Listen to Heartless Bastards' New Track 'Black Cloud' From Their Upcoming Album: Exclusive Premiere

Courtney Chavanell
Heartless Bastards

Heartless Bastards did a good deal of pre-production with producer John Congleton for their fifth studio album, Restless Ones. But frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom confesses that she pushed her lyrics "right up to the last minute. I always do a little bit (of procrastinating), but on this record in particular I was trying to stay on schedule," Wennerstrom tells Billboard. "Things went down to the wire, and we were trying to figure out whether to postpone it or if I could pull of finishing the lyrics in time. I literally went right down to the wire." But that, she adds, brought a different quality to the 10-song set, which comes out June 16. 

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"I think there's an immediacy on the record," Wennerstrom explains. "There's this sense of a different approach, of creating something and letting go and letting them be out there, because I usually have a little more time to sort of absorb it and evaluate it and see how I feel about it before I consider something to be complete. So there's also a sense of fear in how I would feel looking back on it. I had to trust myself; we all had to sort of trust what we created in those moments. I did take some time away, and when I went back to it I hoped I would still feel good about it, which I did."

The songs on Restless Ones are also "very personal," including "Black Cloud," which Billboard is premierely exclusively below. "It's a song about reminding yourself to just make sure you make yourself happy. It starts with No. 1," she says. The implication, of course, is that Wennerstrom is drawing from an unhappy situation -- which she says is "correct" -- but the singer isn't revealing details. "I wouldn't say it's less or more personal, in all honesty, than what I've usually done. It's part of myself and who I am. I'm not quite sure where the initial inspiration came from; the idea ended up morphing into something that sounds quite different than where I was initially going. It was almost like, I want to say, maybe a Beatles-inspired kind of sound and it just kind of morphed as we were working on it."

Listen to "Black Cloud" below.

Wennerstrom says "Black Cloud" dovetails with what she's singing about on many of Restless Ones' other tracks. "The album is about me sort of learning how to be more present and being in the now," she explains. "I've tended to look back a lot in my songs and kind of look at where I want to get in my life, not just professionally but personally, just sort of looking ahead with a tunnel vision sense. This album is about stopping to smell the roses and appreciate where I'm at in this moment. I've been sort of a restless one; most people are, in a way. We're always trying to go somewhere or get somewhere. It's good to take a look at that, but I think it's good to take a minute and enjoy where you're at, too."

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Heartless Bastards recorded Restless Ones, the follow-up to 2012's Arrow, during a 10-day session at Sonic Ranch studios near El Paso, Texas. Wennerstrom says that despite "high stress" over the unfinished lyrics, the Austin-based group was able to be productive. "I felt like I constantly needed to be trying to create," she says. "There was just a point where I had to tell myself, 'OK, just relax for a minute.' But we got all the basic tracking done and a few of the vocals, and it was really nice to have everybody's thoughts and creative ideas in real time. The last album we recorded in Austin and people would trickle in and out. But having everybody there in real time, and at the same time, I think it was really nice." 

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With Restless Ones wrapped and ready to come out, Heartless Bastards are planning to spend "quite a bit" of time on the road, as they usually do. The group kicks off a North American run on June 10 in Hattiesburg, Miss., with dates into November and visits to Europe and Australia are also being planned.