Interview: Her Head’s On Fire’s Joe Grillo Dishes on Debut LP

Sustaining your passion for music as you get older isn’t always easy. For Her Head’s On Fire vocalist Joe Grillo (also known as Sid Jagger), it has been particularly challenging. His bestknown band, the posthardcore outfit Garrison, struggled to break through in the early 2000s. He coped with resentment by drinking and turning (by his own admission) into a ‘jaded cliché’. Later in life, he lost his voice for eight months after having tumors removed from his larynx. The surgery could have robbed him of the ability to sing forever.  
These days, he isn’t taking anything for granted. If you ask Grillo about his band or music in general he radiates with youthful energy and passion. He’s even picked up a side gig that allows him to further explore new sounds while pursuing a dream he’s had for years.  
“I tell this story about the embodiment of my midlife crisis,” Grillo says. “Rather than buying a Ferrari, I got one shift a week at Limited to One Records in Manhattan, in the East Village, because I’ve never worked at a record store, and I always wanted to.”  
Looking at the rest of the lineup in Her Head’s On Fire Jeff Dean (The Bomb, guitar), Rodrigo Palma (Saves The Day, bass), and Jeff Gensterblum (Small Brown Bike and Able Baker Fox, drums) it’s easy to see why Grillo is stoked on creating music again. This is a lineup loaded with deep experience in some of the most beloved emo and posthardcore bands of the past three decades. “Supergroup” feels like a decidedly unpunk term, but it’s a descriptor that fits the band’s collective resume.  
Yet, when listening to the lead singles from the band’s debut fulllength College Rock and Clove Cigarettes (available via Iodine Recordings on July 29), it’s clear this isn’t an attempt to recapture former glory. Their posthardcore sound blends influences ranging from REM to modern indie rock, building on the foundation established by their respective previous acts, without feeling like a comeback or a revival.   

“The legacy stuff is interesting,” Grillo says. “I like putting the previous band names on the cover to get your foot in the door or to make people go, ‘Oh, maybe that’s worth my time,’ because there’s just so much music out there. But I don’t really care, you know what I mean? I would rather not be a legacy act because I’m just not a big living in the past sort of person. I’m always happiest with what I’m making now.”

It’s not just older fans that have been drawn to the band, either. Grillo says showgoers have ranged from fans old enough to have bought Dead Reckoning or A Mile In Cold Water when they were first released, to excitable high school kids looking to get copies of their records signed. But no matter who’s coming to the shows, the band are thankful for the opportunity to play, and to share what they have created together. 
“There’s a joy onstage that’s palpable,” Grillo says. “I look at the other guys, and I think we all feel fortunate to be able to still do this, and we all feel so in love with the sound. I think those feelings are contagious.”

Watch the video for “Lexicon of Doubt” here:

For more from Her Head’s On Fire, find them on Facebook, Bandcamp, and Instagram.

Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Shannon

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