The Head and the Heart
The Head and the Heart (photo by Alex Currie, PR)
The Head and the Heart
Everyone has to face change. Whether it is a subtle or life-altering shift, voluntary or forced, some degree of transformation is inevitable and unavoidable. How anyone — or any artist — navigates bumps in the road reflects the past and informs the future. And if any band knows their way around change, it's The Head and the Heart. One such recent period of intense uncertainty and recalibration, which the bandmates discussed during an FUV Live session earlier this year, has given way to the group's latest album, Living Mirage.
The path hasn't been smooth for the decade-old, Seattle-bred band. Back in the early days, The Head and the Heart featured guitarists and singers Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell, violinist Charity Rose Thielen, bassist Chris Zasche, keyboardist Kenny Hensley, and drummer Tyler Williams. After enjoying a good deal of success with their 2011 self-titled debut and 2013's Let’s Be Still, the group hit a crossroads when Johnson took a hiatus to deal with drug and alcohol dependency. Later in 2016, Signs Of Light, was released and The Head and the Heart, fully supporting Johnson’s decision, persevered. In the aftermath of Signs Of Light, The Head and the Heart took stock of themselves and their situation before beginning a fourth album.
New member Matt Gervais, Thielen’s husband, stepped in for Johnson and Hensley took a hiatus. The Head and the Heart made their way out to the Mojave Desert for a peaceful respite to find regeneration. They spent three weeks in the desert before parting. Zasche described this period in a press release as a “rebirth, a spirit quest of sorts.” For a brief time, Johnson returned to the fold, but his dynamic with the rest of the band had changed. Soon, Hensley returned, but Johnson bowed out once again, realizing there was no longer common ground.
The remaining members let go of fixed habits and roles and found a fresh means to an end. With energies heightened, lyrics and melodies started coming together, outside writers were brought in for additional help. Songs became more open and collaborative, some even born from collective jamming.
After this period of struggle and rebirth, it's no surprise that much of Living Mirage is introspective. But the arrangements are also richer and more pop-savvy than anything the band has done in the past. Produced by Tyler Johnson and Alex Salibian, Living Mirage is the sound of a band juggling tradition with fresh techniques and finding an exciting angle. “See You Through My Eyes,” “Brenda,” and “Honeybee” all boast synthesized rhythms. There's a little bit of a Bruce Hornsby vibe in the breezy “Running Through Hell” and on the album’s title track.
Russell's yearning voice, and an affirmative choral refrain, elevates the smooth production of “Missed Connection,” a stark reexamination of the group's fears during their period of upheaval. Finally, serving as a poignant coda to Living Mirage, is the acoustic “Glory Of Music,” a culmination of this emotionally-challenging journey.
The Head and the Heart is clearly not shying away from doing things that at one time might have been considered taboo for them. Four albums in, Living Mirage is the sound of a band dealing with difficult and turbulent internal issues and coming out on the other end revitalized. Their new direction might be a surprise for longtime fans, but that confluence of heady practicality and heartfelt reinvention surely suits a band that's living up to its name in a most vivid way.
Listen to The Head and the Heart's FUV Live session in Studio A, performing songs from Living Mirage.