CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. - On the heels of a busy summer on the festival circuit and a third consecutive nod as Best Bluegrass in Colorado from Denver's Westword Magazine, Head for the Hills is Tahoe-bound.
The four-man string band takes the stage Friday night in Crystal Bay Casino's Crown Room.
"Tahoe always has a really good crowd that comes out," mandolin player Michael Chappell said.
"It's always been one of the great spots to tour. When you see it on the lineup it's like, 'Oh, cool that's gonna be fun.'"
Head for the Hills played most recently in the Tahoe area at Squaw Valley's Peaks and Paws festival in August.
The band includes Chappell, Adam Kinghorn (guitar), Joe Lessard (fiddle) and Matt Loewen (bass). The four bonded in 2004 as freshmen at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.
"We all met in the dorms," Kinghorn told Lake Tahoe Action in August. "Our first practice was in a dorm room, and then things started growing from there. After we graduated we decided we didn't want to use our degrees, and that we wanted to keep expanding musically."
Since then, Head for the Hills has steadily grown a following in Colorado and nationwide, playing this summer at Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Wakarusa Music festival, and other festivals around the country.
The band has released two studio records, 2006's "Robber's Roost" and 2010's "Head for the Hills" as well as its debut concert album.
Released in May, "Head for the Hills Live" was compiled from six different shows in Colorado, recorded over a period of eight months.
Now, the lads of Head for the Hills are at work on their next album, recording in Fort Collins in between trips on tour.
"It's called 'Blue Ruin,' the name of one of the songs on the album," Chappell said. "It's a phrase to describe twilight. Not like the series; like, dusk."
With three tracks recorded at present, he estimated that the band is about a third of the way through the studio process.
"Musically, I would say it's a little more ambitious and a little less in the genre," Chappell said. "That would be one thing, the songs are a little different than what anyone would be used to if they've been following us. There's still bluegrass songs on it, but it's got a little different of a vibe. I would say it doesn't veer too far from where we were, less chorus-verse-solo, probably a little more melody driven.
There are more long instrumentals, there are some songs that are more spoken word."
To help meet the many expenses involved in the production and release of a record, Head for the Hills is turning to Kickstarter, an online organization that describes itself as "a funding platform for creative projects." Kickstarter allows a person or group with a creative goal to attract "backers," potential funders for their specific project. These supporters then donate funds to help the creator meet their stated goal.
"This is a way to get the fans involved," Chappell said. "We give them incentives to preorder the album, or do some unique things with the band, and it all helps raise money to produce the CD. For a band like us, creating a studio album is really expensive. This is kind of a way to not have a big record label."
Head for the Hills' Kickstarter campaign will launch in early November.
A guided fishing trip with the band, a private show booking, and a private dinner cooked by band members are among potential fundraising offerings.
"We basically did a financial plan of how much this is going to cost, paying for the production, artwork, the vinyl," Chappell said. "We set a goal and if we don't reach our goal, no one is charged and we don't take any money."
Between recording for 'Blue Ruin' and planning the Kickstarter campaign, Head for the Hills continues to focus on taking its music on the road to live audiences.
"People really respond to what we do live," Kinghorn said. "We just put out the live record, but we realize that people want to hear new material. Our fan base has been so good to us in Colorado and around the country, that we're just excited to show them some new stuff."
"We're just going to keep developing the music and trying to be consistent in where we're going and where we've been," Chappell said.
Crystal Bay Casino is the next stop for Head for the Hills, and it is one that the band is looking forward to, having played both the Red Room and the Crown Room in the past.
"I love it, it's always a lot of fun for us. They always take really good care of us.' Chappell said. "It's a place where after we finish playing, there's always something happening, always people hanging out late."