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The Band of Heathens: Believe in magic

The Band of Heathens
The Band of Heathens
Courtney Chavanell

At this point in The Band of Heathens’ eight-year career, co-founder Ed Jurdi likes to keep things simple.

“If you can get to the gig and get to the stage and do the gig, everything usually works out,” laughed Jurdi, singer and guitarist for the Austin group that will be visiting New York City’s Hill Country on Saturday night.

It may sound like a common sense adage, but it’s common sense because it’s true, and after countless gigs over the years and a continuing tour to promote 2013’s excellent Sunday Morning Record, it’s little things like that which make a huge difference.

“At this point too, we’ve been doing it long enough that everybody knows when someone’s starting to wear thin and the nerves are getting a little frayed,” he said. “So you try and give people space and maybe not address certain things at certain times. Like anything else, when you get older, I think you develop a little more nuance reading into situations and figuring things out.”

That goes for the music too. Jurdi and fellow co-founder Gordy Quist have been at this a long time, surviving personnel changes and the whims of the music business to still produce quality music every time out. That’s a gift in itself, and one Jurdi doesn’t take lightly.

“We’re the same in enough ways but we’re also different in enough ways that it works,” he said. “There’s definitely a yin-yang thing going on in everything, even the real obvious, like Gordy’s voice is a little lower than mine and my voice is a little higher than his, so we sing together in different registers and blend nicely. And as people we have a lot of similar tastes, but we’re different in ways and I think that keeps it interesting. We also help each other in terms of being able to look at each other’s work from a different perspective. That doesn’t always mean that when someone offers their opinion that you change what you want to do, but it certainly allows you to have a voice that you trust that might not think the same way that you think about something. That’s always a valuable thing to be able to tap into.”

And with Sunday Morning Record, their fourth studio release, they’ve kept the good stuff coming, garnering plenty of critical raves from the media and positive responses from fans around the nation. That’s key, not just from a personal point of view in terms of people liking your work, but in a real world sense as well, because the better your album is received, the better your chances of keeping the ball rolling career wise.

“It’s gratifying in a sense when you put the work out into the world and it’s received well,” said Jurdi. “And on a more basic level of survival for us, it’s great that we continue to have a space to do this even though we would be doing this anyway. If I was in my garage, I’d still be doing it because I need to write songs and play music because that’s part of who I am at this point and I’ve accepted that. Beyond that, we’ve been especially fortunate that we make our way through the world and make our living doing this and I definitely don’t take that for granted, ever.”

It’s especially important for a band like the Heathens, who largely run their own ship with the help of various team members. It’s not an easy gig, pardon the pun, but Jurdi never wants the business end of things interfere with the reason why he’s here in the first place.

“Music and business are really two separate things,” he said. “There’s certainly some happy confluence where those things come together and all systems are firing. But that’s something that fans or people that are buying music will never see, myself included. When I get a record in my hands and it hits me and I love it and it’s kind of all happening, there’s obviously a lot of work and a lot of build-up to that. As a fan, I don’t really want to know about that. It doesn’t concern me, and, honestly, as a musician in the music business, it’s my job in a way to keep that from the people that are getting the music. I want them to have an unopinionated experience with it.”

There’s brilliance in that statement, simply because in a world where everyone is in your face all the time, with every thought tweeted out to the masses, it’s nice to have a little mystery with your music. Could you see Led Zeppelin tweeting their every move or posting Instagram pictures? Yeah, me neither. And as a pure music fan, Jurdi wants to keep some things pure.

“I think it’s interesting that we’re in a time that we feel like we have more access to people, and artists and musicians in particular,” he said. “We can get a glimpse into their creative process or can follow their day-to-day life a little bit more than we could at one time, largely in part to social media. At the same time, there’s still some stuff that’s magic and that you want to preserve to be like that.”

Like the live show that he and his bandmates will be delivering tomorrow night.

“I feel it every night really, if I’m open to it,” he said. “For the most part, it’s these little magic moments, and the reason why I like playing live still is because you can feel that in a room when it happens.”

It’s magic.

“That’s the juice, to just kind of snatch these things out of the air as they fly by you.”

The Band of Heathens play Hill Country in NYC on Saturday, June 21. For tickets, click here