Guessing what the Head and the Heart will do next has become the most persistent parlour game in Seattle clubland of late. The six-piece Americana group has become the city’s hottest unclaimed commodity since Robin Pecknold’s Fleet Foxes emerged in 2008, and rumors, replete with big record label names, big money and big question marks, are flying. The only thing that can be said with any certainty is that the Head and the Heart, which has been together for just a year, is well on its way to becoming Seattle’s next hugely popular musical export.
Seemingly incapable of saying “no,” the band has played almost all of the many shows it has been offered in the last two months and has, uniformly, blown any other bands on the bill out of the water. Next week, the band will play two nights at the Paramount Theatre, opening for wildly popular indie pop group Vampire Weekend in front of what looks to be a sell-out crowd of 2800 each night.
At the band's Saturday performance at Berbati's Pan in Portland for MusicfestNW, the crowd was more modest, but by the end, most of the two hundred gathered were converts, many stomping, pumping their fists and singing along to the band’s trademark three-part harmonies.
The next day the six bandmates sat at a bar in Southeast Portland, sipping PBRs and talking about when, exactly, everything started to change.
Charity Thielen, violin player, one of three singers and the only woman in the band, was the first to venture a guess.
Read more after the jump.
“I think the first sign we had that something special was happening was when we went to Salt Lake City to open a record release show for a friend’s band.”
Having just finished recording its debut album, the Head and the Heart had yet to actually press it, she said. Still, they brought a box of burned CD-R copies to sell for five bucks each. The band sold twenty-six of them, far more than the headliner. Since coming out in June, that self-released, self-titled album has continued to move. The band sold sixty-five copies at a late-August show opening for Grand Hallway at the Tractor Tavern, a number equaling twenty percent of the venue's capacity. Two weeks before, 107 copies made their ways into the hands of new Head and the Heart fans after a show the band played with Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band at Seattle Center's Mural Amphitheatre. The record has never dropped below number four on East Street Records top-seller list. The band, which had the optimistic goal of selling its first 1,000-run pressing by the end of the year, has already ordered the album's third pressing.
A promising beginning. But what will the Head and the Heart be doing with all that promise?
For the most part, the bandmembers are keeping their lips sealed, though their smiles reveal the truth to, at the very least, the spirit of those rumors. On the record, though, singer, guitarist and tambourine man Josiah Johnson will say that the band recently took a big step by signing on with Ali Hedrick, the Billions Corporation booking agent responsible for an impressive stable of artists including AC Newman, Crooked Fingers and Neko Case. It was she that put the band in the Paramount, and it is she who will start saying “no” to shows so the band doesn’t have to.
Photo by April Brimer