The Head and the Heart Interview: Good Awesome Rock n’ Roll is Inspiring

The Head and The Heart Charity Rose Thielen and Tyler Williams at Coachella. Interview with Nicole Hanratty, Saturday, April 12, 2014

If last year’s three sold-out shows at The Wiltern aren’t enough to raise your eyebrow, hearing that The Head and the Heart will be playing the Hollywood Bowl certainly will wake you up to the folk rock band that’s storming the live scene. The Head and the Heart’s current tour includes Governor’s Ball Music Festival in New York, Bonnaroo, Summerfest, Lollapalooza, and Squamish amongst others before they land at the coveted Los Angeles venue Hollywood Bowl on August 10, 2014.The Head and The Heart graced the Coachella Outdoor Theatre stage at the 5:20 time slot and LOAR’s Nicole Hanratty spent a few minutes chatting with two of the band members–Charity Rose Thielen (violin, vocals) and Tyler Williams (drums)–just before they hopped on stage. With 250,000 plus likes on facebook and 54,000 plus twitter followers, this indie folk rock band is carving out a niche of fans with their fun. meets Beatles sound.

Listen to free music from The Head and the Heart via SoundCloud

The band flew in from Edmonton Canada to play Coachella and then head home between the two weekends which is Seattle for Charity and Virginia for Tyler. We chat about everything from their style of music to Tyler’s potential just revealed in this interview new love interest.

I start by telling Charity and Tyler that I see The Head and the Heart not only as part of the folk indie revival but also a part of the movement bringing live music of a big band back which has been a lost art for quite some time. Tyler agrees but when I ask what the two feel their band’s role is in bringing back the idea of experiencing live music, he says he doesn’t feel they set out to change anything and shies away from taking any credit. “I don’t know, I feel like we never set out to change anything,” says Tyler. He adds, “I think we set out to just play what we felt honestly and what honestly represented who we are as people. And so, I think that’s what’s coming out on stage. That’s what we’re bringing back–is a little bit of our honesty and maybe more playfulness or openness.” Charity adds, “I think that it’s always…easy to be a touring band and kind of coast, you know? Because we play show after show. But I think throughout the ages, I think people who put so much energy and passion into your set–that will bring people to your shows because you’re caring, you’re giving such a shit about what you’re doing, that that’s attractive and people will be at least there getting their money’s worth. I hope, you know? I think it’s easy to have a more electronic band to coast or have more production but I think having live energy like Springsteen or McCartney or the greats, I mean that’s what makes them, gives them a career in playing live music. And I think it’s awesome to see in young artists today for sure. ”

The Head and The Heart “Down In The Valley” Official Video

I share with them my perception of The Head and the Heart’s sound as being a mix of OneRepublic and Mumford and Sons folk rock with a strong influence of the Beatles, especially in the song “Shake.” This makes Tyler smile and he nods his head in agreement. I ask who they personally feel influence their music. “For me personally,” answers Tyler, “I guess as a drummer I’m driven by bands like Wilco or The National, their drumming style is more kind of textured. I don’t really listen to a lot of acoustic based music, I usually tend towards something more electric or now even I’m into more electronic–not like dubstep or anything like that–but I’m kind of all over the map.” Charity shares, “I think I’m influenced definitely by the Beatles, Beach Boys for sure but also soul, musically, but also just like live performance. I love just good rock n’ roll. Springsteen, Nine Inch Nails, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, good awesome rock n’ roll is definitely inspiring.” “Good awesome rock n’ roll IS inspiring! You’re totally right!” I repeat her with enthusiasm and we laugh.

The band’s popularity grew so much between the release of their 2011 self titled first album and the follow-up second album “Let’s Be Still” that it changed where and which venues The Head and the Heart play. I take a moment to ask Charity and Tyler how these changes and growth in popularity affect them each personally. “Personally, I just feel like I’m not as unstable on the road as I used to be,” answers Tyler, “just kind of finding my center when I’m traveling. It’s a growing process and learning about yourself so much and I finally feel like I can focus when I’m on the road more than I used to be able to. That was the biggest thing for me I think.” Charity concurs and I joke, “Double the focus.”

The Head and The Heart Charity Rose Thielen and Tyler Williams with Nicole Hanratty at Coachella.  Saturday, April 12, 2014.  Photo credit Jake Gould
The Head and The Heart Charity Rose Thielen and Tyler Williams with Nicole Hanratty at Coachella. Saturday, April 12, 2014. Photo credit Jake Gould

(The Head and The Heart Charity Rose Thielen and Tyler Williams with Nicole Hanratty at Coachella. Saturday, April 12, 2014. Photo credit Jake Gould)

“That brings me to your song–it might not be your most popular but it’s the song I love–‘Sounds Like Hallelujah.’ I love it because, I know you are sort of telling a story in that song…and it’s personal for whomever wrote it,” I say and Tyler nods solemnly in agreement uttering, “Jon.” “But for me,” I say, “what connects is that ‘sounds like hallelujah’ because I think we have moments and times and experiences in life that do. They sound like that. You hear them and when it happens you just know and it’s magical. I want to know in your lives, what sounds like hallelujah to each of you?” Tyler answers first. “I think it’s that moment when you find yourself–like for me personally sounds like hallelujah–the phrase, it’s like when you find yourself falling in love with somebody and there’s that honeymoon period and you’re like, ‘Oh shit, finally. After like a year, two years, three years of going without that feeling and you’re like this is perfect right now.” “So is there someone right now for you?” I ask and Tyler’s blushing makes Charity and I giggle like school girls. “That sounds like hallelujah?” I tease. We laugh more. Tyler’s smile grows. “You walked right into that,” I say defending my question to Tyler. “I did,” he agrees. “Uh…that’s a hard question to answer. Uh, maybe. I don’t know, I kind of…it’s still too early. Charity doesn’t even know about this.” Charity’s big eyes confirm she doesn’t know and I say, “She’s going to be all over you after this.” “Yeah, thank you,” Charity agrees with me, then answers the question for herself. “I think sounds like hallelujah would be for me finding pure joy in love.” Tyler interjects, “It’s the big one, it’s the universal one.” “I think it’s really pushing yourself,” Charity goes on, “and then I guess doing what you know you’re meant to do and kind of being in that moment of true inspiration and true growth.”

I asked them as a band, what they would say the message in the song “Another Story” is trying to convey. Tyler shares, “I think it was Jon’s [Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion)] reaction to a tragedy and trying to make sense of why people do things and why people lose control and lash out and hurt others. I think that to me is a universal principle. It’s like, why, what is anger, where does it come from, why does it affect people differently and why can some people hold back and others can’t? So, I don’t know, I think people if they listen to that song I hope they feel that everybody feels this way, everybody goes through the same shit in life that can bore down on you and wear you down, but it doesn’t mean you have to let it fuck up your whole life.”

If you had to choose one song title–it could be any song in the world–to describe your personality, which song title would you say best describes your personality?

TYLER: “Teenage Dream”

CHARITY: “Born in the USA”

What is the last album you downloaded / which emerging band are you listening to now?

TYLER: “I’m really loving Future Islands. Their trailer is right across from ours. I know they’re not really unknown right now, but I think they are a band whose going to do some amazing things. Then I have a friend who used to be in The Low Anthem named Mat Davidson and he’s in a band called Twain. It’s like a trio and they are incredibly good, soulful.”

CHARITY: “The last album I downloaded was last week and it was an Irish guy named James Vincent McMorrow and he’s playing tomorrow actually at Coachella. He’s incredible and the album “Post Tropical” is his second one but he kind of like came out with an album in 2010 and we’ve been on this similar trajectory. But this time around he’s very influenced by R&B and hip hop. He’s incredible falsetto and awesome kind of 80s production. I’m just stoked about it.


Interview by Nicole Hanratty with Jake Gould
Posted April 21, 2014