Photo by Curtis Wayne Millard
Having formed just four years ago, The Head and the Heart has gone from touring the Seattle area to now playing sold-out shows and performing around the world. This fall, the band is set to release Let’s Be Still, the follow-up to its self-titled debut record. Variance got to chat with vocalist Josiah Johnson about the upcoming release and what’s in store for the future.
The band’s debut album was a great introduction to The Head and the Heart, but with the second album, they wanted to show some of the growth they’ve experienced in the past two years.
“There was a little more intention this time, and having played so many shows, I think we’ve wanted this time to actually make an album that sounds the way that we think we sound live a little bit more,” says Johnson.
Regarding their first album, Johnson reveals that it was never meant to be their actual debut.
“We put it out, so obviously we loved the way it sounded, but there was a haste,” he says. “When we were recording it originally, it was meant to be a good demo recording that we ended up honing enough to put on an album, but we didn’t think we were making an album that would exist in the consciousness of people beyond the Seattle music scene and maybe other people that we happened [to share it with].”
Since that debut release, the band has grown and introduced some new depth into this record. Some of the new incorporations came from all the things they learned while on tour with bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Dr. Dog, but most of it was “just a natural growth as a musician,” Johnson reveals.
The new album includes a few songs with synthesizers and electric guitar bases, but Johnson sees it as a step forward, not a change of direction. “It’s generally bigger, but it’s interesting because you say that and it’s like, ‘Wow, that sounds like an entirely different band,’ but there are songs that sound like ‘classic us,’ doing what we do as well and I think the way we incorporated those news things, it wasn’t like a left turn but it added to us, as opposed to changed.”
When it comes to the release of the album, Johnson says there aren’t any nerves. “I think early on we identified [that] this is a big thing, this is like the second album that everyone screws up,” he explains. “I feel like a lot of that comes from trying to duplicate the success of your first album, or people try and make the same album as the first album.”
With the new surprises that come with Let’s Be Still, fans can rest assured that, while there are some different sounds, the growth of the band is welcomed and evident.
“This is a really great representation of where we are as a band and that should be the goal when you record an album,” opines Johnson.
As is the case with most sophomore albums, there are the unspoken expectations from current fans, hoping the new material doesn’t disappoint. But Johnson gushes that the group is “super happy” with the album. “When you’re super proud of an album in this way, you kind of go, ‘I know there’s someone who is going to connect with this, because I believe in this so, so strongly.’”
One of the greatest things to happen to Johnson since the band started taking off was the opportunity to play with bands that he has grown up listening to. “You just learn musically watching them night after night, and you kind of end up studying it,” he explains.
“At first your mind is blown that you’re playing with a band you’ve always loved. But then as the tour goes on, you start studying them and getting into what they’re doing and that has been so valuable as a songwriter, as someone that’s creating music and expanding my mind about what is possible for us as a band.”
The growth and experiences the band has acquired over the past two years is evident in their new album. But as Johnson explains, “it’s inspiring to know that there are no limits to what you can do on stage.”
The band hopes to take all they’ve learned on the road with them this fall. The Head and the Heart’s tour kicks off this month in Asheville, N.C., and Let’s Be Still releases Oct. 15 on Sub Pop Records. Pre-order the album here and stream it below (via Rolling Stone).