With their eighth studio album, Simple Things, The Band of Heathens came home—geographically, as they returned to their longtime base of Austin for the recording; sonically, in an embrace of the rootsy, guitar-based rock with which they made their name; and thematically, with lyrics that speak to appreciating friends and family and our limited time on this planet. It’s a confident, assured statement of a group finding its place in the world amid uncertain and troubled times.
“It was a return to embracing our influences, our natural instincts, the way we sound when we get on stage,” says guitarist-vocalist Gordy Quist. “Many times in the past, we'd take a song and stretch to make it into something else sonically, because that's exciting and fun to do in the studio. This time around, we tried to use some restraint and embraced our first instincts, trusting the songs were strong enough. With the subject matter, there’s a sentiment of focusing on what's important as we go through this journey together—don't waste time, because this is all we've got.”
“Gordy and I each have a natural sound when we sing, but there's something even more special and unique when our voices blend together” says guitarist-vocalist Ed Jurdi. “So it was just about harnessing and embracing that. Good, mid-tempo rock and roll—that's our breadbasket, and there's not a lot of that music being made right now.”
Though the members of The Band of Heathens now live scattered across the country, coming back to Austin (where they first formed in the early 2000s when Quist and Jurdi were among four songwriters playing regular weekly sets at the late, lamented club Momo's) was crucial to the making of Simple Things. “The city has grown and undergone many changes over the years, but the intangibles that make Austin a unique place are still alive and well,” says Jurdi. “I feel like the band wouldn't have come together anywhere else. As Austin has evolved, the band has evolved too, and now coming back feels like a very full circle moment.”
They worked in a studio called the Finishing School, which was founded by the band’s close friend and sometime producer George Reiff; Quist took over the studio after Reiff passed away in 2017, and upgraded with gear including three of Freddie Mercury's actual vocal mics, which have previously been used on recordings by David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, and AC/DC. “It’s our own communal space and we’re very comfortable there,” says Quist.
In some ways, the new album is a logical extension of Remote Transmissions, the livestream series that Band of Heathens started soon after the pandemic shut down the world in 2020 (and which was documented in last year’s Remote Transmissions, Vol. 1 album). Unable to tour, the group convened every week for a year, playing covers of songs new and old, responding to a disorienting time by reconnecting with music they love.