The Head and the Heart's eponymous first album was, by all measures, very successful. The self-released record landed the band on Conan and the Late Show with David Letterman, was 2010's top-selling album of the year at Sonic Boom Records, and was eventually picked up and re-released by Sub Pop. But if you ask singer and guitarist John Russell, it wasn't that big a deal.
"What’s funny is, I don’t feel like the first record did that well...I mean, I guess it did." he explains with a laugh.
But it's "Let's Be Still," which was released yesterday and is their first full-length studio release in four years, that Russell and the band, which includes Josiah Johnson, Charity Rose Thielen, Kenny Hensley, Tyler Williams, and Chris Zasche, are focusing on now.
"We were all really excited; I feel like we represented ourselves well. We put out the record we wanted to put out," he noted, which is impressive, considering they recorded it at break-neck speed after years spent touring the U.S. and Europe.
"We just sort of moved into the studio -- we were there from January until May -- and we'd record a couple of weeks at a time. We’d work from about 11:00 in the morning until about 2:00 the next morning. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we had to work a lot."
And if the album sounds more collaborative, it's because it is. This is the first time the band has produced together as a group.
"A lot of the writing was on and off the road, and it wasn’t really until last fall that, as a full band, we were able to work together. That was really different for us. " Russell explains.
Formed in 2009 in Ballard, The Head and the Heart handily found a place in Seattle's burgeoning music community, playing with other local acts like Death Cab for Cutie and even Dave Matthews. And, says, Russell, they probably wouldn't have been able to do that somewhere else.
"I don’t think this band would have been the same band if it had come out of Chicago or New York. You just can’t get away with the same things," he says.
"There are so many venues, there’s just a great infrastructure for the music scene. It just thrives there. I think somehow that city just did a really good job of attracting people who were interested in those things, and then supporting those people."
The support seems to have done the band right -- despite the years between album releases, The Head and the Heart has only been growing in popularity, playing festivals and venues across the country, both together and as soloists. And tonight, they'll play Letterman again, before heading out on another huge tour. Then in December, they'll be back in Seattle playing 107.7 The END's Deck the Hall Ball, alongside Phoenix and Vampire Weekend.
But, says Russell, they hope to make it back to the city for "a proper show" in a venue that's a little less giant.
"We'll definitely be back next year. We want to make sure we make it back."
The Head and the Heart will be performing tonight on The Late Show with Dave Letterman. "Let's Be Still" is available through The Head and the Heart's website. You can also stream it on SoundCloud. Tomorrow, the band will be participating in a Reddit AMA. For more information, visit their website.