Interview with Erika Wennerstrom from The Heartless Bastards

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Erika Wennerstrom, heartless bastards
Erika Wennerstrom from The Heartless Bastards

Interview by Scott Preston

Even though the Heartless Bastards are now based in Austin, they will always be a Cincinnati band. They have come a long way from playing that first gig at The Comet here in Cincinnati to touring with The Black Keys, getting a very positive review in SPIN Magazine, and playing on David Letterman on Feb 10. Erika Wennerstrom was kind enough to speak with me about the band and about their new album “The Mountain” which was just released on Feb 3rd.

Cincy Groove: How has Austin, TX been treating you since you moved there from Cincinnati?

Erika Wennerstrom: Pretty good, there are a lot of cool people here and a nice town. Austin is blessed with wonderful weather, most of the time. The summers are a little hot but I’m a creature of the night so I try to stay out of the daytime summer.

Cincy Groove: I saw that SPIN Magazine gave The Heartless Bastards a pretty good review.

Erika Wennerstrom: I was really, really happy about that. I didn’t know really what to expect with this album. I have to say I’m happy with the response that we have been getting from popular publications.

Cincy Groove: What do you miss about Cincinnati?

Erika Wennerstrom: I love Cincinnati and Ohio in general. I miss a lot of great people and friends that I have made through out the years. I miss Northside Tavern, where I used to work, my old stomping grounds. I try to get back when I can to visit.

Cincy Groove: What was it like using a producer, Mike McCarthy for the first time on “The Mountain” ?

Erika Wennerstrom: I was totally scared, I had never worked with a producer before. I do think that Mike McCarthy really believed in the project which made me feel like he was dedicated to making it the best album it could be.

Cincy Groove: Was the album recorded in Cincinnati or down in Austin?

Erika Wennerstrom: Down here in Austin, Mike has his own studio here. Its actually an old sound studio, its where they did the soundtrack for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Cincy Groove: I see that you are going to be on David Letterman pretty soon.

Erika Wennerstrom: Yeah on February 10. I’m completely excited and scared at the same time. Its kind of surreal at this point.

Cincy Groove: Your current band mates, Dave and Jesse, weren’t they original members of the band?

Erika Wennerstrom: Well they were on the original demo. Dave played for a while when we first started, Jesse was just on the demo but never had played live with us. We added a guitar player Matt Nathan and have been working on all the songs as a four piece before we go out on tour.

Cincy Groove: What does the band drive around in on tour?

Erika Wennerstrom: We have a 15 passenger van. Since we have added a fourth member for our live shows, we have added a 5′ x 8′ trailer. There are 6 people total including the band that travels with us. We have someone who is our tour manager and helps sell merchandise. Then we have our sound man.

Cincy Groove: Was there a moment when you decided you were going to be a musician or was it more of a gradual thing?

Erika Wennerstrom: I have always wanted to sing, since the age of 4 or 5. I had never really thought about playing guitar until my dad sent me one for my birthday when I was 16. When I was 18 I really started to figure out how to play.

Cincy Groove: Where did the band name “Heartless Bastards” come from?

Erika Wennerstrom: There was this Mega Touch video game that they have on bar tops. We were playing the music trivia game and one of the questions was “What is Tom Petty’s backing band?” Tom Petty and The Heartless Bastards was one of the wrong choices.

Cincy Groove: What do you remember about the bands first show at The Comet here in Cincinnati?

Erika Wennerstrom: We opened for The Henchmen and The Legendary Shack Shakers. I’m sure it sounded horrible being that it was our first show (laughing). Back then I used to turn my Vox up to 9, which is insanely loud. It was before I learned to turn it down so people could hear what I was singing.

Cincy Groove: Who are some of the bands you will be touring with?

Erika Wennerstrom: We will be touring with the Black Keys next week. We also will be playing with Andrew Bird and a new band called Gaslight Anthem.

Cincy Groove: When will you have a cd release show in the Cincinnati area?

Erika Wennerstrom: We will be playing at The Madison Theater on March 25. I knew we couldn’t not play Cincy for 6 months after the album comes out. I found one little window after we finish touring with Andrew Bird on the 23rd and we start playing with Gaslight Anthem on the 27th. We exactly have enough time to get to Covington and then have one day to get to New York.

The Heartless Bastards:
Erika Wennerstrom – Guitar, Vocals
Dave Colvin – Drums
Jesse Ebaugh – Bass
Matt Nathan – guitar

Heartless Bastards – video for All This Time off their second album, The Mountain.

Upcoming Heartless Bastards tour dates:
For show details visit http://www.myspace.com/heartlessbastards
Feb 5 2009 Electric Factory w/ The Black Keys Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Feb 6 2009 Terminal 5 w/ The Black Keys New York, New York
Feb 7 2009 Terminal 5 w/ The Black Keys New York
Feb 10 2009 Late Show With David Letterman New York, New York
Feb 11 2009 Gravity Lounge Charlottesville, Virginia
Feb 12 2009 Bottletree Birmingham, Alabama
Feb 13 2009 Government Street Grocery Club Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Feb 14 2009 The Last Concert Cafe Houston, Texas
Feb 26 2009 Sam’s Burger Joint San Antonio, Texas
Feb 27 2009 Longhorn Saloon Ft. Worth, Texas
Feb 28 2009 Hailey’s Denton, Texas
Mar 15 2009 The Pageant w. Andrew Bird St Louis, Missouri
Mar 16 2009 Liberty Hall w. Andrew Bird Lawrence, Kansas
Mar 17 2009 Cain’s Ballroom w. Andrew Bird Tulsa, Oklahoma
Mar 18 2009 TBA – SXSW Austin, Texas
Mar 19 2009 TBA – SXSW Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 TBA – SXSW Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 TBA – SXSW Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 House of Blues w. Andrew Bird Houston, Texas
Mar 23 2009 Lyric Oxford w. Andrew Bird Oxford, Mississippi
Mar 25 2009 Madison Theater CD Release party Covington, Kentucky
Mar 27 2009 Webster Hall – W/ Gaslight Anthem New York, New York
Mar 28 2009 Trocadero w. Gaslight Anthem Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mar 29 2009 Mr. Smalls w. Gaslight Anthem Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Mar 30 2009 Newport Music Hall w. Gaslight Anthem Columbus, Ohio
Mar 31 2009 Agora Ballroom w/ Gaslight Anthem Cleveland, Ohio
Apr 1 2009 St. Andrews Hall/w Gaslight Anthem Detroit, Michigan
Apr 2 2009 Turner Hall w. Gaslight Anthem Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Apr 3 2009 The Bottom Lounge w/ Gaslight Anthem Chicago, Illinois
Apr 4 2009 Varsity Theater w. Gaslight Anthem Minneapolis, Minnesota
Apr 7 2009 The Warehouse w. Gaslight Anthem Calgary, Alberta
Apr 8 2009 The Starlight Room w. Gaslight Anthem Edmonton, Alberta
Apr 10 2009 The Plaza Nightclub w. Gaslight Anthem Vancouver, British Columbia
Apr 11 2009 Crocodile Cafe Seattle, Washington
Apr 13 2009 Berbati’s Pan w. Gaslight Anthem Portland, Oregon
Apr 15 2009 The Boardwalk w. Gaslight Anthem Sacramento, California
Apr 16 2009 Slims w. Gaslight Anthem San Francisco, California
Apr 21 2009 The Clubhouse w. Gaslight Anthem Tempe, Arizona
Apr 22 2009 Launchpad – W/Gaslight Anthem Albuquerque, New Mexico
Apr 23 2009 Black Sheep w. Gaslight Anthem Colorado Springs, Colorado
Apr 24 2009 Gothic Theater w. Gaslight Anthem Denver, Colorado
Apr 25 2009 Beaumont Club w/ The Gaslight Anthem Kansas City, Missouri
Apr 28 2009 Granada Theatre w. Gaslight Anthem Dallas, Texas
Apr 29 2009 Antones – w/ Gaslight Anthem Austin, Texas
May 2 2009 State Theatre – W/ Gaslight Anthem Saint Petersburg, Florida
May 3 2009 The Social – w/ Gaslight Anthem Orlando, Florida