Heartless Bastards is a great name for a Punk band. Funny it was the wrong answer to a question in a bar trivia game played by Erika Wennerstrom. The question asked for the name of Tom Petty's band (it's The Heartbreakers' not the Heartless Bastards - although that might have been better). In another quirk, Heartless Bastards aren't a Punk group but far closer to the garage band/DIY of the Black Keys. One-half of that band played a prominent role in Heartless Bastards' career.
The Cincinnati based Heartless Bastards were regularly compared to fellow Ohioans the Black Keys. But it was the Keys' Patrick Carney who, after catching the band live, passed along a demo that got Heartless Bastards signed to Fat Possum Records.
Also, the group Spoon figured prominently in Heartless Bastards' lore.
Heartless Bastards' third album "The Mountain" had Spoon producer Mike McCarthy at the controls. And the group's fourth album "Arrow" was produced by Spoon drummer Jim Eno.
Led by Erika Wennerstrom, Heartless Bastards formed in '03 as a quartet that included Dave Colvin (drums). Soon, the group trimmed down to a trio with new members behind Wennerstrom.
'05's "Stars And Elevators" was an impressive debut garnering favorable reviews from Rolling Stone and the Village Voice. Sophomore effort, "All This Time," landed in '08.
A short time later, Colvin rejoined the group along with bassist Jesse Ebaugh, who had played on the demo that got the record deal.
The songs "Sway" and "All This Time" were heard in the television series Friday Night Lights with "Sway" appearing on the show's soundtrack CD.
The release of "The Mountain," preceded a North American tour with Wolfmother.
Leaving Fat Possum, Heartless Bastards signed with the Brooklyn-based Partisan Records. Their debut for that label was '12's "Arrow." "I feel like this is the strongest record I've ever done," Wennerstrom told Billboard. "I'm really, really happy with it." "Parted Ways" was the lead single.
2005 Stairs And Elevators
2006 All This Time
2009 The Mountain
Heartless Bastards' success rides squarely on Erika Wennerstrom, who has one of the most interesting and compelling voices in Rock. She can capture a range of emotions that is both intimate and believable.
"I've made a lot of choices, most have not been wise," sings Wennerstrom on "Hold Your Head High." That combination of self-awareness and revelation permeates "The Mountain."
The group vaults from Garage Rock, "Early In The Morning," "Witchypoo" and "Sway," to acoustic ballads, "Could be So Happy" and "So Quiet, which has a Country-spiritual feeling. Whether singing a ballad or a Rocker, Wennerstrom commits to each song in a truly captivating way.
The acoustic-leaning single "Parted Ways" is one of the few breakout tracks on "Arrow." It's a bad sign when a song titled "Got To Have Rock And Roll" chugs along without finding that point of ecstasy or liberation. "Late In The Night" does a far better job of that. Aside from mid-tempo "Only For You," which uses The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde as inspiration, the remaining tracks allow Wennerstrom to again show off her vocal chops and emotional depth but doesn't generate much excitement.