Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Danny Reisch at Good Danny's
The coping mechanisms that Erika Wennerstrom uses are typical ones. They're time-honored, though they've never been scientifically proven. Most people don't have a need for science. It fucks with their chemistry. It's hard for science to argue with alcohol, a little time to get the clock cleaned and some rock and roll music for companionship while busying oneself with all of it. They've always been trustworthy as foils for any of life's ailments. When the Heartless Bastards lead singer sings, "I need a little bit of whiskey and a little bit of time to ease my wearied mind," we instinctively have a pretty good idea about the reasons surrounding why she would need a handle and some time to herself. There are different variations to every story, but skinned back to the first layer and it's always the same.
We are burdened most by our weakest moments, or more so, the weakest moments of others. They tend to rear back around and slice at our Achilles or stab at our back, leaving us breathless, squealing to no one who cares and picking the rocks and glass out of our palms and knees. We can prop ourselves back up, dabbing at the slowly running blood, and we can try to figure out what needs to happen next. It usually involves pulling the shades tightly together and retreating into a bit of a cocoon.
Wennerstrom has to have been through the brambles and the love fires, the words that can't be retracted, something breaking more than once. It's probably meant an incredibly large volume of whiskey and many evenings that trail off into a fuzzy and blown out, old film finish. Every time another one of these situations comes around, it takes her back to those times when it happened previously. She dusts off her reactions, less and less surprised and emphatic as the years have gone along and the total number of hurts has piled on high. She now refers to the end of a relationship differently, more like the sun going down on her town, not the sun going down in flames, never to rise in the eastern sky ever again.
The latest Heartless Bastards record, "Arrow," with Spoon drummer and engineer extraordinaire Jim Eno at the console, is a tempered version of the group's last, which had much rawer and fresher pain to deal with. Wennerstrom, bassist Jesse Ebaugh, drummer Dave Colvin and guitarist Mark Nathan now have a record that shows just how damned dynamic feeling down can get. Oddly, it can sometimes feel just like a party or a vacation, depending on how the middle parts go.
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