March 15, 2012

Band keeps its head and heart after almost-overnight success

On Friday, the band will be headlining at the State Theatre.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

Tyler Williams didn't think things like that happened anymore.

click image to enlarge

Seattle-based The Head and the Heart has shared the stage with the likes of Dave Matthews, The Low Anthem and My Morning Jacket.

Courtesy photo


WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $18 in advance; $20 day of show

INFO: (800) 745-3000;

WHAT ELSE: Black Girls and Drew Grow & The Pastors' Wives open.

Until it happened to him and his band.

Williams, the drummer for Seattle-based pop-folk rockers The Head and the Heart, says he and his bandmates weren't really known much outside of Seattle when they decided to send a demo recording to a marketing executive at Warner Brothers.

A band member's father knew the guy somewhat, so they thought it was worth a shot.

Pretty soon, Warner Brothers sent a music scout up to Seattle to see the band. But his message was a little somber: You guys aren't good enough live.

"So we practiced about five hours a day for the next month, and we put on a really good show after that," said Williams. "Because Warner Brothers had come to see us, the word about us started getting around, and other labels came to see us. I didn't think things like that happened anymore, that you could send in a tape and get signed."

Williams and his bandmates figured it would take a period of years for them to build a fan base before getting label recognition. But it didn't. They came together as a band in 2009, and were signed to Sub Pop the next year.

Since then, The Head and The Heart has put out a self-titled album and shared stages with Dave Matthews, The Low Anthem and My Morning Jacket. It also appeared on the late-night show "Conan" on TBS.

And on Friday, the band will be headlining at the State Theatre in Portland.

The six-member group is known for songs carried by three-part vocal harmonies, including the female voice of violin player Charity Rose Thielen. While folk is a big influence for the band, the overall sound is modern. There's pronounced percussion on many songs, and piano and violin give the songs a smooth, rich sound.

"We've got elements of folk in there, but we're not purists by any means," said Williams. "The Beatles were a huge influence on me, then Nirvana and indie rock. As a band, we like everything."

Williams, 25, said one of the biggest changes the band's relatively quick success has brought is the luxury of a bus ride. Lots of bands whose members are in their 20s are still touring in vans, he said.

"Right now, as I'm talking to you, we're in a bus, which is great. Every band I was in before this, we toured in vans and crashed on people's couches," said Williams. "But now that we're in a bus, with someone else driving, we can actually enjoy touring."

The members of The Head and the Heart decided from the start that they were going to try to stay focused on the music and having fun, and to keep the fans in mind at all times.

One episode that helped them focus on that idea came early on -- in Boise, Idaho, in 2009. The band played a "weird, lackluster show" at a club there, Williams said. But at least one guy really liked the band, and he invited it to play at his pizza parlor right after the show.

"We had a great time, and I think that's when we realized we didn't have to do traditional things or even use traditional instruments. Just be who we are," said Williams. "When we're not touring, some (of the band's members) go to downtown Seattle and just play on the streets with the other buskers."

Does that mean we'll see The Head and the Heart banging out tunes in the Old Port this week?

"If we have time, we're pretty open to anything," Williams said.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:


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