As you have been reading, the Downtown Dayton Revival Festival will be showing music from bands and artists that are from all walks of life. Some of the bands that are performing arefrom the great city of Dayton. Also, there are a few bands that started their journey here in town. Heartless Bastards are one of these bands that I speak of.
Heartless Bastards lead singer, Erika Wennerstrom was born and raised here in Dayton. Throughout her teenage years, Erika dove into music and songwriting. With the influences of great local acts Guided By Voices and The Breeders, Wennerstrom wanted to add her name to the mix. So, she continued to write, started to play guitar, and played in open mic nights. In 2002, she decided to set up the band. Heartless Bastards, which gets it’s from an incorrect answer to a trivia game that Erika was playing, toured regionally and signed with a record company. In 2005, the band released their debut LP, Stairs and Elevators, immediately grabbed people’s attention with Erika’s haunting vocals, Kevin Vaughn’s thrashing on the drums, and Mike Lamping helping create hooks on the guitars that you just don’t hear.
All This Time, Heartless Bastards second album, was released in 2006. The album continued to show Erika’s deep range, and the bands ability to continue stretches the boundaries. The album helped the band gain more exposure, and more fans. The band also saw the lineup come to an end. Wennerstrom and Lamping dated for a period of time, and sadly the relationship came to an end. “It was hard. We were together for over 10 years”, explained Wennerstrom to me over a phone conversation. The breakup made the band members move on. Erika moved to Austin, Texas to separate herself from the situation. “We had a lot of same friends. It wasn’t going to work. So, I decided to move to Austin. I had some friends and family there. I knew that I would be around people that would love and support me”, Erika mentioned.
With the move to Austin, Wennerstrom took some time to settle in and begun work on the third album under the Heartless Bastards name. She called upon a group of artists around Austin, and recorded The Mountain. The album went into a different path than the previous albums. The Mountain featured country music, employing violin, banjo, mandolin and steel guitar. Because the band she had were just hired to help with the album, Erika called up some friends to go and tour with her to support the album. “I called Jesse Ebaugh who was part of the first lineup and asked him if he wanted to move to Austin. I also ran into Dave Colvin. He played in the original lineup as well. It was very cool to have them back”, stated Wennerstrom. The trio enjoyed the experience so much that Erika made it a point to keep the band intact. “I just got to the point where I only want to play music with good friends”, explained Erika. “There’s a comfortable feeling in that.”
When the tour for The Mountain ended, Erika took some time off, and when she started the new album, she developed some writers block. So, she decided to take to open road. “I decided to go and take a road trip. I went and saw friends and family on the East Coast, went to the mountains, stayed in a friends cabin, and I went and saw some friends in the Texas area”, Erika told me. She didn’t write much during her trip, but when she returned the writing process came very easy.
The band spent a month in the studio recording the new album. They would experiment with different drum sounds, and try out chords on their guitars. Wennerstrom wrote about her experiences of being on the road trip, and about relationships. What the finish became is their best album to date, Arrow. “We feel that this is our best album”, Wennerstorm said. She couldn’t be more right. With Erika’s haunting, raspy vocals still intact, there is a peace to it now. Each song is individually crafted to perfection. ‘Marathon’ talks about being on the road. ‘Only For You’ is a blues-inspired ode to falling in love with someone. With the addition of guitarist Mark Nathan, the band has finally solidified a lineup that will be making great music for years to come.
The band is currently on tour that will take them all around the United States till the end of the year. They will take some time off, and possibly do a West Coast trip, do some shows in Canada, and do a tour in Europe in the beginning of 2013. The Downtown Dayton Revival festival is going to be special for the band as Erika has some family and friends still living in Dayton. “They are coming to the show, so this is going to be so fun. And I’m coming home, which is even better”, Erika told me. Heartless Bastards-welcome home for the day!