Heartless Bastards: (left-right) Mark Nathan, Erika Wennerstrom, Dave Colvin, Jesse Ebaugh
Heartless Bastards: (left-right) Mark Nathan, Erika Wennerstrom, Dave Colvin, Jesse Ebaugh

Heartless Bastards Only Get Stronger

The Heartless Bastards may have grown from a power trio to a quartet, moved labels (from blues-rock purveyors Fat Possum to Partisan), and reshuffled a the lineup quite a bit, but the heart (heh) of the group, Erika Wennerstrom, hasn't lost the powerful, melancholy voice that made critics all stand up and notice the group's bluesy 2005 debut, Stairs and Elevators. Prior to releasing their latest, Wennerstrom ditched Cincinnati for Austin and reassembled her band. 

The result, 2012's Arrow, was written mostly while touring The Mountain, an album about the breakup of Wennerstrom and former bassist Mike Lamping, Wennerstrom says, "We've toured quite a bit more, time-wise, since Arrow's release than I spent during the writing process. ... If anything I feel the songs get stronger, and every time we play them I think they sound better and better." Here, Wennerstrom talks about touring and Disney movies to preview their March 28 show at the Constellation Room.

OC Weekly: You've said that "Arrow" really captured the sound of Heartless Bastards as a live band. Do you think touring the album has solidified your sound as a band even more? What have you learned from this album and this incarnation of Heartless Bastards that's different from the previous albums?

Erika Wennerstrom: I feel like I've found the band I've always wanted to have, and being able to work on the our most recent album together was a breathe of fresh air. I think we all just get each other really well.

Most of "Arrow" is about a longing -- for home, for a lost love, and some of it is about falling in love again... it's not so much about finding yourself like in "Stairs and Elevators," or a break-up like "The Mountain." Are you writing songs now? What are they about?

I think I'm still trying to figure out where I'm at in my life, and so I'm not exactly sure. I have a lot of ideas, but haven't put them all together yet.

Who did you grow up listening to and who inspired you to play music?

Otis Redding, Joan Jett and Mahalia Jackson were some inspirations that stuck with me. I also listened to a lot of pop as a kid.That didn't stick with me so much.

Who are you listening to now? 

I really like Tame Impala. I love that new Adam Green and Binky Shapiro record. I'm inspired by seeing great bands live, but I couldn't name a specific band that I'm aspiring to sound like at the moment. It all a combination of years of gathered influences.

Time for Orange County questions -- do you have any crazy Southern California stories? 

We are honestly so on the go touring I feel like I've never had much of an opportunity to spend real time there.

But do you like any of those Disney musicals? 

Sure I like Disney Movies. I've grown up with them, and they always add in humor for the adults watching. I still enjoy them.

Who are your non-musical heroes?

Che Guevera, Hillary Clinton, and Tina Fey.

What do you do when you're not doing music-related things? How do you clear your head?

I read a lot, and hike.

What do you love about fronting a rock & roll band?

Free drinks.

What do you hate about fronting a rock & roll band?

Free drinks.

The Heartless Bastards perform at the Constellation Room on March 28. $18.

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