Recording an album has always been a process for alternative band The Head and the Heart. But along with the normal obstacles that come with making a record, The Head and the Heart have to deal with a rather quotidian concern: logistics.
The band is six members strong, and getting six people in a studio has its challenges.
“I’m sure the record label would say it was hard,” says drummer Tyler Williams, laughing. “I think that’s the hardest part of it because it costs a lot of money to move people around to higher studios, higher Airbnbs and rental cars and all that stuff. I think it’s a shame that in our modern era where it’s easy to record a record if you want in your bedroom or on a laptop with Ableton, it’s a lot harder to put six people in a room [with] instruments and make it effective, sound good and pay for it. So I think we’re very lucky that we get to do it on this level because a lot of people are going the opposite direction of that.
“We don’t feel like it is hard to record the six of us; it just feels natural. It’s what the band has always done, and it feels like we’re the last of a dying breed. I’m hoping we inspire more people to do that and hold that conviction line instead of taking the easy way out.”
Every Shade of Blue, the band’s fifth album, which was released last April, was an interesting one to record. The band was separated by time zone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It didn’t stifle the band’s creativity, though.
“Yeah, I mean that was definitely the weirdest record to make,” says Williams. “You’re in the middle of the pandemic, you’re all spread across the country. I was living in Nashville at that point. Joh (Russell, vocals) was in San Francisco, Charity (Rose Thielen (vocals/violin/guitar) was in Seattle, Chris (Zasche, bass) was in Eastern Washington, and Kenny (Hensley, piano) was in LA. So, literally nobody lived in the same city. And we basically got remote recording setups and set up on the studios in our houses, learned how to mic, learn how to engineer ourselves, our own tracks, and we had our front-of-house sound guy sort of compile and be the go-between for everyone; he would just put all the tracks together and then we’d kind of go from there. So it was a really weird learning experience. I don’t think anyone had done that before within our band—like, setting tracks and adding the tracks remotely. We’re used to being in a line band, and we’re used to being in the same room as each other.”
But sometimes doing this differently can bring a unique spark of creativity; the band discovered this while recording Every Shade of Blue.
“It was daunting and there were a lot of hurdles, but it was also really creative,” says Williams. “And I think that’s why it ended up being a 17-song record. It was almost like a creative dump that we needed to get that energy out that was during the pandemic and then move on to the next phase. I mean, I am really proud of it. I’m really happy and I think some of the songs on there are the best we’ve ever done. The title track is one of my favorite songs that we’ve ever created. So it’s exciting and now we kind of come out of the pandemic feeling a little unburdened and looking to the future and not necessarily pulling onto all of these older songs.”
The title track, “Every Shade of Blue,” served as a reminder that even though times can be tough, we never go through anything alone.
“It felt like exactly what we want to say at this moment in time that there’s a pandemic,” says Williams. “And last year’s been really hard; like, promises break, but we’ll get through it. So it had this kind of rallying cry for the band a little bit like we may be spread out, we may not see each other, we may not be able to tour, but we’ll get through it together.”
Another song that holds a lot of value for Williams is “Virginia (Wind in the Night),” which is an ode to their home state.
“That song has sentimental value for John and I,” says Williams. “ I think all of our band members love Virginia now after being indoctrinated by our stories about it.”
Even though the band sings Virginia’s praises, it wasn’t always easy in the music scene down in the Old Dominion. The scene in Richmond, where Williams, resides had to be built up.
“When we first started in Richmond, it wasn’t super supportive,” remembers Williams. “Then I moved back around 2011 and it kind of had evolved and around to a point where Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb Records were doing stuff. I started managing Lucy Dacus there and she kind of blew up out of Richmond. So it turned into a really great community of supportive people. You couldn’t even list all the important players who have come out of Richmond in the past 10 years. But everyone’s out there doing their thing and it’s amazing to see where everybody’s got to.”
There seems to be a dichotomy with capital cities. On one end, you have Denver, Atlanta, Austin and Columbus, which have a lot of things to do; and on the other, there’s Albany, Dover, and Harrisburg, which leave a lot to be desired. (We’ll punt on Trenton.) Richmond, according to Williams, might be thought of as the latter, but is moving toward the former.
“Richmond’s actually really cool; it definitely punches above its weight in regards to music and food and art,” explains Williams. “There’s a really great art school in town called Virginia Commonwealth University. So you kinda have this influx of young, hungry artists every year who come and try to make their mark on the city and then they leave and go make their mark on the world. But you have this refreshing of energy every year and I think it really contributes to that excitement and the newness of what Richmond brings.”