Union Transfer


The Head And The Heart

The Head And The Heart

Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives, Black Girls

Sat, March 17, 2012

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

Union Transfer

Philadelphia, PA


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This event is all ages

The Head And The Heart
The Head And The Heart
So many decisions in life and in the music we love can come down to a critical tug between the logic in our heads and the hot red blood beating through our hearts. Seattle's The Head and the Heart live authentically in that crux, finding joy and beauty wedged there. Their music pulses effervescently-both explosively danceable and intuitively intelligent. With Americana roots and strong vocal harmonics that swell like a river, this band finds its anchor in solid songwriting that has even the jaded humming along by the second listen.

Leaving a variety of day jobs and academic pursuits, The Head and the Heart came together in the summer of 2009, during frequent visits to the open mic night at Conor Byrne in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. California-transplant Josiah Johnson and Virginia-native Jonathan Russell formed the core songwriting partnership, quickly adding keyboardist Kenny Hensley to the mix. Kenny, then 21, had packed up his piano and moved up to Seattle from California to pursue musical score-writing. The luminous Charity Rose Thielen, violin and vocals, had just returned from a year of studying and playing music in Paris. Drummer Tyler Williams cold left a successful band in Virginia after Jon sent him the demo of "Down in the Valley," relocating across states to be a part of this. Finally, Chris Zasche, was bartending at Conor Byrne and mentioned one day that he'd be happy to play bass for the nascent band. It all felt right: The Head and the Heart was born.

Whether penning songs on the beach at Seattle's Discovery Park, or working out melodies in the piano practice rooms at the Seattle Public Library, Charity describes the early months of the band's existence as touched by a shared purpose and connection. She recalls an email she sent to Josiah that summer, confessing that she was "sleepless and penniless, but inspired nonetheless."

The band entered Seattle's Studio Litho in early 2010 to record these songs that had been kicking and twisting in the catalytic development of their live show. Recorded by Shawn Simmons at Studio Litho and Steven Aguilar at Bearhead Studio, the band was selling burned copies in handmade denim sleeves at local shows within a few weeks. Self-released in June 2010, the debut album helped build an impressive head-of-steam for the band through the second half of the year, gaining fans at influential Seattle station KEXP, local record shops (a consistent top 10 seller for Easy Street and the #1 album of 2010 at Sonic Boom), and venues up and down the West Coast, culminating with signing to Sub Pop Records in November. For the 2011 re-release of the album, "Sounds like Hallelujah" has been re-recorded, live favorite "Rivers and Roads" has been added, and the album has been re-mastered.

The songs resulting from those first inspired months pick at the multicolored threads of leaving home, finding home, and through that process of deconstruction, finding yourself. These are songs about crossing rivers and roads to get to the one you love, about family far away, and the desire to chase Technicolor dreams down foreign horizons. When people hear these songs, or see the band live, the first thing they have to do is tell someone else. Their shows are, simply, one hell of a lot of breathless fun. Each song explodes into a potent supernova on stage, where half the audience is zealously singing along with every lyric, and the other half is wishing they knew the words. The band has accepted nearly every show offered to them in the past year, from backyards strung with Christmas lights to coffee shops, open mics, and even high school classrooms in Middle America. From the first months of the band's life, their reputation as a phenomenal live band has preceded them wherever they play.

The strength of Josiah, Jon and Charity's vocal harmonies on the album makes it feel like these three were born to pour their voices together, as the band's songs revel in jaunty bass lines with ebullient handclaps peppering the best moments. A palette of orchestral elements weave their way through the album, including cello, glockenspiel, and violin, all shading in the songs' development. For all the times your toes tap while enjoying this band, often the lightness will deceptively belie the depth of ache in the lyrics when you sit down to really listen. There is magic in the music, but not magic contrived by trickery or posturing. "It seems actually that the more genuine and honest we are in the songwriting and performing, the more people relate to that transparency," Charity muses.
This is an album for people who unabashedly sing and drum along on the steering wheel, and also for those who appreciate a well-crafted collection of songs that build into something wholly beautiful.

There is in this music a counter-cultural optimism, with roots that grow deep and melodies that lodge themselves far into that place inside you where the head meets the heart.
Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives
Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives
Across the globe, there are hundreds of young men and women who have taken up acoustic guitars, inspired by the grand folk and country tradition, and set about put their sleeve-worn hearts into musical form. But the result is often feather light and wispy and all too easily forgotten amid the din of the modern age.

Not so with the music of Drew Grow and the Pastors Wives.

The music on the band's self-titled LP (released on their own Amigo/Amiga label) shares the influence of many current indie artists, but carries with much more meat and gristle to chew on. It feels like it was molded after a long life of ups and downs, all set a soundtrack of the curlicued songwriting of Bob Dylan, the drowsy despair of Bill Callahan/Smog, and a thick stack of dusty Motown and Stax 45s.

There's a spiritual side to Grow's work here as well, pulled from what sounds like a life bruised by growing up in a Christian household. Songs like "Hook" and "Bootstraps" carry with them the imagery of the religious life, but aren't weighed down by it. When Grow sings, "I'm born again!", the conviction he imbues that sentiment with is undeniable.

Grow is aided here by a crack backing band that features Jeremiah Hayden on drums, Kris Doty on bass and vocals, and Seth Schaper playing keyboards. Together, they bolster Grow's emotional anthems with a slow burning style reminiscent of Basement Tapes-era The Band or Bonnie "Prince" Billy's current chosen backing band, The Cairo Gang.

It's a surprisingly cohesive collection considering their scattered beginnings. Many of the songs were originally released on a series of singles over the course of 2009 and 2010 before being gathered together with some extra material for this vinyl/download-only LP. On their own, they were powerful enough, but in one lump sum like this, it is positively breathtaking.

Don't just take our word for it. Casey Jarman, music editor of Willamette Week, said of Grow's song "Company": "This is the kind of thing you want to pop on the stereo at your favorite dive, right after the whiskey hits you and you're feeling bold enough to actually talk to that girl." And the Huffington Post had this to say of Grow's music: "Their music melds together a scuzzy, squally blend of rebellious gospel/folk that at times possesses the radiant buoyancy of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, and in quieter moments the seeping warmth of M Ward or intelligent, lovely meanderings of Elvis Perkins. It's wild and sharp and smart."

Grow is itching to bring these songs and new material that he is written on the road this year, after spending much of the early part of 2011 sidelined with injuries he sustained in a car accident. Look for him this fall when he and the Pastors Wives take to the stage opening up for the amazing indie supergroup Wild Flag, featuring former members of Sleater-Kinney and Helium.
Black Girls
Black Girls
Black Girls was born from the putty of their forefathers and will continue to do so.
Venue Information:
Union Transfer
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123