The Band of Heathens
By Peter Cronin
With its well-deserved reputation as the live music capital of America, it's only logical that the most magical musical moments in Austin, Texas usually occur in bars. For rising Americana stars The Band of Heathens, that bar was 6th Street watering hole, Momo's. What started out as three distinctive singer/songwriters – Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist – sharing a steady Wednesday songwriter's night, organically evolved into a solid band before either of the principles could catch his breath.
"It's a rock and roll club, so we needed to put some juice on it," says SESAC affiliate Brooks. "We had a rhythm section there and immediately it didn't sound like a songwriter-in-the-round thing; it sounded like a band."
The audience agreed, and soon the hastily named Band of Heathens was packing them in on a weekly basis. The buzz eventually reached Fat Caddy Records owner John Patillo, who, sensing that something special was going on, offered the fledgling band the opportunity to record their live set for the label, a situation that led to the Band of Heathens' first-ever formal rehearsal.
"We figured if we're going to record this thing we better have a rehearsal," Brooks says with a laugh. "We didn't do anything but work on vocals, and that was really when it came to life for me. We're all guitar heads, and we love gear and amps and all that, but when it comes down to it, this band is made with the way we sing together."
Released in October, 2006, Live From Momo's showcased the band's shared songwriting sensibility, an unstoppable three-guitar instrumental onslaught and the kind of homegrown harmonies that immediately separated the Heathens from your run-of-the-mill Austin outfit. Fans and critics responded quickly and positively, and at the 2007 Austin Music Awards, the Band of Heathens took home the trophy for Best New Band, along with a slew of nominations ranging from Album and Song of the Year to Best Acoustic Guitar.
The Heathens followed up their successful debut with Live at Antone's, a combined CD/DVD release, before tapping Texas legend (and SESAC affiliate) Ray Wylie Hubbard to produce their first studio album. The self-titled project was released to universal acclaim in May, 2008.
"We're going on three years together, and it's been growing by leaps and bounds," Brooks enthuses. "We've had our share of fights but it's generally calm and a lot of fun … and we laugh a lot."