Heartless Bastards singer's heart still in Cincy

Heartless Bastards singer's heart still in Cincy
Posted at 12:00 PM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 14:55:45-04

You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.

Sure, the Eagles were talking about the fictional "Hotel California," but the same rock 'n' roll adage could just as easily apply to former Cincinnatians: You can move, but a piece of the Queen City always stays with you.

Just ask Heartless Bastards singer/songwriter Erika Wennerstrom. Though she relocated to Austin, Texas, nearly a decade ago, the Dayton-born creative powerhouse behind the long-running alt-rock band said she always looks forward to coming back to her other adopted home.

She's such a Cincinnati booster, in fact, that she took time out from promoting her upcoming two-night stand at the Woodward Theater (May 19-20) with the Old 97s to make a pitch to the Reds for a gig the next time she's in town.

"I really like going to a Reds game. They did such a great job with the new stadium," she said. "The whole band are huge baseball fans, and because we're from Ohio, they're all Reds fans."

Wennerstrom said that, whenever possible, she, bassist Jesse Ebaugh and drummer Dave Colvin always try to hit a game if time allows.

"One of these days I'm really hoping that we will convince them to let me sing the national anthem," she said, adding that it would be a huge honor for her and for the other major team supporter in her household.

"I would love to sing that so much. My mom was always a huge Reds fan, and she would always listen to them on the radio in Dayton. She'd love that."

Before that happens, though, Wennerstrom — who has held on to her 513 area code cell number — and the band will plug in at the Woodward to run through a decade’s worth of songs from their five albums, including last year's musically adventurous "Restless Ones."

"The more you tour on a song, it gets tighter and tighter, but we added (multi-instrumentalist) Kyleen King with the release of the album last year, because in the last year the live version of the songs have grown stronger. It would have been trickier without adding Kyleen for the extra instrumentation and harmonies," she said. "We knew going in that you'd miss certain elements of a song when they're gone, so we didn't want to do a stripped-down version."

Now that you know you're getting the full treatment, we asked Wennerstrom to play a little game we're calling: My Nine Favorite Things About Cincinnati.

Venues: "The old Southgate House. The (original) place held the biggest love in my heart. My favorite parts aside from the whole environment and the building was working with the people that would book shows with the band when we first started — (Woodward co-owners) Dan McCabe and Chris Schadler.

"Now that the SGH isn't in the same spot or what it was, it’s fun to this day to still be working with the same people. Some of my favorite shows at the old SGH were Elliott Smith and Granddaddy. I saw Guided By Voices, like, 10 times there, and since I'm originally from Dayton, that was great for me. The band also opened for the Black Keys in 2003, which is where we met them, and it eventually started my career path. (Patrick Carney of the Keys passed the Bastards' demo on to their first label, Fat Possum Records.) Also, we were the first band to sell out the Woodward, so that's fun."

Bands: "The Afghan Whigs,certainly."

New to me: "It's great to see Vine Street renovated and Washington Park. That's just night and day from what it was when we were there."

Restaurants: "I love all the Indian restaurants on Ludlow. I feel like Austin doesn’t have very much Indian food. Ambarand Amol, Dusmesh. Sometimes, though, I have to eat a certain diet when I'm touring, and I remember having vocal issues the last few times I was in town, so I had to eat some pho noodle soup at a spot near U.C. (Cilantro)."

Chili: "My favorite Cincinnati chili is Camp Washington Chili for sure. I find there's something a bit more down-home about it than the chains. I just think it tastes better. Or Pleasant Ridge Chili but Camp Washington was always closer to where I lived."

Record store: "I go to Shake Ithere and there."

Place to see friends: "First and foremost, I like to catch up with old friends, and I worked at the Northside Tavernfor a year, so it's always nice to stop by there."

Favorite Reds memories: "I remember years ago we went to a game and people were going 'BOOOOOOONE!' And I was like, ‘Why are they booing?' But it was for Aaron Boone. Also, I went to the first game where the Cuban Missile (Aroldis Chapman) played with the Reds. That was great."

Tall Stacks: "I met (Old 97s singer) Rhett (Miller) years ago when he was touring on his solo album and we both played the Tall Stacks Festival. That was a great time. And then a few years ago, we started following each other on Instagram, and they invited me to sing on a cover of a John Prine and Iris DeMent song, 'In Spite of Ourselves,' that hasn't been released yet. I feel like it's a good pairing, and when I was thinking of different tours that might be good or someone to reach out to, I thought this would be a really good fit."