December 16th, 2008 by Bree
AUSTIN DAZE: I know this started this as an improv project. What made you consider going forward and making this more formal?
BAND OF HEATHENS: We were in a Roman Bath House together scrubbing each other’s backs. We were exfoliating.
AD: That would do it.
BOH: We were all doing individual shows, everyone was having a good time playing each other’s stuff, sharing each other’s girlfriend’s and wives—it was a real party.
AD: Exfoliating, baths, and wife swapping. Sounds like the perfect combination for a band.
BOH: Plus we’re all brothers—same mother different fathers. Pretty soon after that we all got on stage and it was fun and we just started doing it. Not long after that we decided to record and have it just for our own posterior. So at first we weren’t going to do anything with it, and then we decided to put it out—we realized we wouldn’t lose money on it, which is good.
AD: When you decided to do the live album, did you think, “Ok, we have to actually come up with some shit for this thing because they are going to record it?”
BOH: We had a rehearsal. Some of us got there at 7 and some of us got there at 9. We did about a half hour of stuff and wrote down about 12 or 15 songs we knew we wanted to get to in the show. We ended up doing two shows because some of them didn’t come out usable. There were some glitches.
AD: Performing glitches or recording glitches?
BOH: Performing glitches. And technical glitches. And tequila induced glitches. We weren’t the perfect band that we are now. We’ve really come a long way.
AD: And the Austin Music Awards. It’s been written a few times that that was an official turning point in deciding to do this. Is that a PR story or a real story?
BOH: We were pretty wrapped up full time at that point. That was icing on the cake. The project is probably three and a half years old, but it’s really only like a year and three quarters because it wasn’t until January 2007 that we really took anything seriously. That was our first tour. By the time the music awards came we had already played a lot and were doing what we wanted to do.
AD: This was such an organic thing when it started, did the dynamic change once you were doing something more official? Did you have to regroup? Did someone have to take the lead?
BOH: We weren’t sure what would happen but it stayed the same.
AD: Were you nervous about it?
BOH: No. I think it felt pretty natural with all the wife swapping that we had done.
AD: I guess once you’ve seen somebody else’s wife naked…
BOH: We also had Ray Wylie Hubbard to referee which turned out to be a bunch of fun and he just fit right into the vibe. His advice tended to revolve around, “Well that’s pretty good but I think you can make it a little cooler. Why don’t you go make it a little cooler.” Very specific stuff.
AD: How did he come on board?
BOH: Well like us, He’s seen fire and he’s seen rain. He’d seen sunny days he thought would never end. Ray does a radio show. We got invited to go down and do the show and we hit it off really great and he told us to come back next week so we did. And then really informally, we started talking to him about doing a record. So we bought him a tuna sandwich and the rest was history.
AD: What was that like?
BOH: The tuna sandwich was great. He’s great. He has really strong opinions but has a cool way of letting you know them. It’s not about, play this note here or lets go fix this, it’s just try it again and capture the vibe. It’s about the overall vibe; the bigger picture.
AD: You’re all talented in your own right, but do you think you had seen the bigger picture before?
BOH: We don’t really like what any of us do but we realize there isn’t anything we can do to change it.
AD: You suffer through.
BOH: It’s a band. Everyone came from a place where everyone was doing their own solo stuff. Now you may have written the song but everybody is going to have a final say in it. It’s about the extent of your final say; your involvement of how it is going to go. But that’s cool because that’s what makes it sound the way it does.
AD: You guys have had experienced both SXSW and ACL. What are some of the most obvious differences between the two?
BOH: We were like chickens with our heads cut off at SXSW. Both years at SXSW were like 18 gigs non stop. Last year was like, play for 14 minutes pack your stuff up and then go play for 17 minutes. It was still fun.
AD: And ACL?
BOH: ACL is taking it right to the people. You cut out the middle man. We’ve seen a lot of people come up to us at shows since ACL and said they saw us for the first time there. It seems to be having an impact that is pretty immediate. We did get a European record deal out of SXSW this year. It’s just different. What they have most in common is that there is a lot of press—that was the working part of the ACL show and the rest of the time we went and saw bands.
AD: How do you feel about dealing with the press? What about the business side of things? I see you have a list of people involved now.
BOH: They just do what we tell them to do. We’re very apprehensive about press and interviews in general.
AD: There is a lot of talk about bands going about the business differently, with Myspace and the whole “fuck the label” route. You guys seem to have both the traditional outlets and your own.
BOH: We released the record ourselves—raised the money for it and everything. The band definitely comes from the new model of doing it ourselves—we are very hands on; cut from that cloth. We are hands on about the website, the way the t-shirts look. We actually spin our own cotton.
AD: You stay up late making those shirts? Make the pattern?
AD: How’s that working for you?
BOH: Slow. We sell about three shirts a week.
AD: Let’s talk about the music a little bit. I’ve read a few times, “sounds like The Band.” How do you feel about that?
BOH: That’s a good one.
AD: What do you get that’s bad?
BOH: The Eagles. But if you want to cover one of our songs, we’ll talk. Early Eagles would be OK. Then again, how awesome did the Eagles do?
AD: What’s the worst band you could ever be compared to?
BOH: Richard Marx. Michael Bolton.
AD: What are you guys up to now? Are you writing? Recording?
BOH: Blogging. On the trials and tribulations of being a professional musicians. This record came out five months ago so we are going to ride that thing right into the ditch. We’d like to do another record sooner than later.
AD: Anything else you want to add? Some plugging and promo?
BOH: Come see us at the Saxon on Tuesday nights.