Artist Interview: Chris Head and the Honchos
Tell us about yourself and your music
Chris Head and the Honchos grew out of songwriter Chris Head’s desire to add muscle to songs that he had begun performing as a solo, acoustic act. Originally from TN, Chris had been plying his unique take on roots rock, country, folk, powerpop, and what-all in the Milwaukee area, but the indie CD he had recorded and was selling at gigs didn’t match their stripped-down presentation. Enter Rizal Iskandarsjach and Tim Ungrodt. Riz’s love of roots music and experience playing in singer-songwriter, rockabilly, & blues settings proved eminently adaptable to Chris’s songs. The two jelled quickly and, soon after beginning rehearsals, began looking to add some bottom end to their sound. Tim had just moved back to Milwaukee from Dallas, TX, and was looking for a forum to get back into music. His melodic instincts bring an expansiveness to the trio and take the songs to unexpected places. Collectively, they have created an identity distinct from anything Chris could have envisioned on his own.
Talk to us more about your latest release
Chicken Wire is the band’s second release. Like 2011’s Hard Truths, diversity defines the song selections, but with a tighter, focused approach this time out. These titles also tend to rock a little bit harder. Straight country can be found in the weeping steel of “Broken” and the mandolin trills of “Breakdown Lane.” But songs like opener “Born to Be,” with its punchy rhythm; “Out of the Turn,” with its overdriven twang; and “One Thing,” with its bouncy push, predominate. [Note, the Soundcloud link below does not contain the entire CD.]
What inspired you to write this release?
Five years is a long time in the music world, and that gap between our two releases allowed Chris and the band the opportunity to develop lots of new material. No sooner was the first CD wrapped, than our ears were pitched forward to identify which songs would make the cut for Chicken Wire. Some were tunes that had been played for a long time, such as “Dancing in the Sun.” Others, like “Out of the Turn,” were recent compositions that fit the collection well. But each song has its own origin and inspiration that sets it apart. “How to Heal,” for example, began as a rumination on break ups after Chris’s older daughter experienced such a split and promptly changed her hair. (She dyed it rather than cut it, but that’s creative license for you.)
Any plans to release a video?
We have no video plans at the moment. Hopefully, we can catch some live footage to join the few clips currently living on our YouTube page. https://www.youtube.com/user/CHeadHonchos
Any plans to hit the road?
A CD release show is slated for April 8 in our home base of Milwaukee, WI. We are currently working on other dates throughout the spring and summer. We hope to schedule a few Midwestern dates in Illinois, Minnesota, and elsewhere.
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
The term Americana has proven useful due to the open-ended nature of the genre itself, but that label doesn’t say much about what makes us unique. For us, a focus on how we combine roots music with a more melodic, powerpop aesthetic, allows us, hopefully, to differentiate ourselves among a crowded group.
Who have you been listening to lately?
The latest cover song to make into our set is “Save It for a Rainy Day,” by the Jayhawks, who individual members have seen live and been listening to recently. Chris and Riz particularly are into Southern Culture on the Skids and went to see them in concert not long ago. Ditto the Waco Brothers, who Tim and Chris went to see. Chris has been going through a pretty intense powerpop phase, sparked in part by reissues of the Game Theory catalog. Most recently, Chris has been listening to Bobby Sutliff, a founding member of the Windbreakers, who has recorded several sterling solo albums.
Tell us about your passions
All three of us have jobs outside the band, with Riz and Chris also married with children. Chris works in higher education and counts film and TV as a primary source of non-musical entertainment along with family activities. Riz is often busy with his family and is a pretty fair cook. Tim is always mentioning some new documentary he’s seen and is a bonafide master at finding deals. One of the amps Chris used on Chicken Wire was a Goodwill find that Tim bought for $4. One new tube and a recap later, and it was ready to go. Chris played the solo on “Lincoln County Process” through it.
What else is happening next in your world?
We have two new, political songs that, given the events of the last few months, we want to get out into the world sooner than later. We are working them up now with plans to record and place them online as free downloads. Stay tuned!
Thanks for an awesome interview, Chris!
Connect with Chris Head and the Honchos