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The Head and the Heart interview

We caught up with Tyler Williams from the wonderful band The Head and the Heart.

The Head & The Heart
Credit: James Minchin

The Head and the Heart have been together for almost eight years now.

Hailing from all over the US, the band formed together in Seattle. They have released three albums and their latest album – Signs of Light is their most personal to date. They are huge in their native US where they have toured relentlessly and they are ready to rock at the Coachella festival this year. They are currently in the middle of a European tour and tonight, they headline at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire (we’re a little bit excited for this)!

They are gaining more and more fans here in the UK, mainly through word of mouth. Their music is in the similar ilk as Monsters of Men, or The Lumineers, who have also enjoyed enormous success over here in the UK. Their energy on stage is intoxicating and they have a warm and familiar feel to them. They are true artists. The band got their name from the old adage, do you do what your head tells you to do, or do you do what your heart tells you to do? As Josiah explained: Your head is telling you to be stable and find a good job, but you know in your heart that this is what you’re supposed to do even if it’s crazy. Founder member Josiah is currently on a hiatus from the band, to focus on his health issues and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Here is my interview with Tyler Williams from The Head and the Heart.

Hello and welcome back to the UK! How are you doing today?

Feeling good. The tour has been going absolutely amazing. We had no idea that the new stuff would be so well received over here.

The last time we saw you play in the UK was at the intimate Hoxton Hall and we loved it! There were a lot of fans who gathered outside the Hoxton Hall that evening, trying in vain to get a ticket to the sold out gig. I’ve spoken to a few of your fans who are very excited to see you playing a bigger venue on your visit here this time. What can we expect from your Shepherd’s Bush gig?

For one thing, we’ll have some actual room to move around! Hoxton was cool and very intimate. Shepherd’s Bush will be more like our shows stateside. Keeping the energy high and having a good one.

Apart from the weather, what do you like the most about being in London?

We all really dig the diversity of London. There are so many different cultures squeezed into the city. All the food is amazing and the architecture is obviously stunning. Tons of old stuff for us to stare at; your convenience stores are older than America!

Have you been influenced by many UK bands/artists?

Of course The Beatles have had a huge impact on us all pretty much from birth. Our parents grew up in full US Beatlemania. David Bowie was a huge inspiration to study his artistic growth through the years. Bloc Party, The Maccabees, all of the angular guitar rock from the mid aughts. You guys have quite the collection of music.

After taking time out from touring, what was it like to go back to playing live? And what are you favourite songs to play live?

It was actually really fresh and creative. We didn’t realize how much we missed it until we started playing shows again. There’s nothing like feeling the vibrations of a crowd screaming before you walk on. Our favourites change nightly but I’ve been really into Rhythm & Blues and Another Story lately – feel good tunes.

Do the US and UK crowd act differently when they see you performing?

I think it’s a challenge we always step up to when we come to the UK. American crowds are a bit rowdier maybe? I think inherently, the UK has birthed and been a part of great rock and pop music since early last century so naturally, there’s a little bit of scepticism about a band coming over from the US. That said, it’s so much fun to watch a crowd go from arms crossed to dancing and singing along as the set progresses.

You’ve toured extensively. What goes on in your tour bus? Do you have any secrets to share with us?

Lots of movies. We’re fiends for anything from the 90’s. It does not matter how shitty the movie is, we’re sticking it out. We usually have some drinks and maybe a dance party as the bus rolls to the next city, it depends on the mood of the night.

What was it like working with Jay Joyce on the record?

It was rewarding. We went in having never worked with a producer before so there were definite obstacles we had to overcome to become a better band. A lot of those obstacles we put on ourselves and some Jay added to the mix on purpose. It was a bit of a high stake experiment for us. We brought in fully formed songs and I think he elevated us to a level we weren’t able to achieve before.

Do you mind if we ask you how Josiah is doing and can we expect to see him back in the band at some point in the near future?

He’s good! We talk regularly and visit him when we can. Our focus is his health. It takes time to recover from such a serious issue and we are trying to create the space he needs to do so. We can’t wait to play with him again.

Who would you like to work with in the future, perhaps on your next album?

That’s a tough question because we usually like to have the songs written before we decide who could handle them properly. For now, I’m really intrigued by Justin Raisen’s work on Angel Olsen’s My Woman, it’s such a stunning record with amazing clarity yet good grit when needed. I also would love to work with Rostam Batmanjli at some point. His album with Hamilton Leithauser was my top record of 2016.

I have heard so much about the Seattle music scene and it’s on my list of places to go and check out! What’s it like there at the moment?

It’s rainy at the moment. But seriously, the music scene is a very nurturing, supportive beast. We were very fortunate to somehow find each other in that city. There is a ton of great feminist punk coming from the Hardly Art label, always lots of electronic music being made. It’s a special town.

The Head and the Heart’s album Sign of Light is available now.

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