Singer/songwriter Erika Wennerstrom is the driving force behind the indie rock trio Heartless Bastards. She started the group as a quartet in 2003 with co-founder/bassist Mike Lamping. After a couple changes in staff lineup, drummer Kevin Vaughn joined the group, and the current version of Heartless Bastards was formed. In the early days, the group drew tiny audiences. They even managed to outnumber the audience once at a show in New York where only the bartender and soundman were in attendance. They also played a memorable show in Akron, Ohio, to a total of ten people. Of course, the fact that one of those ten was Patrick Carney, the drummer for The Black Keys, was a stroke of luck. Carney eventually got them in touch with Fat Possum Records, who signed them and released the group's first album, Stairs and Elevators, in 2004.
There was lots of critical acclaim for Stairs, including raves from Rolling Stone and The Village Voice. The group's uncomplicated, straight-ahead style (along with those fab press clippings) took them from being a regional band to a national act -- an admittedly indie national act, but national nonetheless. Now the group's second CD, All This Time, proves that the Bastards have some staying power. Driving guitar riffs, intelligent lyrics and Wennerstrom's haunting vocals are standard for the Bastards. This is rock made the old-fashioned way, with melodies that make you want to move and lyrics that actually mean something.
By the way, the band's name is supposedly no indication of the group's sensitivity or condition of birth; Wennerstrom heard the term as an answer to the trivia question "What's the name of Tom Petty's backing band?" One of the incorrect answers was "Tom Petty and the Heartless Bastards."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.