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Heartless Wonders

The Heartless Bastards may be on Fat Possum, but they ain't singing the blues.

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Erika Wennerstrom is a native of Dayton, Ohio, who speaks with a slight country drawl. Her voice has a homespun grittiness that rumbles softly, like worn-out tires on a dusty road. When she sings, however, she summons a deep-throated hum that rises into a bellyache howl. Her Cincinnati band, the Heartless Bastards, recently released its sophomore effort, All This Time, on Fat Possum. An uncompromising collection of soulful and obstinate rock, Time finds Wennerstrom and company — bassist Mike Lamping and drummer Kevin Vaughn — rolling steadily through the punkier side of '90s alterna-pop, with Wennerstrom hacking at the guitar strings and belting out catchy choruses that pick apart the usual hard-knock-life laments. The Pitch talked with Wennerstrom about the blues, stage fright and about being a big-mouthed blonde in a male-dominated rock scene.

The Pitch: You get pegged as a blues band a lot, which is a very specific genre. Do you think you play the blues?

Wennerstrom: No, I never thought we were a blues band. I think that because we're on Fat Possum, people just assume. People feel that they have to associate us with the blues thing — it's bluesy this or bluesy that. Of course, there is some influence, but for the most part, I think that people use that term a little too much to describe us.

A lot of reviewers point out that you're blond and petite. Has your appearance been overemphasized?

I think that most people do sort of say the shy, petite thing because my voice is so big. People are shocked by that. It's a lot lower and huskier, which is associated with people with bigger rib cages. You know, so that more air gets in and — wait, what was the question? Sometimes I get sidetracked.

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