Seattle Weekly: What do you make of the Robert Plant comparisons you've gotten from The New Yorker recently? And what do you think of his work with the Honeydrippers?
HEARTLESS BASTARDS With Soledad Brothers and Invisible Eyes. Crocodile Cafe, 2200 Second Ave., 206-441-5611, www.thecrocodile.com. $8. 9 p.m. Wed., March 22.
Erika Wennerstrom (lead vocals and guitar): I think Robert Plant's great, so I definitely take it as a compliment. And I listen mainly to Led Zeppelin, so I can't say much either way about his other work.
How did you end up with the Southern label Fat Possum? Describe that courtship process.
We played in Akron. There were five people there. Patrick Carney from [Possum labelmate] the Black Keys walked in halfway through our set. We ended up hanging out, and I had a CD I gave him. We were on a little tour, and when we got back, I guess Fat Possum had been e-mailing and it'd been going to my junk mail folder. I never used to check my junk mail folder, but fortunately Mike [Lamping, the Bastards' bassist] decided to check it.
Do you consider your native southern Ohio to be more Midwestern or Southern culturally? How has this culture influenced you artistically?
I guess it's sort of right on the edge of the South. A lot of times people say I have a Southern accent. The drunker I am, the more Southern I sound, for some reason.
Do you consider bands from the middle of the country to be somehow more resilient or authentic than bands from the coasts?
I do find that a lot of the music that comes out of areas other than the East and West is a lot less poppy. And what I have noticed is clubs here will book all these bands from New York that nobody's ever heard of just because it sounds cool that they're from New York.
What sort of vehicle do y'all tour the country in? What is its most recurrent mechanical failure?
I bartended for years and just picked up as many shifts as I could and saved up as much money as I could, and wrote songs as I did it. So I put a down payment on a '99 Dodge Ram van, like, three years ago, and have taken really good care of it. It's been really good to us, but it's starting to rack up some miles. I've always envisioned us breaking down in a giant sand storm in the desert with a busted air conditioner.
What advantages does a three-piece have over larger, lusher outfits like the Drive-By Truckers or, taken to an extreme, the Polyphonic Spree?
I guess you make more money. Honestly, we never set out to be a three-piece. We had a guitar player and he left, and I'd booked all these shows already, and I thought we wouldn't get back in if we didn't play them. So we just started playing as a three-piece, and people seemed to like it. I kind of really love it right now while we've been recording, because I've been able to write it for a three-piece, where I wrote the last one with a lot of open spaces. This one will be a lot fuller.