If you are looking to be a musician, the least likely place you would want to start is by attending Catholic school. The Catholic school system isn’t the breeding ground for rock musicians, but at times the school system may drive artists toward their goals with its lack of support.
At Chamid-Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio, future singer/guitarist of the Heartless Bastards Erika Wennerstrom was in the magnet school program for the arts. But once she found they didn’t offer any songs from The Little Mermaid, she promptly walked away.
The “higher ups” at Wennerstrom’s school didn’t help the budding singer/guitarist to help her along in her quest to rock out. Wennerstrom soon dropped out of school altogether during her senior year.
Playing her guitar as much as she could and going from job to job to make ends meet for three years, Erika got tired of life in Dayton. She decided to move to the bigger city of Cleveland. When she was 22, Erika found a bass player named Mike Lamping. He was working at the family janitorial business at the time and the two paired up and starting creating songs together under the name the Heartless Bastards. Soon pizza deliveryman Kevin Vaughn would complete the trio on drums.
The line-up was set, and in 2002, the three musicians caught the ear of Mississippi-based Fat Possum Records, and the band found a home for their music.
On February 22, 2005, Fat Possum Records released the Heartless Bastards’ amazing debut album entitled Stairs and Elevators, and they have been touring ever since. The Heartless Bastards even made a stop here in Champaign, IL, opening up for the Drive By Truckers.
Erika Wennerstrom has been labeled petite and bashful. Once she steps on stage and slings on her guitar, she becomes a ferocious singer with her deep blues and soul roots. She plays a brilliant guitar, making the band sound on top of their game.
Erika has a booming powerful voice reminiscent of Janis Joplin or Linda Perry. She pens intelligent, angry lyrics. On “New Resolution,” she scoffs, “I don’t even like myself half the time, what’s the use of worrying what’s on other people’s minds?”
On “Autonomy,” the singer lets her guard down and touches base with her quiet Midwestern dream state, singing, “Someday I’d like to play a part in the life I waited to start.”
Erika Wennerstrom sings with a distinguishing style that holds genuineness that has value unlike many singers on stage today. She puts everything on the table, holding nothing back with her songs.
Backed by Lamping on bass and Vaughn on drums, with Wennerstrom on guitar, the band provides a powerhouse of distorted garage rock that runs pure and clean like a thoroughbred.
The Heartless Bastards have a soulful passionate quality to their songs. They are driving, raw rock and roll with intelligent song structure, showing that Erika Wennerstrom is the heartbeat of these Heartless Bastards.