Interview with vocalist/guitarist Andy Thomas | By Natalya Daoud
Along with Thomas on lead vocals and guitar, Dust Heart consist of Tyler Breuer on guitar and pedal steel; drummer Rob Burleson; bassist Chuck Coffey; and vocalist, accordionist, and Thomas’s wife, Jen GaNun.
No Poets—which was self-released by Dust Hearts on July 13—captures the emotional hayride Thomas went through after the death of his former co-frontman in Tin Horn Prayer, Mikey Herrera, and his mother’s diagnosis of cancer. “If the listener can hear that and think that you’re being honest with them and being honest with yourself, I think that’s one of the greater things an artist can do,” Thomas says. “I definitely try to be honest with this approach, and I hope it comes across.”
Thomas’ love for poetry is not only heard throughout the LP, it’s also illustrated on the front cover, which features the likeness of 18th century Scottish poet, Robert Burns. “You have to wonder at the end of the day if there’s room for people like that anymore,” Thomas says. “Is there room for honesty and poetry, or is it all just how many tickets someone can sell and who their booking agent is?”
The band were touring in Scotland when they saw a sign at a bar that read, “Open mic. No poets, no ukuleles,” which gave them the idea for the LP’s title. “A lot of those things that people really latch onto with music are sometimes overlooked, especially in the industry,” Thomas says. “They don’t really care about poetry, and some people don’t care about thoughtfulness, they just want a good package.”
Inspired by artists such as Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, Thomas calls his music “punk rock for old people.” Even though his instrumentals do not replicate the sounds of the Ramones or The Clash, Thomas has played in punk bands and can relate to the genre on another level. “You could look at Chuck Ragan, and you can say he’s a folk artist, and what it is—he’s still a punk artist,” he says. “He’s still punk rock; it’s just kind of evolved into this new thing. It may be a little bit unrecognizable, but not at its core.”
Thomas and the rest of Dust Heart definitely add the aggression of punk rock to their five-piece performance sets. When on tour outside of Denver, they play as a trio—featuring only Thomas, GaNun, and Breuer—and, occasionally, Thomas will play a solo set.
Out of the four records the band have released—including 2009’s Blood and Sunshine, 2013’s Wicked, Dark, 2016’s Reckless Abandonment EP, and now, No Poets—the latter is their most evolved and honest record to date. “I’m hoping that people can see the progression, and I hope that people appreciate it for what it is,” Thomas says, “but also, be ready to see what’s next!”