The Band of Heathens’ Ed Jurdi Talks New Music and Putting on a Rock N’ Roll Show (9/18 at City Winery)

Despite their 2008 song, “Philadelphia” (off of Live at Antone’s), the majority of The Band of Heathens’ local appearances seem to take place outside of the city, such as...

Despite their 2008 song, “Philadelphia” (off of Live at Antone’s), the majority of The Band of Heathens’ local appearances seem to take place outside of the city, such as Sellersville Theater and Ardmore Music Hall.  However, this coming Monday, September 18th, the Austin-based Americana rock band will be headlining our very own City Winery.  The group, led by dual lead vocalists and songwriters Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist, are currently touring behind their eighth studio album, Simple Things, which dropped in March, and which American Songwriter called, “A rolling thunder of bluesy Americana, thumping country, and rumbling rock and roll… True-to-themselves outliers of the music industry devoted to creating music on their own terms.”

“I think across the board, universally – critics, fans, and live audiences – the album has been getting great reactions,” Ed Jurdi tells me during a recent phone chat.  However, he tells me that there were a number of audiences who gave the band some advance praise for this batch of songs: “We got a pretty good indication when we started playing a few of the songs live, before the album was out, and the fans really liked them, which doesn’t always happen!”

Simple Things had the group — currently scattered across the country — returning to Austin to record the album and get in touch with their roots, both geographically and musically.  They worked on the album in The Finishing School, a studio founded by longtime friend and occasional producer George Reiff, which was taken over by Quist after Reiff passed in 2017.  The LP built upon the momentum of Remote Transmissions, a livestream series that The Band of Heathens started during lockdown, which had the band getting together once a week to play covers of some of their favorite songs while unable to tour (You can hear many of these on 2022’s Remote Transmissions, Vol. 1, which features appearances from many of the group’s musical friends, including Margo Price, Butch Walker, and Nicki Bluhm.)

Over the course of the past few months, The Band of Heathens have released acoustic renditions of Simple Things‘ title track and “I Got the Time.”  Jurdi tells me that, with the way fans consume music in the digital age, it’s nice to be able to give them something new on a regular basis.  But he also tell me that these singles are going to eventually be part of something bigger: “There’s gonna be a full-length release of the album in acoustic format.”  He explains that he enjoys that the acoustic versions tend to sound closer to their original demo versions, giving fans a chance to hear what are essentially the origins of each track.

The Band of Heathens are currently on a pretty massive US tour that has them playing at a plethora of listening rooms, taverns, theatres, and festivals.  I ask Jurdi if he has any shows he’s especially excited about, and he tells me, “We’ve been touring so long that we have friends in every city,” but does admit, “It’ll be nice to be at AmericanaFest again, and back at Mountain Stage.”  When I ask if the band approaches performances differently, depending on the setting, he says that, while they take things like that into consideration, they always have the same ultimate goal: “The idea is to put a setlist together with a lot of engaging musical moments for the audience, but we change up the setlist every night…  A festival show might be a bit bigger, and smaller listening rooms might lean a little more on the acoustic stuff.”

I ask Jurdi what can be expected of their upcoming gig at the city’s newest listening room, and he tells me, “The general vibe is a rock n’ roll show, but with City Winery, it will probably be a little more of an understated affair.”  And while the band is still having tons of fun playing the songs of Simple Things, he tells me that all fans of The Band of Heathens can expect to hear something they know and like: “There will be lots of the new album, but also some older stuff for longtime fans, and also for casual fans who maybe only know a few songs.  It’ll be a little bit of everything.”

Opening the show will be Americana singer/songwriter Lilly Hiatt.  And while — based on her appearances at Boot & Saddle and Johnny Brenda’s — I would highly recommend showing up for her 7:30 set, Ed tells me that you may expect to see her later in the evening, as well: “We played with her last night in Kansas City, which was the first night of our dates together, and we’re now scheming up some ways to collaborate with her each night, which will be fun for us and give the fans something special.”

Their current batch of dates will have The Band of Heathens on the road through late fall, when they return to Austin to play Paramount Theatre on November 18th, but they’re set to play The Musicfest Steamboat the very first week in January.  Curious what Ed and the band have planned for their brief time off, he tells me that he actually plans to spend much of the time working on new music: “I’m looking forward to having some downtime, some family downtime, but also to work on writing.  We’re always writing, but it can be hard to write on the road, so I’m hoping to have some time at home to sit down and hopefully finish working out some of the stuff that we’ve started.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.