Erika Wennerstrom, lead singer of the indie-rock trio The Heartless Bastards, may be her generation’s Patti Smith. The Bastards’ songs are simply arranged acts of aggression and poignancy that channel Smith’s capacity to harness a whirlwind of feral emotion into a few minutes of punk scorn beauty. With Wennerstrom’s lyrics leading the way, the Bastards is on the cusp of releasing its third album, The Mountain, and, with it, a commitment to explore deeper and more complex atmospheres.
SFR: You’ve had an evolving lineup since you formed the band in 2003. Are you still the main songwriter for the group or is this more of a collaborative effort?
EW: In a way, it’s both. I put the songs together, but I consider us all a band. With the people I’m working with now, we’re going to try and hash out some stuff together. It’s not a set thing that I have to write all the songs; that’s just how it has been up to this point.
You formed the band in Ohio and just relocated permanently to Austin to record the new record.
I don’t want to use the word ‘permanent’ for anything but, yes, we moved here to record the new album. I signed a year lease and like it here a lot, so I might stay. But I’m just leaving everything up in the air right now.
For a three-piece band, you have a big sound. You create a lot of atmosphere with it. Did you want to explore that orchestral range by adding more instruments?
Truthfully, I never do a whole vision of an album. I write one song at a time or maybe I have multiple things going at once but, when a song comes into my head, I work it out. I just try to create what will sound best for that song. I’ve had a little bit more freedom with time and budget for this record, but it’s not like I wanted to make it have a lot of extra sound compared to the previous albums.
I’ve read some comparisons of your band to the Black Keys, which was once your label mate at Fat Possum Records, but you seem to capture a sound that is more evolved than roots-blues like MC5 or T.Rex. What influences your spectral sound?
People say that the blues influences us, but I think we’re more influenced by other bands that were influenced by the blues, like the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin.
I would add the Velvet Underground.
Yeah, I love them. And you’re right, I love MC5 and T.Rex; they’re some of my favorite bands. My influences are all over the place. At a young age, a bunch of old soul stuff like Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin influenced me too.
When did you know that music was what you wanted to do with your life?
I was 18 when I started writing songs. I didn’t take lessons. I just started writing songs right away. Somebody showed me what power chords were, so now I mainly play bar chords. After I moved to Cincinnati, I started playing bass in this band. We were called Shesus, and that [experience] gave me the motivation and the confidence. When people started seeing that I was in a band, people started taking me more seriously.
The Heartless Bastards
7:30 pm Monday, Nov. 3
Santa Fe Brewing Pub & Grill
27 Fire Place