When it came time for Kind Hearted Strangers to record their second album, “Now.here,” which will be released on April 7, the road dogs did what they do best: just play.
“Basically, every day began with an open sort of jam session, and that would range from 20 minutes to an hour without stopping,” Marc Townes, lead singer and guitarist, said during a recent drive between dates. “We’d sort of all go into the room and do a sort of meditation and leave everything there so we could be fully present — don’t carry anything with you, no musical ideas — then pick up the instruments. From that point on, someone would hit a note and it would just slowly build.”
The hard-driving roots rock band will perform at 118 North in Wayne, Pa., near Philadelphia, on Saturday, April 8, and at Rockwood Music Hall in New York on Friday, April 14. They’ll be supporting “Now.here,” which they tracked in a Richmond, Va., warehouse in a collaborative project with visual artist Dylan Lynch.
“The concept was take a week, find a space, lock ourselves in there and get it done,” said Townes, who, like Lynch, is from Richmond. “We found a warehouse space in a part of town that neither of us had much history with across the river from downtown. He had blank canvases. The whole idea was we would write and record and he would paint an entire exhibition.
“On the sixth day we had to learn everything that we had just written, and on the seventh day we did a live performance in that space and an art exhibition with a pop-up gallery.”
Because the band, which also includes lead guitarist Kevin Hinder, bassist/vocalist Ace Engfer and drummer Eggy Gorman, spends so much time on the road, working quickly and on a self-imposed deadline was an effective strategy.
“We’re set to play more dates this year than ever before,” he said. “It’s hard for me to say how many days we are on the road; we are pretty much always on the road. That’s the way this whole year is going to look. We love it. That’s kind of the new model, getting out there and playing. It’s our full-time job.”
He said it’s been paying off, as the crowds get bigger when Kind Hearted Strangers come back to a town. “It’s been really cool. Obviously this whole thing started in Colorado, but we’ve been hitting the Southeast and going back there, and the West, and we’re finally getting up in to the Northeast.”
Listeners have found similarities between Kind Hearted Strangers and Neil Young with Crazy Horse. “I think that’s coming from a place that’s really raw, two electric guitars, bass and drums, and that’s all that stuff was,” said Townes, who added that his band could also sound a bit like My Morning Jacket.
The live show, he said, “has evolved in a really great way.”
“It’s a really different thing now. Some of that is to do with the material. I think we went into this new recording wondering what would it be like to play it live. The record before that has some slower material. I’m not saying we won’t record any more ballad-type stuff, but this material lends itself to alive show, and it’s very fun.”