Heartless Bastards
: Louisville show, new record

Garage rockers Heartless Bastards will play at Headliners Music Hall, 1386 Lexington Rd., Louisville on Monday. Hacienda, as well as New Albany-based Houndsmouth, will open the show. It starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be found at headlinerslouisville.com.

The day following the show, Feb. 14, Heartless Bastards will release their newest album, “Arrow.”

Arrow sees the band pushing their distinctive sound forward with their most eclectic, energetic collection thus far. It’s a follow up to their 2009 effort “The Mountain.”

“The Mountain was me going through some things after being in a relationship for nine years,” said singer/guitarist/songwriter Erika Wennerstrom. “This album is kind of like me being comfortable again.”

It’s the debut of Heartless Bastards’ current iteration, their latest line-up since Wennerstrom first convened the band back in 2003. Drummer Dave Colvin and bassist Jesse Ebagh – both of whom played on the Bastards’ first-ever demo recordings – returned to the fold in order to play live behind The Mountain. Soon after embarking on tour, Wennerstrom decided to put more meat on the band’s raw bones by enlisting guitarist Mark Nathan, who had ostensibly come aboard to handle the live sound.

“I wanted to add another guitar,” Wennerstrom said, “so I asked Mark, ‘What do you think of joining the band?’ and he was into it. I’ve always planned on being a four-piece, but it just takes a while to find somebody that you feel you click with. I’d rather have it be stripped down than just have somebody there for the sake of having them there.”

With their sound honed to a razor’s edge by night after night of playing live, Heartless Bastards were soon ready to record for posterity. But having spent so much of the past year on tour, Wennerstrom said she needed some downtime in order to turn her musical ideas into songs.

In Fall 2010, she embarked on the first of what would be several solo road trips designed to clear the cobwebs and help focus her songwriting. She visited friends and family in Ohio, hung out at All Tomorrow’s Parties in the Catskills, spent alone time in Arkansas, a lake cabin in the Allegheny Mountains and at a ranch in West Texas.

“It was really nice,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I was getting much done, but I realized that a lot of that experience ended up being reflected in the songs. I didn’t get a lot of the writing done right then, on that trip, but I feel like getting out there really helped me later on.”

Last year saw Heartless Bastards hitting the highway once more, taking the opportunity to road-test Wennerstrom’s new songs on a bare-bones “acoustic” tour as well as on a series of dates supporting Drive-By Truckers. The band set to work on Arrow just two short days after their return to Austin, a revved-up, well-oiled rock ‘n’ roll machine.

“We just went right in,” Wennerstrom says. “There’s a definite sound that comes from a band that’s been on the road and I really feel like it’s translated on the album.”

The band spent the next month with producer Jim Eno at his Public Hi-Fi home studio. Eno – the drummer for Spoon – guided the Bastards through the recording process, helping them to infuse their myriad influences and ambitions into the songs.

“Jim was really great to work with,” Wennerstrom said. “He asked me what kind of approach I wanted to take towards each song and we’d take it in that direction. It was like, what were you thinking for each song, as far as inspiration?”

“It’s a pretty stripped-down album in a lot of ways,” Wennerstrom says. “There’s really not a lot added to these tracks, they’re really mostly live takes. We talked about adding things, but when we listened back, we thought, ‘I don’t know if this really needs more.’”

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About hoosierhits
The music blog of the News and Tribune, Jeffersonville & New Albany, Ind.

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