Band of Heathens Brings Sunday-Morning Feel to 'Sunday Morning Record,' Including Their Own Roast of Coffee
Musicians deal with Monday mornings too. The beginning of the traditional work week comes hard and fast, and we struggle to find our footing. A "Monday-morning record" carries tougher realities for musicians however. The term has come to define a product that follows a rough stretch; recent examples include Kanye West's "808's and Heartbreak," recorded following the death of his mother and his broken-off engagement, or Rush's "Vapor Trails," recorded after drummer Neil Peart's daughter and wife died within the same calendar year.
Band of Heathens went through a stressful 2011, albeit not as drastic as the experiences listed above. Founding members Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist opted not to release a Monday-morning record. Considering the relaxed tone of the album afterwards, "Sunday Morning Record" seemed to fit better.
The Heathens didn't set out with that mood in mind, but following the departure of founding member Colin Brooks, plus Jurdi moving his family from Austin to Asheville, NC, "Sunday Morning" came out like an exhalation following the late-night jam that was the band's 2011 album "Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster's Son."
"I was in the process of moving when we did the record. It was subconscious then, but we can hear everything now," Jurdi explained during a phone call with Music Times. "The last record we did was more of a Saturday-night record. This one is more introspective, relaxed."
Many bands feature multiple songwriters and vocalists, but the loss of Brooks cuts more at the fundamental identity of Band of Heathens than most. The trio of Jurdi, Quist and Brooks began as three solo performers, holding down a Wednesday night slot at a club in Austin. As they familiarized with each other, the group would share the stage more frequently, until they joined under the moniker The Goodtime Supper Club. A newspaper error referred to the trio as The Heathens, and the group ran with it. Band of Heathens became a flock, and Brooks opted to fly alone during 2011.
Things were different, but Jurdi and Quist didn't hold it against him.
Jurdi acknowledged a change of dynamics, shifting from three songwriters to two, but didn't feel the void was hard to fill (from a numbers perspective, that is). The pair combined for around 30 tracks, which were whittled down to the final 11. Although biographical realities make appearances throughout the album ("Heading back to Carolina/Hanging in Tennessee for a while"), most lyrics weren't meant to have a solid meaning. It allows the members to adapt the songs to their current situations, Jurdi explained.
"Songs can have a fluid meaning," he said. "It can change over time. Some songs I wrote 10 years ago mean something completely different to me now."
The same principle applies to the Heathens' fans, he said. Understanding that songs can change between individual performances, the band has joined groups such as the Grateful Dead and Black Crowes in encouraging fans to make bootleg recordings of shows. But, just in case you don't feel like holding up your phone for the entire concert (and we encourage you not to), attendees can purchase that night's performance on a USB at the end of every Band of Heathen's gig. Joshua Cain, a merch-table employee who gets more credit than most, has mastered live-ripping audio from the show so the product is available as soon as the concert ends. Each USB also includes photos from the day of the concert, as well as occasional video footage.
Jurdi emphasized practicality before profitability when explaining the USB's and other Heathen merchandise. Among the better examples at the band's concerts: official Band of Heathens coffee blend and pancake mix.
"This isn't the best decision on a business level, but we try to sell stuff that we use," he said, noting both products came from favorite Austin merchants. "You get sick of generic coffee when you're on the road. That was about as kitschy as we get, but it's about taking part in a simpler pleasure."
After shuffling the lineup and moving cross-country, the music Jurdi and bandmates produced for "Sunday Morning Record" is surprisingly pleasant. And the coffee ain't bad either.
Band of Heathens plays at the Mercury Lounge in New York City on October 1 at 8 p.m.