Sometimes, hardship or change can bring a wellspring of new creativity. For the Americana-steeped Band of Heathens, that lemonade-from-lemons dynamic came to the fore with their album release of this past spring, “Simple Things.”
“This record came from the shift in perspective after all the things we’d done in our entire career were taken away,” said Jordi Quist, one of the band’s founding members. He’s referencing the period of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, during which most performing artists came to a required halt in touring.
He said the band took a “fresh look” at things during those times.
“We found a part of our lives that we’d never explored after being on the road for 20 years,” Quist explained. He said they had time to explore the “simple things” of life.
“There was a personal introspective aspect to the record,” he said. Still, the idea of a supporting tour also brought a “playful energy” about getting back into the fray and hitting the road again, renewed.
What they’ve delivered over almost two decades is clearly appreciated; Band of Heathens has received some high-profile opportunities and accolades. They’ve appeared on TV shows – including Austin City Limits – and have been nominated for awards by organizations such as the Americana Music Association. They’ve charted highly on the Americana charts.
Quist said it does not get old for them or fans because they frequently change things.
“There’s a different set list every night; you’ll never see the same set twice,” he assured. “The backbone of our band is playing live, and each night, there’s lots of improvisation.”
Over the past 18 years, they’ve kept delivering music “directly to the fans.”
“We’ve been out of the mainstream our entire career,” Quist said.
Band of Heathens created a value-added place for their biggest supporters to ramp up this direct contact further. It’s an online community on the Patreon platform, where the band does special live streaming, online chats, and more. It’s called the Good Time Supper Club. Quist calls it “kind of a cool space for the hardcore fans.”
They’ve toured widely this year to support “Simple Things,” including a fall outing in the western U.S. that they’re just wrapping up. It ends mid-November with three shows Quist said he’s looking forward to. They’re all in Texas, near the band’s home turf of Austin. They see those gigs as a celebration of 18 years.
Quist is also looking ahead to 2024 when Band of Heathens heads out to sea to perform aboard a “Sandy Beaches” Caribbean cruise in January. That same month, they can also be seen at events such as MusicFest in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and Mile 0 Fest in Key West, Florida.
However, the band will promote an additional special release before the year finishes. Quist and bandmate Ed Jurdi decided to re-cut the entirety of “Simple Things” as a duo. It was stripped down and all-acoustic. It started with one song, and then…they just kept going. It was a bare-bones reimagining of the same tracks.
“It turned out so cool, we decided this needs to be an actual release,” Quist said. As a result, fans are treated to the duo record “Simpler Things,” a companion recording that offers a fitting, clever title. Just when it seemed the introspection couldn’t possibly get more pared-down and bare…it does.
“In some ways, we can’t believe we’re still doing this after all these years, and we’re feeling as creative as we ever have,” Quist assured. “All of us in this band are very fortunate to have families that give support. Our lives strike a balance between being present with our lives and families and also with the band. “We have no idea how it ever happened, but we’re grateful that it has."