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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Life + Arts

New album, band shoot Heartless Bastards to new heights

Austin-based Heartless Bastards swung through Houston during a tour promoting the new album, “Arrow.” 

Erika Wennerstrom, the band’s singer, guitarist and songwriter, spoke with The Daily Cougar prior to the band’s show at Fitzgerald’s on March 10. 

The Daily Cougar: For this album you guys got a new guitar player?

Wennerstrom: The whole band is new to the album. I had a different band on the first two albums.

I was in a relationship with one of the band members. We were together nine years though, so it wasn’t some kind of band playing. When we split up, I moved to Austin to just kind of start over because we had all the same friends. It was kind of hard to be in the same city, so I moved to Austin.

When I recorded “The Mountain” (the third album released in 2009), I didn’t have a band yet, so I had to snatch some musicians on that album.

I ran into Dave (Colvin, current drummer) when I finished recording “The Mountain.” I had been in a band years ago with Dave back in Dayton, Ohio. He played drums, so he came to the band. He happened to be finishing up school at UT so it was good timing.

Then I called up Jesse (Ebagh, current bassist), who lived in the Cincinnati area, and asked if he would consider moving down to Austin to join the band — I’ve always thought he was a really great bass player and a really good positive personality.

Mark (Nathan, fellow guitarist) joined before “The Mountain” was released. We did a tour as a three-piece and he did sound on that tour. He is a professional sound engineer, and we got along really well and heard he was a great guitarist, so then we asked if he was interested — it’s now three years later.

Sometimes it’s nice to work with people you already know because when you are on the road you are in a
van. It’s hard sometimes, and it’s easy for drama to happen. Having people that I have known for a long time, I figured it was less likely — so far so good. We all get along nicely.

TDC: You worked with Spoon’s producer, Mike McCarthy, on “The Mountain.” How was it like working with (Spoon drummer) Jim Eno on this album?

Wennerstrom: I like (McCarthy’s) work with Spoon and also with a band called …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. (He produced the) album called “Source Tags and Codes.” I have always loved how it was recorded and the sounds of it.

Mike McCarthy heard of us through his sister because she is from Cincinnati. That is kind of how I got to work with him, and he coincidentally lived in Austin when I moved there, so it made sense. Over the years we have gotten to know him through various friends and we would run into each other on different occasions.

(Eno) has an amazing studio in Austin called Public Hi-Fi, and worked with bands like Black Joe Lewis. He showed some interest in the band and actually came to some of our rehearsals. The greatest thing was that he asked us what we wanted to sound like and wanted some samples and recording techniques and albums as references. I think with him being in a band previously we worked together with a team and liked the direction we were headed.

TDC: Were you looking for a specific sound on this album?

Wennerstrom: It’s not an overall sound for the album. Some inspirations for “Parted Ways” were, like, Thin Lizzy’s cover of “Whiskey in the Jar.” It is kind of like rock but it has an acoustic guitar. “Got to Have Rock and Roll,” was inspired by T-Rex, so we put the drums in an enclosed vocal booth for that tight sound. It was just kind of, “How do we approach each song rather than the album?” If you take each song individually, each gives its own identity.

TDC: Well, the tracks in the album were all over the place and not placed in any specific order.

Wennerstrom: Yeah, totally. Even mixing the acoustic guitar, it’s a bit more melodic in “Parted Ways.” In “Got to Have Rock and Roll,” the percussive elements of the guitar are heard more.

TDC: You guys did a taping of Austin City Limits in 2009. Are you doing festivals this year?

Wennerstrom: Yeah. I am not certain which ones have been announced, but we have one called, Hangout. Then we are doing Summerfest in Milwaukee, and another one called Soundtown — just a number of them.

But the one I like the most is Pickathon, which is one in Portland. It’s very intimate with a max of 5,000 ticket capacity. All the acts play at least two sets, so it’s a show in a barn and then one outdoors.

TDC: What bands are you looking forward to seeing anytime soon?

Wennerstrom: Probably Dr. Dog. We played with them two or three years ago. The Jesus and Mary Chain have reunited and they are playing SXSW. I hope I get to see them. We are playing eleven times there, so we will see. I have never seen them. I caught part of them when I was sixteen at Lollapalooza. It was so long ago.

TDC: Well, thank you so much for your time.

Wennerstrom: Not a problem man. It was cool talking to you.


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