Band of the Day

2011.09.17

The Head and the Heart

Good old-fashioned, earnest Americana with plenty of sing-a-long fun
I wish I was a slave to an age-old trade, like ridin' around on railcars and workin' long days.
Lyrics From Down in the Valley

The Head and The Heart are an indie folk-pop band from Seattle, Washington that formed in the summer of 2009. Members include Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion), Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion), Charity Rose Thielen (violin, vocals), Chris Zasche (bass), Kenny Hensley (piano) and Tyler Williams (drums). The Head and the Heart’s music is a harmonic vocal blend mixed with piano, violin and prominent percussive elements. Pressed on Sonic Boom Records, the group sold over 10,000 copies of their debut 2009 album The Head and The Heart through concert appearances, word of mouth advertising and consignment sales at local record shops. Indie giant Sub Pop Records signed them in November 2010. The group have toured through the US and UK opening for prominent acts such as Vampire Weekend, The Walkmen, The Dave Matthews Band and The Decemberists. In March 2011, Seattle’s City Arts Magazine named them Best New Band.

With their honest, old fashioned folk rock and heartwarming grassroots success story, it's easy to find yourself falling for The Head and the Heart. The Seattle-based band formed in 2009, having met through an open mic night at an Irish pub. They soon recorded and released their independent self-titled debut. Through the power of touring and word of mouth, the 6-piece of twenty-somethings sold thousands of copies of the album. Local record shops struggled to keep it in stock -not an easy feat for any band in 2009. By 2010, record labels couldn't help taking notice, and indie super star label Sub Pop snapped them up (not so surprising considering the similarities with label mates Fleet Foxes). The Head and the Heart's music is built around sweetly harmonized folk-pop, that lies somewhere between Crosby Stills & Nash and Fleetwood Mac. The album is politely great, moving deftly between piano, guitar, and violin to create confident Americana ballads. “Lost In My Mind” begins as a simple folk song, with Josiah Johnson's gravely vocals running over an acoustic guitar strum. Jonathan Russell adds a golden sweet harmony to Johnson's handsomely gruff pipes while the band layers in piano and drums, all combined to reveal this band's secret weapon - the ability to make a folk singalong sound dramatic and momentous. Like most of the songs on this album, “Sounds Like Hallelujah” reveals that The Head and the Heart is filled with heart-on-sleeve earnestness. But the band makes it so much fun, and builds such momentum, that the effect is anything but sappy. It's music guaranteed to get people dancing at live shows (or awkwardly shuffling if they play a home show in Seattle). “Down in the Valley” follows the pattern The Head and the Heart sets throughout the record: start softly and intimately, and end the songs with drums pounding and guns blazing. Originality be damned, but it works. Similar to Fleet Fox Robin Pecknold's declaration in “Helplessness Blues” that “If I had an orchard I'd work till I'm raw,” Johnson sings “I wish I was a slave to an age-old trade / Like ridin' around on railcars and workin' long days.” Grasping after a simpler time, The Head and the Heart is a homage to American roots music, looking back to when beautiful melodies, harmonies and traditional instruments were all it took to conquer the musical world. Well, turns out those days aren't so far off.