The Heathens
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The Heathens

| INDIE

| INDIE
Band Americana Rock

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Nov
11
The Heathens @ The Social

Orlando, Florida, USA

Orlando, Florida, USA

Oct
21
The Heathens @ Lillian's

Lakeland, Florida, USA

Lakeland, Florida, USA

Oct
07
The Heathens @ The Majestic

Clearwater, Florida, USA

Clearwater, Florida, USA

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


by Jason Ferguson

The sound of the Heathens — a wistful, vaguely elegiac blend of melodic twang and rough-edged, rural pop — is immediately striking. It’s the sort of sound that comes off as well-planned and thoughtfully belabored. It’s the sort of sound that comes from bands who have been making music together for years. It’s not the sort of sound that emerges from a slapdash crew of indie rockers on an open-mike night. However, in the case of this Orlando band, that’s exactly how their sound came about. “I think our first real band practices were open-mike nights at Austin [Coffee and Film in Winter Park],” remembers bassist Chris Rae of the group’s origins in March of 2005. “It was very loose-knit,” agrees vocalist and guitarist Matt Butcher. “People would sort of come and go. It wasn’t until June [of 2005] that we had our first real lineup. That was when we decided to be a real band.” “Before then,” laughs guitarist/banjo-player/keyboardist Chris Cucci, “there was usually more drinking than actual playing going on.” Drinking, it seems, played a big role in the group’s formative phase — the group was kicked out of their first show at WPRK because they brought a bottle of Jim Beam to the college radio station’s studios — and though it would be easy to romantically ascribe the rustic charm of the group’s sound to whiskey-sipping, front-porch songwriting sessions, the truth isn’t quite so sepia-toned. “Matt wrote pretty much all the songs on the first album,” says Rae. “From the beginning, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to sound like. We haven’t changed the songs too much from when we started playing them to how they ended up on the album.” That album — a 15-track disc released on Cucci’s Post Records label entitled Big White House — is the oddest sort of debut: one that is instantly recognizable as the Heathens, but also one that doesn’t sound a bit like them. Audiences have come to adore the Southern Gothic shambles of their live performances, as these joyously dour affairs involve multiple members on multiple instruments and quite a bit of audience interaction. A few tracks on the disc — the clap-along “See You There,” the honky-tonk rumble of “Sex in Silent Films” — come close, but for the most part, Big White House is an altogether more sophisticated beast. Steeped in elegant minimalism, Big White House uses a wide variety of instruments — in addition to Butcher, Cucci and Rae, fellow members Sean Moore (violin, trumpet) and Jeff Ilgenfritz (drums, guitar, keyboards) add significantly to the sonic soup. Ironically, though, with all this instrumental action, the predominant emphasis is on Butcher’s lyrics, a decision the band says was completely intentional. “Even though our sound is full and lush,” says Rae, “we’re actually trying to be as delicate as possible. I remember when Matt and I were doing [the now-defunct] On Cassette, I’d be playing bass and my hand would be dancing up and down the fretboard, and now it’s a lot more simple. A lot of that simplicity is just so we can push the lyrics up to the front.” “A lot of the things Matt’s singing about,” continues Cucci, “there are some upbeat songs, but there’s a lot of darkness to the songs too. It’s not about happy stuff, but the music can be a little poppy sometimes.” “Most of the lyrics are pulled from real-life experiences,” says Butcher. “Though there are some times when I take some poetic license, for the most part, these are things that have really happened to us. I always like matching — like Dylan does — these scathing lyrics with an upbeat melody. It’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes, but putting a little sugar on it helps, you know?” - Orlando Weekly


by Bao Le-Huu

Indie rock tends to get pretty serious about itself. But in the last year, The Heathens, who coalesced from various indie rock bands, have injected the local scene with a sense of enthusiasm through the youthful, folksy drawl of their performances. More importantly, they're on the vanguard of a class of bands that are not only proud to call Orlando home but have the genuine potential to increase our credibility. With big plans for their highly anticipated debut album The White House (releasing July 4 on local label Post Records), this is the next indie hopeful from Orlando worth tracking. In anticipation of their debut CD release party at The Social on Monday, Chris Rae (bass) and Jeff Ilgenfritz (drums) talks with Orlando CityBeat. Orlando CityBeat : Did you ever think this alt-country project would become one of the indie scene's contenders? Chris Rae : We had no idea The Heathens were just gonna spring up. We're just still ridin' the wave (laughs). It was so fast. Jeff Ilgenfritz : We used to set up every Tuesday after Austin Coffee was closed in the stage area 'cause I would work and we didn't have anywhere to practice. And then a little over a year we're here and touring and it's like, "Oh, my god." I think a large part of that has to do with what's gone on personally. Like, Matt (Butcher, lead vocalist) just decided that he needed to have a complete life overhaul and got completely sober and just decided he needed to take control. Then he was like, "In April, we've got recording time with Rob McGregor" (Alkaline Trio, Against Me! Hot Water Music). It was largely because of him. OCB: What sort of push are you making for the record? CR: Team Clermont's doing our radio promotional campaign. They're doing Built to Spill, Neil Young's new album, Flaming Lips, Death Cab, John Vanderslice, Franz Ferdinand. We're doing wide ad banners on Pitchfork Media and MySpace. JI: It's an 800 radio station campaign. College radio stations, indie labels. Our first radio drop date was June 21 and we were played in 60 markets and were top five in 21 of those. OCB: What do you think of this ascendant class of young Americana bands locally? CR: I didn't even know about it. But I love it. I think it's bringing back a good feel to going to shows, which there hasn't been in a long time, especially in this town. OCB: Your first single is a paean to this city. You don't have that inferiority complex that indie rock bands from here seem to have built-in. Why not? JI: Because we hug. We hug a lot. CR: We're naïve. I say that as a joke but out of everybody in our band probably only Chris (Coochie, banjo) and I know that, outside of here, people are kind of like "ehh" when they hear there's a band from Orlando. But I have absolutely no shame of being from Orlando. If more people knew about what was actually going on here then they'd feel the same way as us. OCB: Why can't this scene learn to respect itself? CR: I think there are things like FMF that are kinda like bullshit. I think it's making aXis Magazine a lot of money, that's about it. Other than that, I think the whole thing's bullshit. They take people for granted but there's a lot of young bands that don't know any better. Y'know, things like that. But I don't think people are really conscious of why they do it. Some people are like "I didn't know you guys were from here." It's like, man, we've played with about half the bands you listen to regularly. JI: It's like, "Are you guys local?" And we're like, "Yeah." Then they go, "Ohhh!" like it's some big surprise. OCB: Who or what are some of the scene's healthiest influences? CR: I would say the whole Funbalaya/Grandma Party collective really started bringing a lot of us together. And free all-ages places. All-ages shows are huge because I went to shows when I was young. I think Will of Will's Pub is too. He's probably one of my favorites, by far the easiest guy I've ever worked with. JI: And Austin Coffee too, because I've met all these kids from that place. I feel like I know the entire world now just because of that one coffee shop. OCB: What's next? CR: Touring. Boston, New York, Chicago, Louisville. A big loop. Only five of the 19 dates are in Florida. And then we've got the press campaign in late August. - Orlando Citybeat


by Jim Abbott

There's a picture of Gram Parsons on my desk and he's smiling at me. He'd be smiling, too, about the show that the Heathens put on Monday (7-3-06) at the Social to celebrate the band's CD release. It was impressive to hear so many in the rowdy, sweaty, air-conditioner-deprived crowd invoking Parsons' name as the band took the stage. The Parsons comparison is really too narrow for the five-piece Orlando group -- lead singer Matt Butcher, banjoist/guitarist Chris Cucci, bassist Chris Rae, multi-instrumentalist Sean Moore and drummer Jeff Ilgenfritz (aka Mumpsy). On stage, the band's country leanings have a harder edge and that was true on Monday. The powerful dynamics of songs such as "Sucker or a Lover'' pushed the material beyond the studio versions on Big White House (officially released today, 7-4-06). At the same time, country doesn't come much more old-school than the sing-along "Sweetheart (I Don't Hate You).'' I arrived in time to see the Wynn Brothers Band, which set the mood with a terrific set despite some technical problems after the opening cover of "The Weight.'' The big family ensemble's blend of harmonies and guitars is mighty intoxicating. Likewise, the Heathens also had the crowd easily under its spell, finishing the night with a couple dozen of the band's closest friends on stage for "Busy Nights at the Meatmarket.'' Not a bad way to finish a celebration. - Orlando Sentinel


by Jack Cusumano

On July 4th 1776, the Philadelphians first heard the official news of our nation’s independence. 230 years later, The Heathens released their full length, Big White House, on Post*Records. In the Orlando music sphere, it’s a similarly momentous occasion. The 15 track alt-country romp takes off with the band’s hometown serenade, “Stickin Around”. “Starting to put my roots down, ‘cause the soil is rich here,” the sauntering ballad goes on to say. The benignly confused vision the band paints of Orlando is so convincing and endearing that it successfully blurs your memories of Disney, downtown and the sprawling mess of Colonial and replaces them with miles of farmland. From there the sonic theme of the album is set, but the pace does take a turn for the rowdier in enough places to keep your interest. The Heathens most certainly wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, masterfully breezing through early-Wilco tinged twang with Colin Meloy-esque vocals/engaging and imaginative narratives while calling to mind a host of other folk/country leaning indie acts. Their strength, however, lies in ultimately managing to maintain their own identity, keeping The Heathens’ retelling of the age-old alt-country story fresh. While they easily succeed in proving their indie cred, the band also pays homage to traditional Nashville country’s inexplicable penchant for witty titles and punch-line choruses. “Two Chimneys” approaches the subject of divorce (can’t get much more country than that) from the perspective of a little boy worried about how his parents living in separate houses might effect Santa’s Christmas Eve run. The break-up anthem “Sweetheart (I Don’t Hate You)” boasts a chorus so brilliantly blunt I’m sure there’s a thousand country singers grinding their teeth for not thinking of it themselves: “Sweetheart I don’t hate you, I just hate seein’ you around.” As far as the production/engineering by Rob McGregor, mastering by Roger Siebel and mixing by Sean Moore goes, the team successfully juggles a veritable orchestra of instruments (banjo, violin, pedal steel, piano, trumpet, even sleigh bells) into a final product that doesn’t feel the least bit overwhelmed. Really, the album doesn’t suffer from a lull until the penultimate track, “Let’s Shake On It,” and by then it’s easy to forgive. Besides, it comes right after a tough act to follow, the grand “Busy Nights At The Meatmarket.” All in all, the album proves to be quite a rewarding listen, easily worthy of the anticipation leading up to its release. It’s a confident step towards a promising future for this Orlando band. - KillerPop


Discography

Big White House (CD, 7-4-2006, Post*Records)
full-length debut
first single: Stickin' Around

Photos

Bio

Hailing from the suburbs of Orlando, Florida, the Heathens are exactly what their name implies: a group of five rag-tag musicians with a fondness for good times and good music.

The Heathens have developed a fanbase of all ages. It is this diverse appeal that has allowed the band to play shows with groups like Now Its Overhead, The Avett Brothers, Hank Williams III, and Pernice Brothers.

The debut album, Big White House, was recorded by Rob McGregor (producer of albums for Hot Water Music, Rumble Seat, Alkaline Trio) in Gainesville, FL.

The first single from the album, Stickin' Around, has a music video that has already been honored with the Audience Choice Award at Florida Music Festival 2006 and was featured at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Big White House has also had a strong debut on college radio with AAA charts at college stations across the US.