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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: December 1, 2014

The Head and The Heart sells out State Theatre, but they’re known to play after hour shows …

Written by: Ray Routhier
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The indie folk band The Head and The Heart got so big so fast, members didn’t really have a chance to get used to one another. So now, four years after being signed by the Sub Pop record label and only five years after forming, the members are finally at a comfortable place that is leading to a new level of creativity, says drummer Tyler Williams.

“After four or five years of traveling with each other every day, I think we’re all a lot more comfortable and take things a lot less personally,” Williams said during a phone interview from his home in Richmond, Virginia. “We’re all more cognizant of each others’ personalities, or what might set a person off.”

When The Head and The Heart play a sold out show at the State Theatre Saturday, it’ll be one of the band’s last live shows for a while. After the holidays, the band members are taking a break before starting work on writing material for a new album, Williams said. He said members plan to “decamp” for a while in early 2015 and “live our lives.” He said the band has been touring heavily most of the time they have been together. Williams said the band is at a point now where they are ready to change and expand their sound, and break away somewhat from the folk style they’ve become known for.

“I know I’m sort of over the over-simplified folk music stomp thing, I think we’re all a little burned out from that,” he said. “I think we’re just all into writing deeper songs, doing more with arrangements,”

One thing the band members have not changed, Williams said, is their love of playing small, impromptu gigs. During the band’s first year together, 2009, members played a “lackluster” show in Boise, Idaho, Williams said. But one audience member really liked it and invited the band to come to his pizza parlor after the show to play there, And they did. So there is always the chance that even though the band’s Portland show is sold out, fans might be able to catch The Head and The Heart jamming in some small eatery.

“We have a couple members who still do open mics, and none of us feel like we’re above doing an acoustic show in a small place,” Williams, 28, said. “It’s cool to do that, to remind us of the kind places we played starting out. But we don’t want to do it all the time, because it becomes less special.”

Many of the band’s songs include three-part vocal harmonies, and a steady percussive presence that Williams refers to as “stomp.” Violin and piano are featured as well, giving the band a smoother sound than some folk groups.

The Head and The Heart had just formed in Seattle in 2009 when they decided to send a demo to someone at Warner Bros. Someone from Warner Bros. came to see the band and other labels followed, leading to the signing with Sub Pop in 2010. The band’s self-titled debut came out in 2011, and the band began getting radio airplay and touring with the likes of My Morning Jacket, Dave Matthews and The Decemberists.

Their songs have also been on lots of TV shows, including “Chuck” on NBC and “How I Met Your Mother” on CBS. The band’s second album, “Let’s Be Still,” came out in October of 2013.

Though the band formed in Seattle, band members now live all around the country. Williams moved back to his native Virginia and closed on a house last week. Band member Jonathan Russell lives in Richmond too. The two musicians knew each other in high school, and Williams followed Russell to Seattle. Despite being in different cities, Williams said band members talk nearly every day. He said he thinks it’s good for every band member to be living where they want, instead of feeling they have to be based with the band.

“It’s nice to be able to walk places, to get to know places, and feel like you’re part of your town,” said Williams.

The Head and The Heart will play 8 p.m. Saturday at State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland. The show is sold out. For more information visit statetheatreportland.com.

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