Austin (by way of Ohio) quartet Heartless Bastards are back on the road.
In April, the dynamic rockers made a San Diego stop at the Belly Up, showcasing many of the songs from their February-released, fourth LP, Arrow. And after months of festivals and dates across the U.S., they’re back. This time, they’ll be playing Wednesday night’s Green Flash/KPRI concert series at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla.
I recently spoke with husky-voiced singer/songwriter/frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom about the current tour, an upcoming film project and the importance of listening to an album in its entirety.
Scott McDonald: How are you?
Erika Wennerstrom: I’m good. We’re running a little late to the club. We had a flat tire, so I’m still in the van right now. But we’re fine and things are good. We’ve had a little bit of time off recently, although we did some festivals here and there on the weekends, so we’ve been enjoying that. But now it’s back on tour. We’ve got recharged batteries and we’re ready to go.
SM: What leg of the tour is this?
EW: [laughs] I don’t know. I think we’ll have octopus legs after we’re done with all of the legs of this tour! But no, it’s been great. And we’re just about to announce some new dates in the fall as well, so we’ll be at it for a while longer. And it’ll be nice to get back to the West Coast and play some venues that we haven’t played before.
SM: The Birch Aquarium should be a fantastic place to play. I’ve never seen a show there, but it’s a beautiful campus that’s right near the water.
EW: Oh, great. Yeah, that should be cool.
SM: I just watched the video for “Only For You.” Looks like you got your pool time in for the summer.
EW: Yeah. It was fun. I guess we were in the pool for quite a while filming that, but we really did have a lot of fun doing it. It’s not that bad to have to dance around in the water for a few hours.
SM: Are you still living in Austin?
EW: Yes. I’ve been there for about four years now. I still have family in Ohio and when we have some time off, I go back and visit. But we’ve been travelling so much lately, when I do have some time off, I just like to stay at home.
SM: Arrow has been out for a while now. Does any new material get developed on a lengthy tour like this, or do you see this one through and then start working on the next thing?
EW: We’ve been touring so much with only little breaks here and there, so when we’ve had those breaks, we’ve used them to just relax and recharge the batteries. And I just haven’t focused that much on new material. I have worked on a few ideas, and sometime very soon I’ll bring the songs in and we’ll start working on them. But when you spend every single day with the people you work with, it’s a little more difficult. It’s not an eight-hour day. You’re in the van all day and then together all night. We all still get along really well, but when you have a little air, it’s just better to use it for that. And after we recorded Arrow, we went right back into the studio to record a soundtrack to a film called Winter in the Blood. It’s based on a novel by James Welch.
SM: Cool. When will that be released?
EW: I’m not sure if they have a release date for the film. But Chris Funk from the Decemberists produced the soundtrack and we’re very proud of the material. And we’re really excited about it coming out. So, I guess we do have some new material -- at least in that people haven’t heard it yet –- coming out soon.
SM: How did you enjoy the process? Had to be a lot different than your norm.
EW: Well, it was very interesting because it was done in the reverse of a lot of films in that they hadn’t filmed yet when we spoke about doing the project. They gave me a copy of the book, a copy of the script, and I read both. They wanted to edit the film to the music, not the other way around. So I just wrote songs that I felt fit the main character. I tried to come up with music that I thought would be inside his head. And it ended up working out. I mean, there was a part of me that worried about them finding that it didn’t work, [laughs] but it ended up working out very well. And I think Robert Plant has been confirmed to have a song on the soundtrack now, as well as Cass McCombs, so we’re very excited. I’m really proud of it, and there’s part of me that knew that even if they came back and said that my songs didn’t fit, it’d be something I’d put out later. I knew it wasn’t something where the songs wouldn’t be heard.
SM: Always good to give energy to a new project.
EW: And I’ve also got a thing that I do with Alex Moss of the Black Angels called Sweet Tea. And we just recorded a cover of “After Laughter Comes Tears,” and that’s going to be released on [record label] Light in the Attic. We also did a Christmas cover at the same time. It was funny. We recorded a Christmas song in June [laughs].
SM: Light in the Attic is great.
EW: Yeah. All the reissues they’ve been releasing -– Betty Davis, Rodriguez –- have been fabulous. And I’ve been buying a lot of vinyl lately.
SM: I just moved and have been able to get my collection out of storage.
EW: I actually left a lot of mine when I moved to Austin. It just didn’t fit in my car, and it was way too heavy. But I’ve been doing it again. In the digital world, now I buy the record, but it comes with the mp3 download, so I get both. I feel like it’s strange these days; people don’t even buy albums anymore. They find a song they like and just buy that. Even growing up, I’ve always loved the experience of an album. I love how it’s arranged and how it all comes together. I really enjoy it all. I’ve never been a shuffler. Well, I guess I did a few mix tapes in high school [laughs]. But I’m always more interested in the entire package.
SM: Well, thanks for taking the time and safe travels until we see you in La Jolla.
EW: Thank you. We’re looking forward to it and we’ll see you soon.