The Band of Heathens (from the album Duende)
The Band of Heathens are celebrating an anniversary with Duende, their recent release. It has been ten years since the original core trio of Colin Brooks, Gordy Quist, and Ed Jurdi shared a bill at Momo’s in Austin, Texas. Each songwriter had their own set though over time the three musicians started to back one another in song, adding in a bass player and eventually a drummer by 2007. Gordy Quist and Ed Jurdi are still on board as members for Duende, the fifth studio album from The Band of Heathens. Gordy Quist explains that Duende is ‘a word we don’t have an equivalent for in English’. The meaning of the term is a quality of inspiration and passion, a heightened sense of emotion, expression and authenticity, basically a spirit, or as Ed Jurdi, who found the term describes ‘the essence of the artist’.
The Band of Heathens went into the studio with the forty songs that had been created since their last studio effort in 2013, the predominantly acoustic Sunday Morning Record. For Ed Jurdi, Duende is an album that ‘brings together all our influences, everything we’ve done over the years as a band. We’ve touched on every part of our career… our roots, some singer/songwriter contemplative stuff, some high-energy rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all us, the record we were supposed to make. Ten years later, that’s what keeps us coming back.” Duende is a collaborative effort, Ed going on to add that ‘the trust we have between us enabled us to chase down our individual ideas wherever they take us’. The album is a mirror of The Band of Heathens lives, Gordy Quist sharing that ‘we based the album’s eclecticism on our live shows, where texturally, we go through peaks and valleys. We have this library of music in our heads and at our fingers, and when we go into the studio, the challenge is how to go from that into making something new’.
Musically, Duende is an extension of the decade spent crafting music as a cottage industry for The Band of Heathens. The stories are in line with the group’s nature of what they do for a living not being much different from the way they live their lives. Duende balances the value of personal relationships with the world of social media (“Cracking the Code”), reads the limitless menu at the counter of consumer culture (“Keys to the Kingdom”), casts a vote for legalization (“Green Grass of California”), and lets the beat match the slap of tires marking time in the life of a traveling musician (“All I’m Asking”). The Band of Heathens tackle politics of the moment in “Road Dust Wheels”, a study of the immigration issues facing workers from Mexico and Latin America. Ed Jurdi feels that the song is ‘not about the politics of the situation but a meditation on people trying to get together to find their own slice of the American Dream, which has been our greatest export to the outside world. Unfortunately, we’ve got leaders trying to divide us, spitting venom and vitriol, trying to get elected by pitting us against each other rather than realizing, almost without exception, we create the same feeling of community and connection, regardless of religion, race or immigration status’. The sound of Duende is as diverse as its topics as the album funks it up with “Daddy Long Legs” and dips its toes in a New Orleans groove in “Sugar Queen” as The Band of Heathens strut their rock’n’roll stuff on “Trouble Came Early”.