Change. It can either kill a group or ascend them to a new level of greatness. With Sunday Morning Record, the winds of change helped to push Austin, TX’s Band of Heathens into a whole new realm of craftsmanship that places the creative process of chief songwriting duo Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist into the stratosphere of the heroes they emulate. And that homebrew of Texas outlaw country and classic college jangle pop they’ve been slow cooking for nearly a decade comes to fall-off-the-bone perfection on their excellent fourth album. The 11 new songs on Sunday Morning Record adroitly chronicle the whirlwind of events surrounding their collective creation and go down as easy as the time of day represented in the album title, highlighted by such winning numbers as “Shotgun,” “Caroline Williams” and “Records in Bed.” Mr. Jurdi took some time out of BoH’s current touring schedule (which includes a performance at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar in Austin on 12/22) to chat with Jambands about Sunday mornings and Texas politics.
What is it about a Sunday morning that inspired you to title the new record as such?
Sunday Morning symbolizes a bit of a quieter time, it’s really the last bastion of time and space where we can kind of turn off the outside world for a little while and take things at a bit more of a leisurely pace.
What is your favorite thing to do on a Sunday morning, personally?
Hang around with my family, enjoy a nice long breakfast, listen to some good music and take a walk. It’s always a good time to clear your head and entertain some simple pleasures.
How did you approach the writing of these songs following the departure of Colin Brooks?
The only thing that really changed about the writing is that Colin wasn’t there to collaborate with, but Gordy and I wrote individually and together, as we always have and there wasn’t a whole lot of change in that dynamic.
Do you feel writing as a duo rather than a trio has brought about different ideas?
I do think it’s allowed us to bring in different ideas and explore particular musical avenues in more detail. Within having more ideas to work from, we were also able to have a bit more focus and direction because we were really able to create a unified vision, which I’m not sure we ever really fully realized in the past.
What albums were you listening to during the time you were making Sunday Morning Record and how did they slip into the creation of the album, if they did?
Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again
Vetiver- To Find Me Gone and Tight Knit
Jackson Browne- Late for The Sky
Bahamas- Pink Strat, Bar Chords
Pink Floyd- Meddle
Gregg Allman- Laid Back
Blake Mills- Break Mirrors
These records just gave us some ideas about the sonic palette that we were shooting for. They all are pretty atmospheric and have a lot of space and air in them. We wanted to strip it back a bit on this record and really let the lyrics and melody breathe by creating space in the arrangements. Plus, these records are all killer and were super inspiring to listen to while we were hanging out.
How did working on the record inside someone’s house as opposed to a conventional studio affect its outcome?
It created a more relaxed environment and really helped foster the creative atmosphere. There was no clock watching or pressure to get stuff done in a hurry. We had time to develop ideas and see them through.
Do you feel the warmth of a lived-in home crept into the sound of the album?
For sure. Vibe is so important when you’re making art or music, it really informs everything. We had our records going between takes, to clear our heads, the Daigen-Koh incense burning, good coffee, wine and sundries. Early in the day, we’d sit around in the living room and play the songs down on acoustic guitars or piano and just build it up from there. By the end of the day we’d have one or two songs tracked, so the workflow was really good. It was easily the most conducive environment to being creative that we’ve ever worked in. Everyone was in a very positive open space. I have to give George Reiff and Steve Christensen a lot of credit for allowing us to be loose and focus solely on playing music and creating moments, which is ultimately the goal when you’re making records.
Given that you guys are from Texas, what are your thoughts on Ted Cruz?
He pretty much seems like he’s towing a pretty predictable and boring party line. He’s playing off of people’s fears and I don’t see much original thought or solution based work being done by him.
How about Rick Perry?
He has nice hair.
Are you optimistic that Texas has the potential to be a more progressive state given the rise of such political figures as Wendy Davis and the Castro brothers? Does Wendy Davis have a shot at defeating Greg Abbott in the next gubernatorial race?
I think Wendy Davis was able to bring some attention to an important issue and create a bit of a public dialogue, which is always a good thing. That’s ultimately the first step in people becoming educated about issues and allowing them to vote or make decisions based on facts and knowledge as opposed to just voting blindly one way or the other. In terms of her having a chance in the gubernatorial race, that would really be a question best answered by James Carville and Mary Matalin, they get paid to talk about that sort of thing.