[OK] Feb 2012 - Vol 9, No 1
TULSA, Okla - With a sound that has drawn comparisons to The Band, The Jayhawks, Little Feat, The Black Crowes and even some funky Dr. John thrown in for good measure, Austin’s Band of Heathens may very well embody that nebulous catchall known as Americana music. Hard to categorize, but easy to love, BOH’s music rocks, twangs, grooves and boogies with plenty of impressive playing and no lack of emphasis on vocals and lyrics.
Generally speaking, BOH started when three young songwriters, Gordy Quist, Ed Jurdi and Colin Brooks, went from performing regular separate sets at the same club in Austin to sitting in with each other and swapping songs. Rounding out the band with Seth Whitney on bass and John Chipman on drums, BOH was nominated for Americana Music Association awards in the categories of “Best Emerging Duo or Group” in 2009 and “Best Duo or Group” in 2010. A recent personnel change, the departure of Colin Brooks from the group, has trimmed the number of lead vocalists/songwriters from three to two, but the band is rockin’ on.
BOH will perform an acoustic concert at Tulsa’s All Soul Acoustic Coffeehouse on Saturday, February 4. I recently spoke with band member Gordy Quist about the band and the upcoming show. When I caught up with Quist, BOH had just performed some of its first shows without Brooks.
“I think it changes things a little bit for us,” Quist commented. “We kind of approached everything new without him being there. It’s not like, ‘oh we’re going to keep playing songs the same way, it’s just that his part won’t be there’,” he laughed. “We’re not really approaching it that way. We’re trying to actually completely look at the songs as a five piece now instead of a six piece and are rearranging things. So, it’s different for sure, but I don’t think it’s lacking in any way. It’s just different. I think it’s still a powerful show. Everyone in the band is actually really excited about reworking these tunes and everything seemed to be really well received last weekend. It seemed like a lot of the fans were excited about a newer, different sound.”
Although BOH is well known for dynamic, energetic live performances, trading vocals and guitar licks throughout, their sound transitions easily to an acoustic set. “I think when we unplug and do the acoustic shows, it’s kind of in a different dimension as far as the feel,” Quist remarked. “The harmonies and the songs are showcased a little bit more. With the electric show, those are still a big part of the show, but sometimes the energy of the electricity can overshadow that. I think the songs and the harmonies might come through a little more with the acoustic show.”
Music critics have favorably compared BOH to some of the seminal Americana bands, and according to Quist, these are the very artists these young musicians idolized growing up. “Like Little Feat, for example,” Quist said, considering BOH’s influences. “Some of the other guys listened to them a lot growing up. I got into them later. I grew up with parents who were really into music, and it was the Beatles and the Stones and Dylan in my house, you know. I think for all of us, we were pretty fortunate to have families that were big music fans, and so we grew up listening to a lot of music that our parents listened to, and I’m grateful for that because I think some of the best music that’s been made was made in that era.” Quist paused, then continued, “Although, there’s still a ton of great music being made today, I would say. There’s a bunch of modern bands that we’re big fans of as well.”
BOH’s latest recording, Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son, was released in March of 2011. The album has been well received by critics and fans alike. The Quist-penned song, “Polaroid”, is reminiscent of a Jayhawks’ tune, a comparison Quist finds flattering. “I’m a huge Jayhawks’ fan,” he said. “I actually just met those guys back in October at a festival in San Francisco.”
Quist continued, “On the pop side of things, the Beatles, to me, are obviously the ultimate and that doesn’t even need to be stated because everyone states it. I think, as a band, there’s a pretty wide swath of influences if you add everybody’s influences together because everyone comes from a different place. Ed (Jurdi) brings a ton of soul music to the band, whether it’s Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett, some of the Motown stuff. I think I probably bring a little bit of the country and folk side of things.”
I think there are a lot of different aspects to American music,” Quist mused. “One of the fun things about playing in this band is that we don’t just play folk music or just play country music or just play r&b music. We really kind of mash it all together and have fun with it.”
Whatever the future holds for BOH, it’s clear that music will play a role in Quist’s life for years to come. “I don’t think I’ve been without a band since I was maybe 13, so I’ve always been playing in bands and playing music. But I didn’t necessarily plan on it being a career after I finished college. I actually did go play in a band for like six months, but then that band broke up, and I went and got a normal job.”
Working that normal job for a year without playing music was hard for Quist. “What made me realize that I needed to play music was actually not doing it for a year because it was all I thought about and it was all I wanted to do. Every free moment I had away from whatever else I was doing, I was working out a song. I don’t know, it just consumed me, and the fact that I wasn’t doing it consumed me. So, for me, I think that’s when I realized,okay, I need to not just play music, but actually, I need to fully throw myself into this and there’s nothing else I can do where I won’t be thinking about music all the time.”
Tickets are still available for the Tulsa BOH show. For more information, go to www.allsoulcoffeehouse.com As Quist said of the upcoming performance, “For us, every show is different. We try to take chances and do a song different from the night before, so a lot of times we don’t even know what to expect...It’s a rock and roll band. Obviously, this evening it’s going to be an acoustic rock and roll band. It’s truly a band, you know. There’s not one front man; everybody contributes. I don’t really know how to put it other than that.” He laughed and continued, “I think it’s a pretty diverse show. I don’t think anyone will get bored.”