The Heartless Bastards have a considerable amount of soul. Their music has an infectious, warm, bluesy sound they’ll be bringing to the High Noon Saloon this Saturday night, along with Hacienda and Little Legend.
While they’ve gone under the radar of some music lovers, the Heartless Bastards have stayed together for nearly 10 years despite a number of lineup changes. A constant throughout these changes, and key element of the band, is Erika Wennerstrom, lead singer and guitarist. Wennerstrom’s distinctive voice and powerful lyrics, coupled with the band’s bluesy garage rock, gives the band a sound of its own.
Wennerstrom never tones or dumbs herself down, maintaining not only her voice and lyrics but her guitar work as well, which is impressive and also prominent in the band’s sound. While many liken the Heartless Bastards to a mellower version of the Black Keys, a number of things give the band its own appeal.
“I don’t think anyone would ever mix us up on the radio,” Wennerstrom asserted.
The entire band plays with an energy and emotion that has served it well in past shows. In addition to rocking a variety of concert venues, they have also been featured on the Late Show with David Letterman, where they promoted their album The Mountain. Even on late night television, their energy was still palpable.
Their stop in Madison is part of an extensive tour of more than 50 shows. While it may seem like a daunting tour, the band seems pretty enthused. Instead of taking a page from Kings of Leon’s Followill brothers, Wennerstrom is so far still energized about the tour and shows no sign of stopping.
“We had quite a bit of time off and I like to keep busy,” she put simply. The show in Madison will be one of the last before the band releases its latest album.
On Valentine’s Day, Heartless Bastards will be releasing its fourth album, Arrow. Tour dates both precede and follow the release, a decision made to help hype the album. The band released the single “Parted Ways” on its website and to Rolling Stone Magazine, enticing people to join the band’s email list to receive a free download of the song.
Arrow will be the first album on Heartless Bastards’ new record label, Partisan Records, and was produced in the home recording studio of Spoon’s Jim Eno. The album’s “Parted Ways” suggests the band is continuing to strengthen and grow from its typical, distinctive sounds. The last album, The Mountain, had hints of country coming through most tracks; Arrow will likely be another expansion into less familiar territory.
So far, Arrow has been generating buzz. Wennerstrom thinks “it’s the strongest record by the band yet,” a statement she’s been making since November. Beyond that, however, Wennerstrom remains tight-lipped, mentioning little of what’s in store on the rest of the album. Regardless, the band has grown stronger with every release, and fans have so far been enthusiastic with the prospect of the new release.
Despite their growing success, Wennerstrom remains humble. When asked what venues on the tour she was most excited to play, she said 1st Avenue in Minneapolis, Minn., saying “with all the history of the venue, it would be an honor to play there,” and the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, Calif., for similar reasons. Not forgetting her roots, she also added “the home town gig is always pretty special also.”
While the tour still hits common cities and venues around the country, many of the locations are smaller, often overlooked towns as well. The stop at the High Noon Saloon is a great example of playing a more personal venue.
Beyond the tour and the album, the next step for Heartless Bastards is still up in the air. Wennerstrom put it simply, “We’re just going to keep playing in support of the album, and hope people respond to it.”
The Heartless Bastards will play The High Noon Saloon Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $13 in advance or $15 at the door. For more information, go to www.high-noon.com.