With the exception of a short tour last month, Wilmingtonians got a first listen of a few tracks from The Head and the Heart’s forthcoming record “Living Mirage”—dropping May 17—at their sold-out GLA show Wednesday night. It featured opener Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket and marked the beginning of a lengthy spring and summer tour.
“Our band always benefits from playing songs live,” Charity Thielen (violin) told encore in a phone interview before this week’s show. “And we kind of refine things by the energy that we feel [at live shows].”
Stage and studio are like night and day. The former is a particularly internal process, albeit a shared one, wherein their collective have crafted electronic-pop sounds onto this new album with songs like “Honeybee.” Yet according to Thielen, audiences can help shape and engineer these songs, too.
“We’re existing in this bubble of trust and to be able to create, to be vulnerable and then we bring it out when we play live and it’s just this new unexpected energy,” she detailed. “You never know what’s gonna happen. It’s definitely an exciting kind of energy to kind of get outside of ourselves and really connect these songs with people and the other way around.”
Formed in 2009 by Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell, “Living Mirage” is the band’s fourth studio album and first without Johnson. With Johnson’s exit also comes the return of keyboardist Kenny Hensley. Because each album is kind of its own thing with varying processes already, it’s only natural this one would stand apart from the others—with or without Johnson.
“It’s always been kind of unique—that particular time of that particular album,” Thielen noted. “And I think the dynamic of relationships, especially for our band being a democratic band and a family, the album is always an extension of those relationships, and the dynamic.”
Written by guitarist Jon Russell, “Missed Connection” is another single off of “Living Mirage” we heard Wednesday. It’s catchy chorus and melody is paired with some of those indie-folk and Americana stylings indicative of The Head and the Heart but stands on more upbeat percussions.
Russell has described “Living Mirage” as a series of stories and perspectives, as it was pieced together starting at Mojave Desert’s Joshua Tree and finished in Wisconsin’s The Refuge Fox Cities, West Seattle, Omnisound in Nashville, and finally Barefoot Recordings in L.A.
“You would think it might not be a brilliant idea to add more cooks in the kitchen,” Thielen admitted. “But [producers] Tyler [Johnson] and Alex [Salibian] were really great. And also [engineer] Ryan [Nasci]; they were like a trio that this process and the band benefited from.”
Johnson and Saliban also brought a more pop-performance perspective to “Living Mirage,” which allowed The Head and the Heart to stretch, grow and broaden their work in contemporary music.
“We’ve always written pop songs,” she clarified, “just guised in different genres.”
While “Living Mirage” was teased throughout the night on Wednesday, the band also played those familiar tunes from albums past, too. “All We Ever Knew” (“Roadies,” 2016) helped kick-start their set, and we heard the return of those folksy sounds and melodies with “Ghosts,” “Lost in my Mind” and “Down in the Valley” from their 2011 self-titled album.