A decade after The Head and the Heart formed in the cozy environs of Ballard’s Conor Byrne Pub, half the band that helped define a fertile era in Seattle music is scattered across the country.

While bassist Chris Zasche, now living in Ellensburg, hasn’t gone far, vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Charity Rose Thielen and Matty Gervais are the last members of the indie-folk sextet still residing in the Emerald City. It’s not uncommon to find the West Seattle couple popping up at intimate venues around town, performing as a duo or Gervais with his fraternal project Mikey and Matty, but next week THATH returns to Seattle for a full-scale, two-night family reunion at Marymoor Park (Aug. 12-13).

The Sub Pop alums’ first hometown shows since rocking Pike Place Market’s rooftop three years ago arrive as the band is redefining its sound. 2019’s “Living Mirage” found the homegrown stars embracing bigger pop melodies and glossier production, with frontman Jonathan Russell working with outside co-writers for the first time. The album also cemented the exit of founding member Josiah Johnson, who left the band in 2016 during a difficult period in his personal life.

With this year’s “Every Shade of Blue,” THATH push even further into those pop-leaning proclivities with help from producer/songwriter Jesse Shatkin (Kelly Clarkson, Fitz and the Tantrums), while also reaching back to their early Sub Pop days. The band returned to Fremont’s Studio Litho, again tapping Seattle engineer Shawn Simmons, who worked on THATH’s first two albums. As much new ground as the band breaks, songs like the swelling “Don’t Show Your Weakness” push THATH’s vintage folk-anthem trademark to new heights.

Amid Seattle’s recent heat wave, we caught up with Thielen and Gervais to discuss THATH’s personal and creative growth, getting back on the road and staying connected with the scene they came up in. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

I’ve talked to a lot of musicians about the [silver lining] of the forced time at home during the pandemic. What has it been like readjusting to tour life and being on the road?


Matty Gervais: We, like many musicians, had that initial, “Ooohh, you mean we don’t have to go out on the road right now?!” And it’s funny, because when you say something like that it means you were, not necessarily taking for granted, but maybe burnt out on touring. It is physically and emotionally exhausting, there’s no question about it. To top it all off, the two of us had a baby during the pandemic. She was born Dec. 30, 2020, so our lives changed dramatically in a thousand ways. Going back on tour, it’s a totally different beast now.

Charity Rose Thielen: I hope that everyone, whether they’re in the entertainment industry or not, just carries with them that gratitude for things that were taken away. It’s really made the shows special.

Was it also during the pandemic the band started working with a therapist?

Thielen: That actually preceded the pandemic. But just being home and being able to do it remotely allowed us to be more consistent with it, which was really great.

Can you talk about the impetus for doing that work and the impact on the band?

Thielen: I guess it was my idea initially to bring someone in, just in feeling like we could be better communicators. None of us had really known each other when we all formed the band and we got to know each other in a chaotic environment. It was exciting, but also chaotic. So I think it was really important that we were a bit more intentional with each other. Obviously issues came up, internal things, like in any good relationship. I think that relationships are at the heart of life. Especially being in a musical collective, what we produce is an extension of those relationships. I wanted to be at a point where we were creatively firing on all cylinders and working in a way that was inspiring. So we had to look really earnestly at one another and talk, and with the separation with the pandemic, it allowed some softening and a healthy amount of space.


How did that work spill over into the new record? Was there more openness to each other’s ideas?

Thielen: I feel like there was a greater openness than the last record. I think we finally realized and accepted we are The Head and the Heart and we want to represent all of [our] songwriting, the different iterations, Jon collaborating with others — kind of embracing and accepting the reality of who we are and increasing the representation. Therefore this album, there’s many songs on it. It covers a lot of territory sonically, lyrically.

Gervais: Therapy and the pandemic helped everybody loosen their clutches on what they want the band or think the band should be. Maybe they’re not necessarily similar, vision-wise or aesthetically, but why can’t they live on the same body of work? That’s, I think, a big part of it, this letting-go process.

Did you feel the singular voices within the band got more of a chance to shine on this record than the last?

Gervais: I’d say it’s more of a wide-album approach and especially because of the pandemic, so much of it was done remotely. It was by necessity that a lot of it had to be more singular, vision-wise.

Thielen: It was like a quilt of singular voices.

Throwing it back to “Living Mirage,” I interviewed Jon around the record. He talked about being a little unsure [how the pop-leaning co-writes would fit the band] until everybody else put their touches on it. I was curious, when he brought those to the group, what was your reaction?


Thielen: That’s a good question. [Laughs.]

Gervais: We’re like “Oh, not this again.”


Thielen: No, it’s great. I love it.

Gervais: It definitely creates a moment of pause, because again, it goes back to all the things we’ve been talking about: What’s your definition of what this band is? How do you define who we are and what we sound like? Then you get to a point where it’s like, does any of that really hold sway? A lot of the songs that are more pop-leaning, Jon is really amazing at following a thread creatively. He’ll get into a space and occupy these different sort of personas, and that’s how he finds himself in new pieces of music.

Thielen: We’ve always been a band that has gravitated towards popular music, but I think it’s interesting with the production [on “Every Shade of Blue”], a lot of these demos were in more of that contemporary, modern production. Personally, I write really quirky, weird [expletive] that is very different from that. So for me, I’m intrigued to bring something in and have it juxtaposed with us. That’s exciting. So I never would write anything off.

What has it meant for you both to also be able to step away from THATH and play the duo shows in town — or playing with your brother, Matty?

Gervais: It’s cool to allow it and know it’s allowed to exist outside of the band. Because we’re the Seattleites, we value this community so much. We love everyone that have helped us and supported us and brought us up along the way, and all the family and friends we have in town because of that. A big part of it, it’s almost like our invitation or our permission slip into the Seattle community, rather than the community at large.

Thielen: We can continue being present. Shaina Shepherd, who’s this incredible singer-songwriter that everyone should check out, she’s become a good friend. We were able to open for her at St. Mark’s Cathedral last November. You just are humbled to be able to engage in music together again in that way that’s very different than the level of production that we’re used to and, like, the machine. It’s like we can really exist even more individually in these ways.

Did Josiah wind up jumping on that St. Mark’s show?

Thielen: Yeah, we were [having brunch] in our backyard. He was playing a house show in Seattle, he was up from Oakland. We got an email [inviting us to play]. Someone canceled, I think. I literally read that email with Josiah sitting right there. I was like “Josiah, do you wanna play this show? You’ll be first up of three.” And of course we collaborated. We sang “Rivers [and Roads],” the three of us together, which is really special, just personally. That was our first show we’d played [since] the pandemic.


What did that mean to you to share the bill with Josiah and do that song again?

Gervais: We’ve kept really close with Josiah.

Thielen: That’s how we started. When Matty met us, those were the kind of shows we were playing. Those are the type of shows we would all do together, so it felt great to come back to it with everything, the complexities and the challenge that we’ve gone through, three of us.

Gervais: Any chance we get to do that kind of thing, sign me up. Because all the other bands that aren’t on stage are sitting cross-legged in the front row. That’s my favorite. That’s what’s happening at Timber Music Festival we just [played]. We spent the weekend camping out there. It feels very rejuvenating to be around that sense of community. It just feels very Seattle.

I know the last homecoming gig was pretty epic and might be hard to top, at the market, but how are you feeling about coming back and doing two nights at Marymoor?

Thielen: So excited. We’re going to bring out some guests, which we’ll just leave at that. It will be incredible to be playing music in front of our families and friends again, and people who have been listening to us from Day 1, or new fans in Seattle.

The Head and the Heart

With Dawes. 6 p.m. Aug. 12-13, Marymoor Park, 6046 West Lake Sammamish Pkwy N.E., Redmond; tickets start at $59.50, marymoorconcerts.com