Erika Wennerstrom, frontwoman for Austin blues rockers Heartless Bastards, lent her smoky voice to share a bit about their summer tour, an inspiring read, and life on and off the road.
THE WEEKENDER: We saw you play McDowell Mountain Music Festival in March. What have you been up to since then?
ERIKA WENNERSTROM: We’re working on a new album. The band played Alaska for the first time about three weeks ago. I’ve never been and we had a little time off, so I went hiking and exploring around there, pretty much just working on our new album and also sort of adjusting to home life. When I’m touring so much, it takes a bit to sort of get back into the swing of being home.
W: You’re kicking off your summer tour in Philadelphia. Have you ever played Philly?
EW: Oh, quite a bit. Yeah. I guess we’ve only played it once since the last album (“Arrow,” 2012, Partisan Records) came out. We were supposed to play when Hurricane Sandy hit… We were in a hotel outside New York, I guess it was in New Jersey, and we had to stay put because of the hurricane. So we had to cancel the last one.
W: How do you think the sound has changed since you’ve added a guitar player and there’s been a flux in band members?
EW: I think it’s just the whole process of growing. I mean, gosh, that’s always a hard question for me. I write the songs and I get inspired by different things all the time and sort of explore different sounds. It really just depends on what I feel inspired by at the time.
W: Do you ever pull from inspirations outside of music, like reading or other forms of art or experience?
EW: Oh, certainly. I enjoy reading a lot. And I’m always looking for inspiration anywhere I can find it, whether it be through reading or painting or any number of things, or admiring art.
W: Is there anything you’re reading now that you find particularly inspiring?
EW: Yeah, right now I’m reading Thomas Wolfe “Look Homeward, Angels,” and I love the way he writes. It’s my first book of his. It’s almost like reading poetry, but it’s fictional stories… I thought it would be really inspiring to work on a song sort of inspired by the way he words things… I write the songs, too, not just the lyrics. As far as a recording sound quality, a lot of people say that the first album (“Stairs and Elevators,” 2005, Fat Possum) is kind of garage rock, and I think it’s just recorded in a sort of quickly, sort of DIY way… And the last album…we did full band takes in most of those… Between songs, we would change some techniques and things to give each song a different sound, and so I think that the sound, overall, is a bit more polished. But I think it’s just ‘cause we’re a tighter band now than we were when we first started.
W: This’ll be your 10th anniversary as a band?
EW: Mhm. I think the band’s first show was August 29th of 2003.
W: Are you going to celebrate it, on the 29th?
EW: Well, it hadn’t really occurred to me. (Laughs) I guess it’s gone through member changes and things over the years, so it’s not all the same people together for 10 years. I don’t know, maybe I will. (Laughs) But before we’re actually done with the tour, we’ll be over in Europe. Maybe I’ll celebrate over there.
W: That sounds like a good plan! Is there anything you want to say about the new album?
EW: About what I’m working on right now? Oh, gosh, it’s sort of in the early stages. I’m not sure what I would say, but I’m really excited about the idea of working on it, so I’m pretty enthusiastic. I feel real good about it.
W: Do you think anyone will be hearing anything from it on the tour?
EW: No, not on this upcoming tour. The band might start working out the songs during sound check. But Dave, our drummer, lives in Pittsburgh now, so I’ve been working on the songs on my own. And then, in the fall, he’s going to be flying in to Austin and the band will be working on it together. Right now, I’m just doing it on my own, so we really haven’t had a chance to work anything out but, I don’t know, maybe by the end of the tour we’ll get enough time during sound check to hash something out, but not by the time we hit Pennsylvania.
Heartless Bastards begin their summer world tour July 9 at Union Transfer in Philadelphia.