I got to chat on the phone today with Erika Wennerstrom, the lead singer and guitarist for the alt.country-garage rockers Heartless Bastards.
The band will play a show at Historic Turner Hall tomorrow night – Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m.– and then release their fourth album, "Arrow," on Valentine's Day.
Tickets are $15.
Wennerstrom claimed to be "a little out of it" during our conversation because she doesn't sleep well on the tour bus, but I thought she was funny and easy to talk to.
OnMilwaukee.com: Where did your band name come from?
Erika Wennerstrom: I used to play bartop trivia games when I was a bartender – the kind with the touch screen – and one of the questions was, "What is the name of Tom Petty's backing band?" One of the choices was "The Heartless Bastards" and I found humor in that name and decided I would name my band that someday. Some people think (the name) is crass, but personally, I think it's funny.
OMC: You are from Cincinnati, which is where the band started out, but now you live in Austin. Did you move for more music opportunity than you were finding in the Midwest?
EW: Cincinnati is a very creative environment and a great place for musicians to live. I didn't move for musical reasons. I was in a nine-year relationship and when we split up I needed to start over. I really don't think you need to move to Los Angeles or New York or Austin; great bands come out of anywhere as long as you're willing to tour and reach out to people.
OMC: How do you kill time on the bus or before and after shows?
EM: This tour is pretty hectic. We've been doing radio interviews and in-stores in most towns so there isn't much time, but I like to walk around every city we visit. Especially after being in a car or bus all day. I like to get the blood flowing. And I like to read.
OMC: Read any good books lately?
EM: I'm reading a good biography of Dr. John right now, but my recent favorite was a biography of Che Guevara. I don't know if I agree with it all but he had nothing but good intentions.
OMC: How is "Arrow" different from your other recordings?
EM: Personally, I feel it's the strongest record yet. I have been touring for three years with the band I recorded with and we're all a really close unit. The recording was such a great experience. We went on tour with the Drive By Truckers and were in the studio two days later. The record was produced by Jim Eno, the drummer from Spoon, in his home studio, Public Hi-Fi.
OMC: What can fans expect at Thursday night's show?
EM: We'll definitely play the new album in its entirety. Not necessarily in order. And we'll bring out some old songs that we haven't played in a while. People should come ... ready to rock ... I guess (laughing).
OMC: You are the only constant member of the band. Why so many changes?
EM: When a band first starts out, that just happens. A lot of people have a hard time trying to play out all the time and work a regular job. It's hard to keep a band together. There certainly hasn't been a lot of drama, and I think the band would say I'm pretty easy to get along with.
I was in the nine-year relationship with one of the former band members and when we split it was very difficult to continue working together, so I decided to move. Needed a fresh start.
OMC: Are you friends with The Black Keys, also from Ohio?
EM: Yeah, I guess we're friends. I know them and Patrick (Carney) was kind enough to recommend us to Fat Possum Records. He came to one of our shows in Akron and we had a few beers and gave him a demo. He helped us get started.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.