Vancouver band Head of the Herd’s Neu Mannas and Clayton Frank are right at home on stage…whether that’s at an intimate venue like the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern or in front of thousands at BC’s Squamish Valley Music Festival. The reputation they’ve earned for a powerful live performance has maintained the momentum generated by 2013’s release of sophomore album By This Time Tomorrow and has seen them on the road for much of 2014.
Currently on tour with Theory of a Deadman and Gloryhound, I spoke with Neu and Clay while they were in town for a show at Danforth Music Hall this week.
You had some huge music festivals lined up this summer…Squamish, Rifflandia, Edgefest…how were those experiences?
Neu: It was outrageous. They were the biggest crowds and biggest stages we’ve ever played. And the best thing in the world for a young band is to get in front of people who don’t know you yet. At these festivals you get a lot of your fans, but you also get a ton of people who have just heard your name and show up and see it. Oh man…we had some fun on those stages.
Clay: There were a few that we’d been looking to play for a long time. So it was pretty rewarding finally getting to play them after a few years of wanting the experience. And then this summer we had one intense weekend where we played Squamish Music Festival on the west coast, which had Eminem and Arcade Fire and Bruno Mars…we played that Friday night and then we flew to Kitchener, Ontario and played there Saturday night…and then flew to Halifax the next morning and played in Truro, which is just outside the city. So we did the entire country in three nights! It was pretty unreal, it was awesome.
Neu: Best three days of my life! It’s a bit of a blur, just because you spend so much time on the plane. But I’d been wanting to have a weekend like that since I was 12, so I was so happy when it was like “you could not pack more shows or press into these 3 days”.
Clay: I think we had a festival almost every weekend this summer. It was really nice just playing a big show with a ton of bands. Music festivals are cool because everybody is so like-minded when you go there. Everybody’s there for the music and to have fun so it’s such a great environment to go and play.
You’re three weeks into this tour now…how has it been being on the road with Theory of a Deadman and Gloryhound?
Neu: It’s been amazing. Our drummer had toured with Gloryhound before but we had never met the Theory of a Deadman boys. Everyone is super nice, we’re getting along, and we’re playing rooms like we’ve never played. This is our first theatre tour. It’s a different world but it’s been delightful. And same thing…we put out our record last year and we want to turn people onto the band. And getting in front of Theory’s fans is a great way to do that.
You’ve now released a deluxe, digital edition of By This Time Tomorrow…tell me about the extras.
Neu: We just wanted to give people who are into the record something more. Especially since the single had been out six months before the record came out. So when we went on tour again we put a couple of remixes on there that I did…we also included the demo for “By This Time Tomorrow”, which is cool because that song didn’t start as a big rock song – it started as a spooky, bluesy, slow, weird little thing that we didn’t think would turn into anything. We put on a couple of live recordings as well; one song off our first record, “When I Met the Devil”, and “Ain’t My Day” as well, which we recorded at the Music Mansion in Toronto. So if you’re into the record and you want more…that’s the way to go.
Your current tour wraps in the next couple of weeks…what are your plans for 2015? Is there any writing going on?
Clay: Writing never stops.
Neu: We’re promoting at college radio right now in the States, and that’s starting to catch fire. If that takes off, we’ll hit the road there. Either way, new tunes are always on the way. But that’s top secret!
There seems to be a recent influx of “BC rockers” making waves here in Toronto…Mother Mother, Current Swell, Dear Rouge…does that open a lot of doors to new collaborations at home? Are you seeking any?
Clay: I don’t know if we’re ever actually seeking collaborations…with the last two that happened with Jasmin (Parkin, of Mother Mother), it was just such a natural thing that happened. We were writing a bunch of songs for a new record and it just so happened that a couple of the tunes turned into duets. It wasn’t a “let’s go find who we can work with” kind of thing, it was like “OK, we’ve got these couple of songs that would probably be a lot more interesting and exciting if they were duets…who do we have in mind…Jasmin’s a friend of mine”. So I don’t know if we’re ever seeking those things…but it’s fun. The exciting thing about all those bands that you said for me is that it’s creating more of a scene in Vancouver and there are more things to go see. I’m a music fan, first and foremost. So going out to shows is something I really enjoy doing. And having bands that are kicking ass is exciting. Getting to meet all those people and hang out with them is fun too.
Just by virtue of your style of music, you have been on the bill with bands across musical genres and played all manner of events. Is there a particular venue or audience you’re most at home with?
Neu: We didn’t expect how good the theatre crowds would be…you think because everyone’s sitting down maybe they’re not going to be into having quite the party we’re used to. But people have been amazing. So really, as long as we get a big stage to push each other around on, we’re pretty confident we can do the job!
Clay: That’s true. I think we’re more excited when we get a big stage than we are concerned with who the fans are going to be or what type of music those fans might be interested in. We’re going to do the same thing…but you give us a big stage and we’re going to have a lot more fun. Which, in turn, hopefully means the people watching will get to have a lot more fun.