INTERVIEW: Talking shop with Blitzen Trapper’s Eric Earley
Tomorrow, Eric Earley and the rest of Blitzen Trapper will perform at Old Rock House in support of their new record, VII, due out September 30th. We talked to Earley about VII, “American” music, and the old go-to musician interview topic: bow hunting.
So how was your summer? I saw that you guys got out on the road a bit in July and had a couple gigs here and there the other months. How’d it go?
It was good. Yeah we did a few fly-out festival appearances, and did a short, 10-day tour thing. We played a couple shows with Belle & Sebastian, so that was nice.
After ten years together, how do you guys as a band decide that it’s time to start actively organizing and recording for a new record?
Well, I do most of the writing and demo-ing, and I guess it’s not really all that organized. It’s been a few years since we put out a record, mostly because we were between labels for a second.
You’re with Vagrant now, right?
Yeah, but also I’m just always kind of writing songs.
So when it’s album makin’ time, do you pull a batch from this unofficial catalog and select tracks that make sense together?
No, usually I’ll write a batch of songs together for a record. I don’t know, honestly it varies how we get to creating each album. To me, [the organization of] our records are inconsistent and a little weird.
And Blitzen Trapper has never been a band that’s anchored itself to one specific sound, even on a single record, which makes for a pretty dynamic listening experience. Who or what was influencing you as you created VII?
I think I tend to go kind of a different direction with each record. Like when we did Black River Killer years ago, I was wanting a whole record that was dark and stormy sounding, but with a lot of beats…let’s call that our hillbilly hip hop record. [Laughs.] So even though this new record might not sound like the Killer record, it’s still Rocky Mountain Whoop Ass, which is what I’m calling the genre of music we play.
[ Laughs.] Rocky Mountain Whoop Ass it is, then. As opposed to the genre everyone tells you you play: “American music”?
Yeah, ya know, because we’re American, I guess. [Laughs.]
Aren’t a lot of people playing American music in America?
Well, it’s because I said it one time in an interview. I said, “Oh, we play American music,” and that’s still following me around.
I watched that teaser video for the gospel-sounding “Shine On”, off the new album, and you said two big things your dad first taught you about were faith and playing stringed instruments. Did you decide at an early age that you wanted to play music for a living?
Hmmm, I never really thought of making it into a career. I played because I liked to; getting a record deal was an accident. We had these 4 little demo tracks up on MySpace, and a guy from Domino records heard it and liked it. He sent us toward Sub Pop because the Domino guy’s boss wasn’t interested in us. We weren’t touring or doing anything at the time! We were just living in Portland and playing out there.
I read somewhere that you were a bow hunter, and I saw another one of those teaser videos featured a couple of dudes walking through the woods with bows.
Ha, yeah I am. Actually, the first clip of that video is of my buddy, and he’s cow callin’ for elk. Do you have elk over there?
Yes, actually my stepdad owned an archery shop for decades, but he was mostly a deer hunter.
Oh okay. So at the very beginning of that video, that’s my buddy on his bugle going, “Ooooooooooooooooh…” [laughs]. You know, calling for elk. But most people don’t know what that sound is. We all elk hunt and bear hunt, and occasionally we’ll go out for deer, too.
Do you think being out there in that voluntary silence and solitude aids in your creativity when you return to music?
It can. Being out in the bush for awhile really clears your head.
And you can’t do anything else but be out there.
Yeah, that’s where I generally am or where I try to get back to when I’m not touring.
Blitzen Trapper plays Old Rock House on September 18th, with STL’s excellent Bear Hive, for whom you should arrive on time. 7pm doors, 8pm show. $18 today, $20 dos. Tickets here.