Despite lineup changes, mellower album, Band of Heathens sticking to rock 'n' roll roots

eshaw@islandpacket.comJune 25, 2014 

From left, Richard Millsap, Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist and Treavor Nealon.



    WHAT: The Band of Heathens

    WHEN: 9:30 p.m. June 29

    WHERE: The Pour House, 1977 Maybank Hwy, Charleston

    COST: $15


Contrary to their name, rock 'n' roll outfit Band of Heathens is a quiet, civilized bunch.

Just listen to the band's fourth studio album "Sunday Morning Record," a mellow and gentle-sounding collection of slow, acoustic tracks. It's a lazily sipped cup of coffee, not an energy drink.

Band of Heathens began as a spontaneous side project at an Austin, Texas bar and became a full-fledged group in 2005. Their fusion of rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and country earned them a loyal Texas following and the title of Best New Band at the Austin Music Awards.

Band of Heathens will play at 9:30 p.m. June 29 at The Pour House in Charleston.

The band has experienced some upheaval recently, with three original members leaving and one moving across the country. Remaining members Gordy Quist and Ed Jurdi enlisted drummer Richard Millsap and keyboardist Trevor Nealon for 2013's "Sunday Morning Record."

Although the album sounds more singer-songwriter than rockabilly, Band of Heathens' rock roots are still there, Jurdi said.

"I think people see us as a rock 'n' roll band, which we are. But for us, a lot of the best stuff we've done is our quieter stuff, and we did more of that on this record."

In an interview with Lowcountry Current, Jurdi discussed the changes in the band, his songwriting process and his favorite thing about Band of Heathens' live shows.

Question. What were some of the changes the band was going through while working on "Sunday Morning Record," and how did you guys deal with them?

Jurdi. The last year and a half we had some lineup changes and personnel changes and people moving around the country, starting families and stuff like that. Just life, really. We kind of have a way of talking ourselves through these things in the form of writing songs. Writing music has helped me reconcile what's going on and has always helped me figure things out. That's always been part of the process and certainly was on this record.

Q. One of the changes was you moving from Austin to Asheville, N.C. How does the band dynamic work now that you've moved away?

Jurdi. We all get along better (laughs). Seriously, it's just meant a little more commuting. It's changed the way we approached touring, but in general, it hasn't really changed a whole lot. It's caused us to focus more and be able to deal with the important stuff and push the noise away, which is a positive thing.

Q. What is your favorite song from "Sunday Morning Record"?

Jurdi. I like all our songs, honestly. I know that's kind of a standard stock answer. It's about having all the pieces fit together to make the puzzle complete. To me, if we took any of the songs off the record, it would change the way the record sounds. Each song has a role in serving the whole story.

Q. Do you still consider yourselves primarily a rock band even though the new album is more mellow and acoustic than previous efforts?

Jurdi. I think we're a rock 'n' roll band. The idea of rock 'n' roll has been twisted and turned and made to mean a lot of different things. In my mind, rock 'n' roll is following your music and doing what you want to do. In the more literal sense, the band is still rock 'n' roll. Our sound is pretty steeped in American music. Even though the presentation of songs might be more acoustic or what some people call singer-songwriter, I do still think that when you hear these songs live, there's definitely an obvious rock 'n' roll element.

Q. What would you say is Band of Heathens' biggest strength?

Jurdi. I'd like to think our songs and our singing. Everyone is into lots of different kinds of music in the band, but at the end of the day it comes down to having good songs and being able to play them well. We spend a lot of time writing the best songs we can. We take the craft seriously.

The songwriting comes in a whole bunch of different shapes. Generally one person has an idea. Sometimes they'll finish that idea themselves and bring it to the band totally finished and the band will arrange it. Sometimes it's more fragmented. One thing that seems to reign true is that there are no rules. Our job is to just be open to that.

Q. How would you describe the band's live shows to someone who's never been?

Jurdi. I think they're pretty dynamic musically. We really try and take the full range from getting really loud to really quiet to doing slow songs, fast songs and everything in between. We're open to improvisation and changing up the way songs sound night to night. I think the people that are into the idea of being part of a night where you hang out with friends and just listen to some music would be into what we're doing. Having fun with it is the biggest thing.

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