If you stand at the top of the Sandia Mountains and look southeast you can almost see the glow of Austin, TX on the horizon. But if you were up there on the last weekend of May 2015, Austin was all around you. Austin’s own The Band of Heathens played in Las Alamos on Friday, Taos on Saturday, and on Sunday the 31st they played in Albuquerque.
Just as sound check was getting started I stepped into the green room of Albuquerque’s The Dirty Bourbon. Sitting there was Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist of The Band of Heathens. They looked like you would expect musicians that have been out on the road a few weeks would look; a little tired but in a groove and relaxed.
After polite introductions I started the interview with questions about Austin. Albuquerque and Austin are only 700 miles apart and I have heard a few Albuquerque musicians talking about moving there. “I heard an ad online that claimed Austin was one of the top music cities in the world. What do you think of that claim?” Quist replied “I think it is a pretty lively scene. People go out and see live music and there are a ton of venues and a ton of bands. It is a great place for live music. There isn’t a whole lot of industry there, it‘s more of an artists community. [The industry] isn’t here like it is in New York, Nashville, or LA.” I then asked about being a band out of Austin and if it that label adds any pressure? Jurdi replied “It is hard to say. We came out of Austin, that is how the band started. I’m not sure [it adds pressure] because we don’t know it any other way.” Quist added “I think we do benefit from being an Austin band. When people around the country, and around the world even, hear that an Austin band is touring they pay attention.”
During the bands personnel shakeup in 2011 Jurdi moved to North Carolina and now that a few years have passed I wondered how this arrangement has worked out. “It is hard but when you make a commitment to do something you find a way to make it work.” Jurdi replied.
“There isn’t a blueprint for how it is supposed to work.” — Ed Jurdi
“Has the dust settled from the shakeup?” I asked. Quist said with a smile “Yeah it has been a few years and this feels like the band now. Everyone has been around for awhile now and it has gelled into a cohesive unit.” They have continued to tour for their latest album Sunday Morning Record so I asked if it feels good to be out on the road. Jurdi replied “We never really stopped. We got some new guys in the band and even though what we do is informed by where we started we are always trying to push the boundaries and stay creative.”
“Onward and upward.” — Gordy Quist
Jurdi also mentioned that they are working on a new album and hope to get it out by the beginning of next year. “We are going to be on the road all summer, playing some of the new songs.” We wrapped up the interview and the two of them headed out to sound check. As the sound engineer adjusted levels I heard them testing out a few of those new songs they mentioned. During their set they did seem like a “cohesive unit”, playing a mix of songs from their past albums and current. Just as they were closing their set they played one of their new songs for the crowd, which was about New Mexico.