Austin Americana act Band of Heathens conquers the country with three songwriters, invading all influences

Band of Heathens
10 p.m. Friday
Wormy Dog Saloon
311 E. Sheridan

If music were a sprawling party, Band of Heathens would be an unpredictable guest who moves about the room, hanging with everyone. Sure, the Texas quintet keeps with the Americana crowd, but that hardly describes it.

Of course, when there are three songwriters, that’s expected.

“I don’t know where or how we fit; it seems sometimes, we don’t really fit. And we don’t really worry about it,” said multi-instrumentalist Gordy Quist. “A bunch of our fans what would call us a Texas country, some people would call us a jam band, and others would call it singer/songwriter-based rock ‘n’ roll.  There’s no formula. It’s honestly dictated by what mood we’re in.”

Their genesis wasn’t planned, either. Quist, Colin Brooks and Ed Jurdi were playing a weekly showcase in Austin for a while. They played one after another, until it was suggested they try doing it as just one long set.  

“It started off really loose, but when we actually started harmonizing together and singing three to four people at a time, that’s when we all looked around and thought, ‘This is something special,'” Quist said.

Things grew from there, as they discovered there was strength in numbers. Together, they added up to more than the sum of their parts.

“That’s the beauty of the group, and I think that’s why we enjoy it so much is that there are other ears to bounce things off of,” Quist said. “When I bring a song to the group or an idea that may become a song, I go in with no expectations of how it’s going to turn out, because it usually turns out pretty differently from how I envisioned it. That’s just the band doing their thing on it.”

Band of Heathens began in 2006 with a live album, before going into the studio with Ray Wylie Hubbard to record its eponymous 2008 debut, a rousing success that climbed to the top of the Americana charts.

Before last year’s “One Foot in the Ether,” they weighed several offers, including a five-record deal, but they had such success releasing it themselves, they opted to go it alone again.

“Ether” feels like a progression from the first album. There’s a more polished, unified vibe to the songs that probably speaks to the musicians’ growing comfort together as one unit. After all, the disc wasn’t even recorded at the same time, but in a series of short, two- to three-day sessions initially intended for brainstorming, but proved so good, the act released the recordings as-is.

The groovy, soulful undercurrent really resembles The Band, and Quist has no complaints about the comparison: “People say that, and we’ll take it every time, because we’re big fans.” “Chris Parker

Chris Parker

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