Payin' Dues: Heartless Bastards

“Occasional disagreements, some magic and loads of inappropriate humour,” is how vocalist, guitarist and pianist Erika Wennerstrom describes the sessions for Restless Ones, Heartless Bastards’ fifth album. “A lot of the subject matter is me coming to the realisation that I needed to be more present in my life. I’m always looking far ahead to where I want to be instead of stopping and appreciating where I’m at. I needed to stop and smell the roses.”

What inspired Restless Ones?

One of my inspirations was a journal by Dan Eldon called The Journey Is The Destination. I don’t really set out with a specific subject matter or goal when I’m writing though. It’s like a subconscious thing. As I’m writing, the song slowly reveals itself to me. Then I look back and try to understand it in retrospect.

It’s produced by John Congleton…

We’ve been a fan of a lot of albums John Congleton’s done, but when you work with any producer you have to take a leap of faith. He really helped us make the songs more concise. He helped me get to the point where I’ve said all I need to say and anything else is redundant. He had wonderful sonic ideas as well.

The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney was an early champion…

The band met Patrick when we opened for The Black Keys in Cincinnati. We later played a show in Akron, which is home to The Black Keys. There were only two people there and the owner said we didn’t have to play and he’d pay us anyway. I stated that we’d still love to play if we could. Patrick walked in part way through our set. After the show I recognised him and said hello. We had some beers, and I gave him our demo./o:p

Why did you to pick up the guitar?

My father sent me a guitar for my 16th birthday. He knew I wanted to sing and I think he thought a guitar would be a useful tool. I didn’t have the patience to learn. A couple years later after high school I decided that if I wanted to make a go of being a songwriter I’d better start learning. I taught myself with tips from friends. I didn’t learn other artists’ songs. I would just try to write as I went along.

You toured with Drive-By Truckers last year. Are you kindred spirits?

Yeah, I’d say so. We did our first tour with Drive-By Truckers in 2004 in the United States. I think we’re both lifers. I think music is what we know and love, and we’ll both most likely be playing into old age./o:p

Restless Ones is out now via Partisan Records./o:p