Heartless Bastards, Live Session #101

by oz on April 25, 2012

On day one of SXSW, Heartless Bastards gave us one of our best memories. If you’ve ever been to SXSW, you know to expect your fair share of problems – venues with awful acoustics, sound problems, and laptop failures for the hipster bands. You expect issues in parking lots set up as makeshift stages, but not at famous Austin venues like Antone’s. But just as Heartless Bastards took the stage at Antone’s and played the first chords of “Parted Ways,” the power in the entire venue shut down and Erika Wennerstrom’s powerful voice became distant, trailing off without the benefit of a microphone. The power came back on a few minutes later and the band tried again. Same result. Then again. Same result.

Lesser bands may have been thrown off by such an unexpected catastrophe in a world-class venue. I’ve seen bands under similar circumstances throw in the towel, incapable of playing the set other than exactly as planned with a sound engineer tweaking controls to make the band’s sound just right. But Heartless Bastards are capable. After the third failed attempt at “Parted Ways,” they all just unplugged, grabbed their acoustics and walked to the front of the stage. The crowd, previously sparse, scattered and chattering across Antone’s, huddled as close to the stage as possible and the room fell silent.

The set, feeling more like a backyard BBQ with friends, was pure magic. The band exchanged jokes and casual conversation with the crowd between songs and Erika’s howling vocals still managed to fill the room. Heartless Bastards’ new album, Arrow, is their strongest effort to date and seeing the songs performed in this stripped down setting only validated its greatness.

This is our second session with Heartless Bastards (check out the first one here) and we were thrilled to welcome them back to Shirk Music + Sound as they passed through Chicago. The video format is a little different this time around, utilizing only a single camera for the duration of the set. The band was recently seen on Letterman and they’re touring like mad (I plan to catch them in Lawrence, KS on 5/29). Check the dates, listen to the session as an appetizer, and treat yourself to a night out at the rock show if they’re passing through town.

Heartless Bastards Band Introduction

Exclusive: Heartless Bastards – Got To Have Rock and Roll (Video: YouTube | Vimeo)

Exclusive: Heartless Bastards – Parted Ways (Video: YouTube | Vimeo)

Exclusive: Heartless Bastards – Simple Feeling (Video: YouTube | Vimeo)

Exclusive: Heartless Bastards – Skin and Bone (Video: YouTube | Vimeo)

Download the Heartless Bastards Live Session as a zip file.

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2012 is shaping up to be all about the women of indie music. We covered incredible albums from First Aid Kit and Sharon van Etten already and Heartless Bastards are equally deserving of praise. Erika Wennerstrom is the heart and soul of Heartless Bastards and she’s at her best on Arrow.

Arrow is the fourth album released from Heartless Bastards since 2005 and the first on Partisan Records. The album opens with “Marathon,” a down-temp song for those that have gotten off track and found themselves lost in life. It’s mostly just Erika and electric guitar and her voice is on full display.

We all want to belong
to something more than ourselves
because you can’t always do it alone
sometimes you just need
need a little help
on this long way home
on this long way home

And oh I, I ran so far
that I’ve forgotten
what I was running from
And time it takes you so far
And I am longing to be back home
On this long way home.

“Parted Ways” follows up and it has fueled several dance parties in my home – events attended only by myself, my 3 year old daughter and 1.5 year old son. This song is an addiction and I’m eager to find out if a better song will be released this year.

While “Parted Ways” is hard to move beyond, pay attention to the soulful “Only for You.” It’s a marvelous song that shows the full range of Erika’s voice which is nearly overshadowed by an amazing lead guitar throughout. “Gotta Have Rock and Roll” is a hard driving song powered by a simple guitar riff – it’s a song that would make Joan Jett proud. And “Skin and Bone” opens with an rootsy acoustic guitar that had me double checking my iPod for Blitzen Trapper on accidental shuffle.

“Low Low Low” gets even twangier with a change in production. I’m not sure if it’s a different room or a change in technique, but it’s more organic and Wennerstrom’s vocals are more distant – as if we’re hearing her in a barn or by campfire light. It’s a brilliant change of pace.

We’ve been Heartless Bastards fans forever. After their live session with us, I had a chance encounter with them. It was years ago after a full day of drinking that I found myself standing next to Erika at a late night Playboy party at SxSW, waiting for Janes Addiction to take the stage. There she was, randomly right next to me. I think I opened the conversation about us both being from Ohio and how much I love that state – or something equally stupid. Maybe a bunny walked by and I said “fancy meeting you here…” I can’t quite recall. I do recall her being one of the sweetest musicians I’ve ever met and it’s always an experience to see the band live. They will be touring now through May, so check their site for dates. Arrow will be released on Valentine’s Day.

Heartless Bastards – Parted Ways

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Heartless Bastards Parted Ways

by oz on December 1, 2011

I just listened to the song “Parted Ways” from Heartless Bastards upcoming album, The Arrow. This album is officially the one I’m most eagerly anticipating in 2012, but then again, Erika Wennerstrom could sing show tunes and I’d listen.

Based solely on this track and the buffalo cover art, the band sounds a little less bluesy and a little more alt-country. Arrow is due out on Valentine’s Day (that’s February 14th) via Partisan Records.

Parted Ways by Heartless Bastards

12/9 – Oxford, MS @ Proud Larry’s (18+)
12/10 – Mobile, AL @ Alabama Music Box
2/7 – Little Rock, AR @ Juanitas
2/8 – St. Louis, MO @ Firebird
2/9 – Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall
2/10 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
2/11 – Madison, WI @ High Noon
2/13 – Louisville, KY @ Headliners
2/14 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
2/16 – Columbus, OH @ The Basement
2/17 – Cincinnati, OH @ 20th Century
2/18 – Indianapolis, IN @ Radio Radio
2/19 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
2/20 – Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern
2/23 – Boston, MA @ Middle East (Downstairs)
2/24 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
2/25 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
2/27 – Baltimore, MD @ Otto Bar
2/29 – Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern
3/1 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
3/2 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
3/3 – Nashville, TN @ The Mercy Lounge
3/6 – Birmingham, AL @ Bottletree
3/8 – Fayetteville, AR @ George’s Majestic
3/9 – Fort Worth, TX @ Lola’s
3/10 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live

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