The Head and the Heart were as surprised as anyone by the success of their 2010 debut. The album sold 280,000 copies after being picked up by Sub Pop; the Seattle folk-rock crew spent the next two-plus years playing festivals and opening for acts like My Morning Jacket and Dave Matthews Band. "We were running ourselves ragged," says singer-guitarist Jon Russell. Adds frontman Josiah Johnson, "All the great things about the band started to fade behind all the little things that bug the shit out of you."
They confront those tensions on their new LP, Let's Be Still. On the melancholy ballad "Fire/Fear," Johnson cries, "I want to feel the fire again, with you or anybody else." "I'm saying, 'This isn't cutting it for me,' " Johnson says. "If we don't remember why we're doing it, we can't do this forever."
The band spent five months recording on and off at Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard's Litho studio. "We had so many more instruments and sounds at our fingertips," says Russell. Next up: a fall tour of big clubs and theaters. Says Johnson, "It's down the rabbit hole from this point on."
This story is from the November 7th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.