Heartless Bastards’ Erika Wennerstrom: It’s All About The Voice

Heartless Bastards

Four years ago in the women’s bathroom of Hailey’s, a small music club in Denton, Texas, I walked in to find Erika Wennerstrom washing her hands at the sink. Surprised to be standing so close to the voice of the Heartless Bastards — in a bathroom no less — nothing came to mind to talk about besides babble so I smiled and ducked into the first open stall instead.

 When Heartless Bastards later took the stage, the first thing that struck me about Wennerstrom, onstage with her guitar, was how petite she appeared. The second thing, trite as it sounds, was the size of her voice. The rest of her band (the reunited original lineup with Jesse Ebaugh on bass and Dave Colvin on drums) were tight and having fun just being there playing music, but the show belonged to Wennerstrom from the very beginning. She played both lead and rhythm guitar, all the while enthralling the audience and filling the room with that heartbreaking voice. Without a doubt it was my favorite show of 2009.

With new guitarist Mark Nathan on board, another dimension was added to the band in 2012 with the release of Arrow.  One of the joys of following a group from their early formation is hearing how they grow from album to album.  Arrow feels more mature, more ambitious while still full of rip-roaring rock’n’roll, and it doesn’t hurt that the album was produced by Spoon drummer Jim Eno. But no matter who is standing behind her onstage or in studio, it’s still all about Wennerstrom.

Heartless Bastards have been touring constantly since Arrow’s release last year. They will be playing the High Noon Saloon on Thursday, August 1 (tickets here).  This time, if I walk in on Erika Wennerstrom washing her hands, I resolve to at least say “hi.”

-Ashlie Crooks

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