Blitzen Trapper [Spanish Moon, March 12, 2008]

Sometimes there’s a lot to be said for having little to say.  So goes the theory, at least, with Portland’s Blitzen Trapper, whose Wild Mountain Nation barnstomps across genres – stoner country, junk-pop, experimental noise – with little message but large footprints.  Wild Mountain Nation, the group’s third self-released record, was picked up and distributed by Sub Pop last year, launching something of a mid-summer media frenzy as journalists tried to pinpoint the group’s sound, some deciding that the six-piece is picking up where Beck left off after Odelay while others claimed that the title track’s guitar bends and the syrupy steel of “Country Caravan” makes BT heir apparent to American Beauty-era Grateful Dead.  The rest simply make comparisons to Pavement’s Wowee Zowee, another album known more for its ambition than its tunes.
Few, though, chose to comment on just how well Blitzen Trapper shift between these styles.  It takes a serious talent to jump from glam guitars to jawharp solos in a single album, much less a single song (“Miss Spiritual Tramp”) without coming across as contrived or unfocused.  Maybe it’s the layer of fuzz that seems to lie decadently across the album, but, somehow, the front-porch bluegrass of “Wild Mtn. Jam” doesn’t feel out of place between the power-dancing “Sci-Fi Kid” and the static ballad “Hot Tip/Tough Club.”
In any event, one thing that everyone seems to be able to agree on is that Wild Mountain Nation, in all of its afghan-covered glory, is one hell of an album.  Rolling Stone even called the title track one of the year’s 100 Best Songs, sandwiched between Nick Cave project Grinderman and a Kelly Clarkson song that is not “Since U Been Gone.”
ANTIGRAVITY chatted up B. Trapp frontman Eric Earley to find out just what his intentions are with our daughters, young man.

ANTIGRAVITY: So Sub Pop released Wild Mountain Nation.
Eric Earley:  They just have it internationally, but we still have it in the U.S.
AG:  And you released your first two records, too.  How did this one blow up?
EE: This one?  Well, this is really the first record that we tried to publicize when we put it out.  This is the first record where we actually had a publicist and toured and had a manager and all that stuff.  The other two we made but we didn’t really do anything; we just put them on the internet and sold them at shows.
AG: So I’m guessing there are a few more people at the shows these days.
EE: Yeah (laughs).  Definitely.
AG: Most writers tend to focus on the country songs on the record, and they’re really great songs, but they seem like they’re not very indicative of the album as a whole.  Why do you think that those tracks are such standouts?
EE: Oh I don’t know, I think they’re just the easier ones to understand.  They’re easier to talk about or write about.  There are other songs on Wild Mountain Nation that are good but they’re not in a specific genre necessarily so it’s more difficult to write about.  So people have just been focusing on what they can write about easier, like “Wild Mountain Nation” or “Country Caravan.”
AG: What are your musical backgrounds?
EE: What, do you mean, like, studying or something?
AG: No, like, what did you listen to growing up?
EE: Oh, yeah, definitely.  Like, Brian was into metal as a kid and Mikey was into hip-hop very heavily.  I like country and folk music, Marty was more into, like, hippie-rock, and with Drew it’s more experimental noise stuff.  We cover all the bases between us.
AG: So when you guys are writing new songs, is it a more collaborative effort?
EE: Kind of.  I write all the material but when I’m arranging stuff I pull from our group.
AG: How do the live shows compare to your records?
EE: I think they’re better than the record.  They have a different energy and they’re not as patched-together.  The record is almost put together like a hip-hop record where everything’s all pieced-together with all kinds of noises and stuff.  And live we do a lot of that, too, but I think it’s more cohesive live; you get a better feeling for what the band is.  I don’t know, I’m not allowed to see us play.
AG: You’re not allowed?
EE: Well, I’m usually up there playing.
AG: (laughs) Oh, I thought you meant, like, you refuse to listen to live tapes.
EE: Oh (laughs).  I’ve done that.
AG: You guys all come from pretty different backgrounds musically, and your sound definitely reflects that, and you don’t really see that much these days.  I mean, my friends and I, and I’m guessing most people, listen to all types of music – from country to rock to hip-hop – but not many bands let their influences shine through like that.
EE: Yeah, exactly, that’s how we are.  And there’s no reason why a band can’t move fluidly through all kinds of music.  It’s a fine line to walk, being able to actually do that and pull it off.
AG: I know you guys did a really different version of Heart’s “Crazy on You” for a comp.  Do you ever pull that one out live?
EE: (laughs) Yeah. (laughs) Oh yeah, yeah. Yeah, we do some stuff live that’s just guitars, just keyboards.  We don’t do “Crazy on You” live, although I’ve thought about it.  Maybe on the next tour we will.
AG: Do you…you know, for most bands this would be a strange question, but y’all are from the Northwest so maybe it’s not that odd of a question, but do you jam your songs out much live?
EE: Typically no.  I mean, sometimes we’ll do…typically there are so many songs we wanna play that we won’t really jam but just move fluidly from song to song.  We’ll do that for four or five songs.  We don’t ever just jam out on a song, though.
AG: Do any songs from the first two records ever show up live?
EE: Yeah, we do one from each.
AG: And you have a new EP out, too, right?
EE: Yeah.  We’ll be playing some other songs as well.  There’s an iTunes EP and a tour EP and we’ll be doing stuff from both of those.
AG: I saw some of the new stuff on the last Daytrotter Session that you guys did.
EE: Some of that stuff’s pretty rough (laughs).  It was fun, though.
AG: Are those songs the direction that your writing is headed right now?
EE: No, that stuff’s actually older than Wild Mountain Nation.  Those are tracks that never made it onto records but that we still like to play live and we didn’t have recordings of them, so we decided that we’d just do them on Daytrotter.  Although, no, I take it back, one of those songs is going to be on the new record.  The kinda-country one, “Stolen Shoes.”  But the recording of it is much different than when we play it live.  But I wouldn’t say it’s indicative of the new record.
AG: Well, we look forward to hearing the new stuff.
EE: Yeah, you’re in New Orleans?
AG: Yeah, the magazine’s in New Orleans, though I’m in Baton Rouge.
EE: I think we’re playing in Baton Rouge, actually.
AG: Yeah, you are.  You’re playing with Man Man, who are actually pretty huge here and always pull a big crowd.
EE: Oh, ok.  Good.  Yeah, that should be a good show.
AG: I saw you’re playing a few shows with Mahjongg, too, right?
EE: I think so, I think we’re doing one.
AG: I saw those dudes at a truck stop outside of Baton Rouge when I was a freshman in college.  I didn’t even know they were still around.
EE: I don’t even know what that is.  I don’t know who they are.
AG: They’re this weird, gypsy dance-punk group.  It was really strange seeing them in a truck stop, believe me.
EE: (laughs) Huh.  I had no idea.  Well.  Cool.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: