part of a fraternity, there is a long tradition of minstrel singers and…[pauses] I guess for some musicians and I think certainly for us, that’s the way it is, you know, it is kind of all or nothing. I kind of just think it was time [for Brooks] to recharge the batteries.”
The Live Beat – Did the band members’ departure cause you both to consider the future of the band?
Ed Jurdi – “Well certainly it caused us to consider the future and how are we going to put something together and what’s it going to look like? But in terms of us wanting to continue on and do it no it didn’t. We were pretty sound, we still had trevor in our band – he was our keyboard player and is still with us and still wanting to do something too, so it felt like we still had a good nucleus in place and we could forge forward and still make something good, you know? That was always the idea.”
Grey Areas between black and white
“A lot of stuff is up for grabs and you don’t know what’s going to happen, and a lot of times that you think you know what’s going to happen, the opposite happens. And almost never in life what you think is going to happen, actually happens.”
The Live Beat – You’ve called SMR a record of exploring the “grey areas” between the black and white, and Gordy called the songs some of the “most personal songs” the band has written and released. Can you offer some examples of those grey areas and personal experiences and how they fit into the songs on SMR?
Ed Jurdi – “Yea I think a lot of the record is more of a narrative story in terms of not knowing what’s going to happen at the end of the story. It’s something that’s still in motion. I think a lot of times in life, there’s this evolution of fate! What something meant at one point in time may not be what it means now. So rather than these short songs that are that are just sort of character driven or some sort of story song, I think a lot of these songs are more about an emotional state, or a state of being, you know? Whether it be longing or love or loss or some sort of resolution, or affirmation or some sort of release. I think there is a lot of that kind of vibe and I think the music supports that as well. It’s just kind of more of a mood or an atmosphere and I think we were after that more so than we have been in the past.”
The Live Beat – How and when did you write “Texas” in particular? An emotional goodbye to a state where you spent so much of your life?
Ed Jurdi – “I guess in retrospect yea. At the time I’m not sure I was totally cognizant of that, but I think that song is a good example of some of the grey areas and muddy waters and this idea of things being in transition; of there not being a beginning, middle and an end. A lot of stuff is up for grabs and you don’t know what’s going to happen, and a lot of times that you think you know what’s going to happen, the opposite happens. And almost never in life what you think is going to happen, actually happens. Let me put it another way, very rarely when you get somewhere does it look the way you thought it was going to look.”
The Live Beat – Was the recording done at George Reiff’s home studio? What made this place so conducive to writing and recording songs?
Ed Jurdi – “Well George is a great engineer and producer first of all, so that was kind of the reason we ended up working with him. We had done Top Hat Clown… [& The Clapmaster's Son] with him as well, and we’d known him for a while and he’s also a good friend, so that was another part of it. We really wanted people that we knew and that we trusted to work with on this. And he just happened to have a studio in his home so that is kind of a whole other level of it just being a good atmosphere and a good mindset to play music in. Not really rigid, as playing music in a traditional studio can be, you know? This was just sitting in a house playing music and being really relaxed and in a good headspace to create. All those things kind of made he place an ideal option for this record.”
The Live Beat – The Live element and environment obviously means a lot to both you and Gordy as songwriters and musicians – you’ve released a number of live recordings as albums, and you record most of your shows and allow fans to purchase the recording after the show – isn’t that correct? Why does the band put such an emphasis on performances?
Ed Jurdi – “Well I think it’s the other half of the equation. If you’re making records or you’re a recording artist, going out and playing live another big component of the profession. I guess it’s not for all artists and The Beatles would be a classic example of a band that was just amazing that just at some point just decided it was just not playing wise. But for us, it’s an opportunity to connect with music fans, with an audience. And I think there is something very unique and special about that connection. You’re only going to have the chance to make that connection one time. Ever…no matter what. You can only be in one place, one time, and have it go the way that it is going to go. There are so many variables. So it’s been kind of our focus to just say ‘…hey, every night is going to be different, let’s really try to make something special of this.’ We’re not really the kind of band that plays our stuff the same way every night, or that plays the same songs every night. So it’s really just our opportunity to make something special happen so that the audience and the band both have a good time with it. Sometimes you can be part of the most special moments, both the band and the audience, and when it’s really good, your all sharing in that moment. I don’t know if there is another word for it except magic!”
The Live Beat – speaking of magic, What do you hope someone who comes out to your show, a new fan or someone who has been with you for years, comes away with from a particular performance?
Ed Jurdi – “Well, to have a good time really. Not to be to simplistic about it, but at the end of the day that’s what music is supposed to do really. I mean, whether it’s identifying with a sad song that helps make you feel better about yourself, or if it’s a happy song and the tempo just makes you want to jump out of your seat and clap your hands and dance! It’s really simple stuff that we tend to take for granted, it’s just kind of a release, a little bit of something that soothes your soul, you know? Cause when we’re playing, that’s what we’re after, and it definitely feels like the audience gives it back to us. That’s really it, be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself, be a part of an audience and having a shared moment with some other people.”
The Live Beat – “And you release your recordings on your own, with no label to put marketing and promotion and press behind it as you go on the road? Is the music distribution system broken? Can a musician/band have any hope to make a living any more recording music and hoping to sell it? Are you a fan of the Spotify/Pandora subscription/streaming model?”
Ed Jurdi – “No, I don’t think the music distribution system is broken at all; for us, we still sell CDs and records, so were going to keep on making them. For certain kinds of music, it’s really singles driven and most of their sales are digitally based. I have seen, since this band started, the amount of music that we get to people through the digital realm has certainly increased tremendously. So I think people are pretty aware that going forward that digital is going to be the future of music delivery. That being said, I think there is always going to be this niche market of people that want to purchase vinyl and want to buy records and do that sort of authentic thing and that’s great too.”
The Live Beat – Your preferred choice for listening to music?
Ed Jurdi – “ All of them, I mean ideally vinyl if I’ve got the time, if I’m home and I have a moment to sit and relax and enjoy something – it’s always vinyl. I just enjoy the whole aesthetic of it. I’m one of those people that really likes to look at the art work and read the liner notes and do all that stuff. But I’m totally aware that a lot of people don’t care to do that stuff, just don’t have the time to dedicate to it. I certainly don’t have the time either, so it’s nice if you’re taking a drive and you have an iPod around, or if you have spotify around, the ability to be able to listen to the music that you might want to listen to. That’s an amazing convenience, an awesome gift. If someone could have told me fifteen years ago that I would be able to have all my music in my pocket – I would have been like, that’s amazing!”
The Live Beat – What’s in the tour van CD player on your current road trip? What music are you guys listening to? Anything new? Anything classic? How do you all go about choosing what to listen to?
Ed Jurdi – “We were listening to this guy this morning, Stargell Simpson, he’s kind of an old time country singer. He’s got a really cool record that just came out. I’ve been listening to this band Lake Street Dive a little bit, it’s pretty cool. Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood‘s new record is very good, those guys are great. And there’s always a great rotation of older stuff too, older country or blues stuff; seventies singer songwriter or rock n roll. it’s pretty diverse, everyone is pretty all over the map in what we all listen to.”