A Fiendish Conversation with the Head and the Heart's Tyler Williams
The drummer discusses the band's writing process and more before playing two sold out Paramount gigs.
Seattle's demand for soaring, heartfelt harmonies is unrelenting, but local folk rock heroes of the Head and the Heart are doing their best to satiate the (politely) frenzied masses. The band returns the the stage for two sold out shows at the Paramount Theatre this weekend (Feb 21 & 22). For those lucky enough to snag a ticket, expect a mix of tunes from the group's latest album—Let’s Be Still—and older favorites like the showstopping (and probable show ending) “Rivers and Roads.” The rest of us can take solace knowing that we can still get a the Head and the Heart fix this week when the band releases its new music video for "Another Story."
For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with the Head and the Heart drummer Tyler Williams about the band's writing process, keeping up his chops with psychedelic drumming, and clichéd but necessary rituals.
From a sonic standpoint, how have you guys transitioned to playing bigger venues like Key and the Paramount? The last time I saw the Head and the Heart play was at KeyArena for Deck the Hall Ball in December, and I was really impressed by the way your sound filled that cavernous space.
I think it’s been a pretty natural transition, actually. We’ve kind of been following this career path slow and steady. We’ve never wanted to be a band that just blew up out of the gate. We wanted to follow something more like the Wilcos or the My Morning Jackets of the world. So it’s never really felt like we’ve overstepped where we are as a band in relation to the venues that we’re playing. And I think a lot of that has to do with our sound guy, Alejandro Irragorri, who is a local Seattle guy, and he goes with us everywhere because he knows exactly who we are as a band. He’s good at translating that to those spaces.
Has your drumming changed as the venues have gotten progressively bigger?
I think on a larger stage or in a larger room, every gesture, every hit has to be exaggerated a little bit more. And that’s what we’ve come to realize; if you’re going to make a big impact, you to also be able to just kind of put things in that headspace, you know? You kind of have to go into it knowing that you have to up the game a little bit more.
How have the songs from Let’s Be Still grown from a live perspective since the album was released?
I think we definitely bring a lot of energy to those songs, especially “Shake.” I think everybody adds a little bit of their own flavor every night, you know, like, “What can I get away with without being too in your face with it?” You never want people to kind of notice those things. It’s for yourself; a little added fill or whatever just to make you happy while you’re playing every night. But we’ve always, we made the record where we were at the time. It’s just continued to grow, you know, with us. These songs are part of who we are so we kind of give them they energy that they need.
When you’re adding those little embellishments, do you ever catch yourself and go, “Oh, that didn’t work at all.”
Yeah, there are definitely those moments. And then there are other moments, when you catch it and you’re like, “Whoa, that was really cool. I wish I did that on the record.” You get both sides of the coin.
You also play in the band Avers. How do you manage your time between bands to not spread yourself to thin?
I don’t really like time off, really. I’m definitely the kind of person that wants to stay busy and wants to work a lot. So it’s not really an issue.
You just always want to be playing.
Yeah. Luckily with the Head and the Heart, our shows now seem to be more about quality shows than quantity of shows. So we’re not totally killing ourselves out there like we were that first couple of years. We’re playing smarter, not harder. For Avers, it’s kind of like like, “Well that’s great, let’s do two weeks when you can.” I just love the idea of playing in a psychedelic rock band, too. It helps out to enjoy the music that your playing.
So Avers acts as kind of a refresher that allows you to play a totally different style?
Yeah, totally a refresher. And it keeps the chops up. When you’re off the road for two months and have shows with another band that is exponentially harder drumming, just by virtue of the music itself, it definitely prepares you for the next two weeks on the road with a different band.
Do you have any pre-show routines?
Personally, I like to stretch a lot and probably have like a beer or two. But then we all gather in a circle right before and we put our hands in. The whole fucking cliché thing. But it makes a big difference when we do that. It really helps us get into the show.
Have you guys started working on any new material? Is the Head and the Heart constantly writing or do you kind wait out the album cycle and start writing when you hit the studio?
Well, Jon and Josiah and Charity always have ideas coming to them. So they kind of create a catalog and then when we get to a point—it may happen in the middle of the record, it may happen at the end—where we all just feel like we want to start working on new stuff. It even happens a lot in sound checks. On the last record, we definitely waited until the record touring was done, because we were so focused on that and doing so much promotion, radio station stops, and touring that you can’t really focus on being in a creative headspace. They’re two totally different things: Touring and making music. So I think we’ll get to a point where they’ve created enough material on their own that they’ll bring it to us and we’ll start working on it. Hopefully soon. I’ve heard some stuff, and I love it, so I’m excited for the future.
The Head and the Heart
Feb 21 & 22 at 8, Paramount Theatre, sold out