Posts Tagged ‘Zephyrus’

Sibling duo the Oh Hellos have been musical collaborators for years, but Maggie and Tyler Heath have never undertaken anything quite like their latest project — four EPs framed around a question. The Austin-based artists were more interested in following whatever threads of inquiry their curiosity might reveal. By the time they were done, they’d undertaken a deep-dive examination of faith, one they expected would pan out as a “deconstruction slash reconstruction,” according to Maggie. Instead, they experienced an implosion or sorts.

Their first release, in late 2017, was Notos, named for the god of summer’s south winds — and dangerous storms. Euros, named for the god of east winds and autumn, followed in early 2018. Neither, obviously, was released to coincide with its actual season — a pattern that continued with Boreas, named for the north winds that bring winter’s freeze, and Zephyrus, who brings spring’s gentle west winds. Boreas ; Zephyrus’ release day is today (October. 16th).

They’d actually intended to release Boreas last winter. “Go figure you wouldn’t be able to exactly map out what you’re going to believe after several years of questioning your faith and your upbringing and your head, you know?” Maggie notes. “So just to make sure we were leaving plenty of room for us to be honest with ourselves, and honest with the project, took longer than we expected.”

And then the pandemic arrived. Eventually, they decided to stop waiting and unleash the winds of winter and spring. Each segment is filled with multi-layered orchestral arrangements, richly textured harmonies and lyrical complexity. Their distinctive style brings to mind progressive folk-rock predecessors Renaissance, Fairport Convention, the Strawbs, It’s a Beautiful Day and Steeleye Span.

Tyler admits he knows none of those bands. The Heaths list Fleet Foxes, Sufjan Stevens as influences. “We are very bad at nailing down exactly where we sit on the genre spectrum,” Tyler confesses, adding, “We have appreciated when people describe us as folk punk.”

These carefully constructed works, in which each note seems lovingly placed, then given enough space to define its own contours. The juxtapositions are so seamless, it takes a minute to realize the lovely 46-second interlude of “Holding on Where I am Able” is a separate work and not just an introduction to “Theseus.” The Heaths are pretty sure their Celtic lean comes from Irish lineage on their mother’s side. Being the daughter of a band director, she set them on their musical path early. Their father, who’d played music in school, also encouraged them.

Born four years apart (Tyler came first), they grew up in Angleton, Texas, near Houston. Maggie sang in church and school choirs. Tyler didn’t, but became fascinated with harmony because his mother would always harmonize on church hymns instead of singing the melody. It stuck with him. He started writing songs as a young teen. “At some point, I realized I was enjoying singing and song-writing enough that I sought out some voice lessons, just to make sure that I wasn’t gonna build any bad habits that would damage my voice,” he says.

Maggie received some classical vocal training while attending Texas State University in San Marcos. Tyler studied music composition at the University of Texas at Austin, then moved to San Marcos, where he and Maggie started collaborating about nine years ago. Now living in North Austin, they intentionally moved within walking distance of one another. They do most of their recording at Tyler’s home studio.

Though they share credit as producers on their albums, Maggie tends to do the writing and Tyler the arranging. When they perform live they bring a big bunch of players — including some who came up in punk and hardcore scenes.

They’re not out to re-create every sound on their albums, however. “We reinvent it live,” Tyler says. “There’s a lot of adaptation and translation. And then there’s a lot of additional arranging, where we look for the parts that we feel are the most important to get across live. “We have to condense down the music so that it still feels the same, or brings you the same emotions, without being able to literally have 10 guitar parts all happening at once to create these big, expansive textures,” he adds. “Pretty early on, we realized we’re not gonna hit this note for note, but that’s probably OK. How can we just lean into that? As much energy and intensity as we squeeze into the records, I feel like the live show is just cranking up that dial even further. Just trying to have as much fun as possible. And also get the aggression out a little bit.

The series concludes. Zephyrus, the final cardinal wind of this project, brought the gentle warmth of spring that summoned up a new year of growth rooted in the fertile ashes of all the structures that keep us isolated and unfeeling — the kind of growth we can see in ourselves, if we can muster the courage to be vulnerable. The arrangements mirror and embrace this shift, rising up like tender leaves breaking through concrete and cascading down like mountain rivers surging with the first thaw of the season. It’s been a long year; thanks for listening.

released October 16th, 2020

Produced by Maggie Heath, Tyler Heath
Written by Maggie Heath, Tyler Heath

Performed by The Oh Hellos.