Blitzen Trapper probably need no introduction, but just in case you've been living under a rock for the past decade: formed in Portland, Oregon in 2000, the band have been steadily building their career over the years, releasing albums to critical acclaim and touring the world. They describe their sound simply as 'American music'; a heady stew of country, folk, and Southern rock. The band just released their latest album VII on Vagrant Records in the US and on British indie label Lojinx in Europe.
Currently preparing to tour the US in support of the album, DrunkenWerewolf’s Phil the Tremolo King found the opportunity to interview front man Eric Earley this September. Read the results below.
First off, how is your new record different to your previous releases?
There's a groovier backwoods vibe. [It’s] like dark trees talking at night, or maybe the road and all [of] its turns, or shovels and guns and spotlighting on the hill, or winking at the bartender at the roadhouse where your buddy got thrown out the window for punching a dude and making him shit his pants on his stool.
You're from Oregon, but your sound has a distinct down home Southern vibe. How much of an influence does the South have on your music? Do any of you have roots down there?
No, this is just rural music from the backwaters of a state that most people can't even pronounce the name of properly. There's levels of civilization and levels of vibe that go hand in hand. I write music that makes me think of the place I live; it echoes the South in its ageless quality and the mountains, except that our mountains are bigger and blacker.
Would you say your music has been shaped by living in Portland?
Not really, more like the growing up in Oregon, most folks in Portland are from other states and other cities anyway.
The new album has a very organic, band-in-a-room type feel, like many great roots recordings of the 60s and the 70s. Was that a stylistic inspiration?
Sure; there's a lot of great recordings from the 60s and 70s we've all listened to over the years, on jukeboxes and stuff.
I hear a distinct mid 70s Rolling Stones vibe in some of the songs on VII, you guys Stones fans?
Oh yea, love The Stones.
The dreaded 'indiefolk' moniker… Is that something you feel you can relate to as a band?
[It] doesn't mean anything to me, though I do appreciate my independence every 4th of July with mad fireworks and firearms. But as for music, maybe it applies, who cares.
You've been having a pretty amazing career so far, with lots of critical acclaim, TV and radio, and touring. What does music mean to you on a personal and emotional level?
I like music that I can drive to, taking curves fast up in the mountains. I like stories and songs about places in particular. I let the stories transport me and I try to do the same with my own music.
Most people are familiar with you from the internet, radio and tours. Like all bands, Blitzen Trapper must have started out rehearsing in a garage and playing the local dive bar. Any anecdotes you'd like to share from those early days?
Our first show ever was up on Hood [a small town in Northern Oregon on the Columbia River]. [It was] at some strange outdoor drug extravaganza, with severe narcotics and bad trips. Mostly we played for cheap beer and literally dozens of people for many years… I have mostly hazy memories of those days.
I have to ask this question, since so many indie musicians seem to be despairing about the music business. Where do you see the industry headed?
No idea, most folks are just trying to scrape by these days. I've had much worse jobs so it's no biggie, but it certainly doesn't pay like it did.
You must have heard this question a gazillion times, but…the name? Where does it come from?
It's a type of RV of the Streamline variety that got recalled 'cause the gas works would get jacked and the suckers would explode, killing the inhabitants. They were later released under the moniker Vaga-adventurer. I knew this kid, his brother got one used and buried it on his property, and used it to keep snakes. Finally left a twenty foot leader of condensed milk and blew the thing up, but it only popped and burned like the gates of Hades for a day and a half.
Finally, what does the future look like for Blitzen Trapper?
No idea, never really gaze into the future. Probably more shows and tours and songs.
Thanks so much!
No problemo Jack!
Read more about Blitzen Trapper here.