When I first listened to The Mountain by the Heartless Bastards, it was a rainy, lonesome winter night, which was the perfect setting to highlight lead singer Erika Wennerstrom’s raw and despairing vocals. The Bastards had already put out two albums, but immediately prior to writing this one, Ohio-native Wennerstrom had parted ways with Mike Lamping, her boyfriend of 11 years and Heartless Bastards bandmate, and wrote the album after relocating to Austin and shutting herself away for six months. The result is a soulful album tinged with ache but determined to look forward, and with it Heartless Bastards are gaining rightfully earned media attention, including recently making their national television debut on The Late Show with David Letterman. They played SXSW last week and are on tour, this Friday appearing with The Gaslight Anthem at New York’s epic Webster Hall. But first, in one of the few lulls of their busy schedule, Erika took some time to answer our brazenly invasive Pop Quiz.
Do you have any tattoos? No.
Are you superstitious? No, not really.
First album you bought? I think my parents bought it, but it was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I don’t remember what I first bought.
If you could have any super power, what would you choose? Flying would be pretty cool.
What restaurant would you eat at every day if you could? I don’t think I could eat anywhere everyday, but if I had to pick, I would pick Whole Foods. They always have a good variety of food at the hot and cold bars. I don’t know if that counts since it’s a grocery, but that’s my pick.
How many times a day on average do you think about sex? I’ve never counted.
Have you ever been arrested? Yes.
What’s your guilty pleasure? I don’t have cable, but sometimes when I’m at somewhere that does, I watch really dumb reality TV like Rock of Love. That show’s hilarious.
Do you have a favorite bar in New York? I’ve barely been to the same bar twice, and I never remember the names. I went to this bar in Gramercy Park once that had sawdust all over the floor. My favorite part about the place was that my friends and I were the only people in there aside from the bartender.
Ever been starstruck? I guess so. I’m pretty shy meeting people whether they’re famous or not, so my reaction probably isn’t any different. I either clam up and barely utter a word, or I oppositely start rambling, and later think “What the hell was I talking about back there.” When you get good news, who’s the first person you tell it to? Well, it used to be my significant other, but now it depends on what the news is. I guess Jesse in the band because we’re roommates, so if he’s home, I tell him first.
What do you always watch if it’s on TV? My other roommate who is never home has a TV there that only gets one channel, and whenever I decide to watch TV, the worst shows are on. I watch Lost on my computer though.
What do you normally sleep in? My schedule changes a lot, but my ideal time is 10 a.m.
Where’s the craziest place you’ve had sex? Kentucky.
What’s on your computer wallpaper? I haven’t even bothered personalizing it. It’s whatever my Mac came with.
If you could be any literary character, who would you be? Well, Crime and Punishment is my all time favorite book, but I don’t really have a desire to be a murderer (racked with guilt). I also love David Sedaris, but I don’t want to be him either.
Where do you really want to be right now? I’d like to be visiting my parents. I don’t spend nearly enough time with them as I should.
What’s the first job you ever had? I worked at a used book store that just opened, so it was always really slow. I just got to read most of the time.
Favorite Muppets/Sesame Street character? Definitely Animal for Muppets, and Oscar the Grouch for Sesame.
What’s the best advice you ever got? Look both ways before crossing the street.