Erika Wennerstrom is a yowler. She’s a haunted, haunting rock-and-roll singer in the vein of Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and John Fogerty. And her band, Heartless Bastards, recently dropped its fourth album, Arrow. Produced by Spoon drummer Jim Eno, the album has elemental, riffy, roots-rock sports-scalding vocals and bluesy, deliberate rockers.
â€œ[Our third album] The Mountain was me going through some things after being in a relationship for nine years,â€ says Wennerstrom in the band’s official bio at www.theheartlessbastards.com. â€œThis album is kind of like me being comfortable again.â€
The current Heartless Bastards lineupâ€”vocalist Wennerstrom, guitarist Mark Nathan, drummer Dave Colvin and bassist Jesse Ebaughâ€”was assembled before the recording of Arrow. While Colvin and Ebaugh have worked with Wennerstrom and under the Heartless Bastards name before, Nathan’s addition was a sonic necessity.
â€œI wanted to add another guitar,â€ says Wennerstrom, â€œso I asked Mark, â€˜What do you think of joining the band?â€™ and he was into it. Iâ€™ve always planned on being a four-piece, but it just takes a while to find somebody that you feel you click with. Iâ€™d rather have it be stripped down than just have somebody there for the sake of having them there.â€
Heartless Bastards spent much of last year on the road, testing out new songs and getting down to their essence on a sparse acoustic(ish) tour. They also opened a number of dates for Athens’ own Drive-By Truckers.
â€œIâ€™m so in synch with this band,â€ Wennerstrom says. â€œSongs seem to go where I want them to go, and it doesnâ€™t take a whole lot of time. Even though Iâ€™m not very communicative, they know me well enough and get it.â€
Upon returning to Austin from that Truckers tour, they headed into the studio within days. â€œWe just went right in,â€ she adds. â€œThereâ€™s a definite sound that comes from a band thatâ€™s been on the road, and I really feel like itâ€™s translated on the album.â€
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