I’m a massive fucking fan of Portland-based alt-country act Blitzen Trapper. Oh, and just to clarify, when I say ‘Alt-country’, I don’t mean Keith Urban talking about how much his mum sucks. I’m talking about bands like Deer Tick, Wilco, and Fruit Bats; bands that utilise a sort of country sound and style to go onto weirder, greater and definitely not racist things (suffice to say, this isn’t a country music blog). Anyway, Blitzen Trapper have just released their fantastic seventh record, logically entitled ‘VII’. You can read my review of it here. Anyway, the other day, I got to ring up Blitzen Trapper main man Eric Earley and listen to his drawl for a couple minutes. And goddamn was it a sexy drawl…
R: Hello…Hello is this Eric?
E: Uh, yeah, yeah it is, how you doing?
R: My name’s Ryan, it’s good to talk to you man, big fan of Blitzen Trapper.
E: Uh, yeah, yeah.
R: Are you in Portland right now?
E: Uh, no, we’re in New York City right now.
R: What are you doing over in New York?
E: Well, were half-way through the first tour right now.
R: Congratulations, it’s a very fantastic album man…
E: Thanks very much, I appreciate that.
R: Now, this is the 7th record, which you’ve handily pointed out by calling it ‘VII’. Do you see any particular reason how the band have been able to stick around for so long and evolve a sound that seems quite niche, where there have been so many bands that have fallen off the face of the earth?
E: Uh, I don’t know man, I guess it’s the live music element, it’s all the touring, and playing live and stuff, and that’s…that’s sorta the important thing nowadays. I don’t know, I guess, I just keep writing songs… and I guess if I wasn’t writing as many songs, we wouldn’t be playing so much.
R: I read that you write the majority of the band’s music. How much would you say, approximately, you write?
E: I write all of it.
R: All of it? Like, the lyrics, the instrument parts, all of it?
E: Yeah, all the chords, all of it…
R: Fuck, that’s awesome man.
R: Do you make a conscious effort to use a lot of instruments in Blitzen Trapper’s sound, to create a weirder vibe.
E: It depends on the song, I think. Y’know, some of the song’s are, like, simple, and other songs, I like to do a lot of different things. It just depends really.
R: Well, I feel that personally, just listening to ‘VII’, it’s got a lot more of a fun-loving Blitzen Trapper sound, more like ‘Wild Mountain Nation’ [Blitzen Trapper’s 2007 album] than ‘Furr’ [Blitzen Trapper’s breakout 2008 record]. Would that be correct?
E: Uh, yeah, maybe. I don’t know. We wanted it to be different to the last record [2011’s ‘American Goldwing’], there’s a lot more weird stuff kinda stuff. Yeah, it’s kinda more sounds from all over the place, as far as, different eras, different genres, stuff like that.
R: What would you say inspired this kind of more upbeat sound? In your guys lives, what was going on? Or did it just naturally occur like that?
E: Yeah, it was kind of just, y’know stuff I was into when we started writing…
R: What kind of stuff were you into?
E: Uhh, just a lot of groovy music, like hip-hop and country music basically…
R: I did hear a bit of hip-hop in the record…
E: Yeah, like old-school Wu-Tang, stuff like that. And I mean, there was a lot of the older folky stuff, y’know.
R: Cool man. Now, my personal favourite thing about Blitzen Trapper is the lyrics. What would be the process that goes into writing? I remember, the first song that I ever heard by you guys, which is still one of my favourite tracks, was ‘Black River Killer’ [from 2008’s ‘Furr’]. The thing that took me with that song was just the lyrics, and how dark they were. How do you get into the headspace?
E: I don’t know man, I think I just like telling a good story (laughs). I don’t know, I don’t really try. Most songs I write really fast, and the story just kinda comes, and I just sorta mould it I guess. Y’know, I mean, it’s like any story, a lot of it is based on real stuff for the most part, or real people or whatever. But I like to write stories, which I turn into songs.
R: Has it always been that way, just love to write stories as a kid? Did it seem as though being a musician was the natural progression of that?
E: Oh yeah, definetely. And my dad told a lot of crazy stories, so I grew up wanting to do the same thing.
R: With the lyrics, you write all of them?
E: Yeah, I wrote all of them.
R: The songs, they’re just very attractive, very old-school story-teller vibes. Have you always had that sort of atmosphere?
E: (Laughs) I don’t know, maybe.
R: Now, final question. The way I discovered you guys was through Sub Pop Records. However, I noticed that this latest album is coming out on Vagrant Records. Did the band and Sub Pop have a falling out?
E: No, we had a three record deal, and it came to the end of our contract, the deal was up, and, uh, we were just looking around for someone to put out the next record, and yeah, found them.
R: Yeah? And how come you went with Vagrant Records, as opposed to someone else?
E: They gave us a good offer, and they liked the stuff we put out previously. So…
R: Alright mad. Okay I lied, this is the final question: do you have any current plans to come to Australia to tour the record?
E: Hopefully yeah, I think we’ll be over there next year.
R: All right! Well, I’ll definetely be in the crowd for that.
E: (Laughs) Right on man, hahaha.
R: That’s all from me man, thanks for taking the time out to talk to me.
E: No worries. Take it easy.
‘VII’ is out now through Shock Records. Buy it here, it’s a fucking dope record.