Cincinnati-spawned rockers Heartless Bastards relocated to Austin, Texas, a few years back, but in our minds they'll always be Cincinnati's. The band seemed to share that view. After the group performed on David Letterman's show after the move, singer/songwriter/guitarist/fearless leader Erika Wennerstrom corrected the talk-show host when he referred to band as being from Austin.
So I got a little misty-eyed when I received a series of press releases yesterday announcing some major news in Heartless Bastardsland. The words "Cincinnati" and "Ohio" were nowhere to be found in the press releases. I guess they are officially, as their press corps now designates them, an "Austin, Texas-based band." (Sniff, sniff.)
But local Bastards fans and friends hold no grudges and should be incredibly proud of the band's impressive success. And those fans will be thrilled to hear that the group's fourth album, titled Arrow, is due to be released on Valentine's Day, 2012, the first project from the HBs' new record deal. The band parted ways with Fat Possum Records (its label home since the 2005 debut full-length Stairs and Elevators was released) and will release Arrow through Partisan Records. The Brooklyn-based label is known for its "artist-friendliness" and has a roster that includes acts like Deer Tick, Mountain Man and Middle Brother (I may be mistaken, but I think that makes Heartless Bastards the most well-known band on the label now, taking over Deer Tick's position atop the perch).
Arrow — co-produced with Spoon drummer Jim Eno — is not only the band's first for Partisan, but it marks the recording debut for the current Bastards lineup. Wennerstrom was joined in the studio by Ohio-bred musicians Dave Colvin on drums and Jesse Ebagh on bass (both appeared on the Bastards' very first demo sessions in the early ’00s), as well as newest member, guitarist Mark Nathan.
Wennerstrom took a break from the extensive touring behind the Bastards' third album, The Mountain, to relax, travel and get her creative bearings (it wasn't exactly a lazy, beachside siesta, though – part of the traveling involved Wennerstrom's first ever solo tour dates).
Wennerstrom says that the material on The Mountain — recorded before Ebagh and Colvin officially joined, but after original members Mike Lamping and Kevin Vaughn had left — was a result of stepping back to gain some perspective, as well as her coming to terms with the end of her relationship with her old bandmates (she and Lamping were also boyfriend/girlfriend for a long time). She says Arrow reflects her "being comfortable again."
"I feel like this is the strongest record I've ever done," Wennerstrom is quoted as saying in the press release. "I feel like playing with these guys, us all being so connected, really helped make it so fully realized. I'm really, really happy with it."
Below, check out a cool video feature on Heartless Bastards (including lots of live music from a 2009 concert in Philly) from PBS affiliate WHYY's program On Canvas.