A chat with Blitzen Trapper
It's been ten years since Blitzen Trapper released their first record. In that time they've grown to become a hugely respected roots rock band. We have the chance to chat with frontman and all round bandleader Eric Earley, to talk songwriting, musicals, and new album Wild and Reckless.
Hey Eric, how the devil are you?
Doing well, been enjoying a little down time before hitting the road again.
What have you been up to today?
Not much, made some breakfast, that's about it.
Tell us about Blitzen Trapper in 2017.
Haven't toured for a year, so been exciting to be back on the road playing shows and meeting people. We performed a two month run of shows in our hometown this year, a large-scale musical with actors that ran during the spring which was fun.
How have you evolved as a band since your debut record in 2003?
Until '07 we weren't really a band, we didn't tour, you couldn't buy our records anywhere really. With our '07 release we started touring and this began the slow process of understanding how to play live together and travel and do all the things bands do. Since then we've changed in various ways some for the good some for the bad but we've always tried to create a solid live show that is more than just recreating the records, I think recordings are merely a calling card, a snapshot of the band at a moment but doesn't really contain the real essence of the group, to know that you have to see them live.
Describe Wild and Reckless in two sentences.
If we forced you to choose a track from it that you really want people to hear which one would you pick?
I'd have to say 'Rebel' is my favorite, it has all the elements I like in a song, storytelling, riffs, acoustic fingerstyle etc.
There are some classic American songwriting tropes on the record, is that something you’re aware of when you’re writing, certain styles or influences, or is it just you and where your songs take you?
I think classic is defined differently for every generation, if by that you mean 70s kinds of moves then there is that, or if you mean the sort of 80s synth tones then those are there too, I definitely try to pull sounds and feelings from the entire history of rock music that I like and use those as I see fit.
How has your approach to songwriting changed over the years?
I don't know that it ever really has, some songs are more written in a moment others are written while recording them, it's more a matter of how they get figured out and what headspace I'm in when that happens.
What can you tell us about the rock opera concept that spawned some of the songs on the record?
Well, the songs existed first, they were used and changed for the show, but the record has definitely been influenced by the theater show, its overall scope and feel, the atmospherics of the songs and the sort of loosely fitting narrative that seems to be there were all brought about by the show.
Though it’s quite bleak, I’m a big fan of ‘Joanna’, can you tell us “who” Joanna is?
Joanna is anyone who has ever been victimized, her story is extremely rare, victims rarely if ever get that justice, that revenge. The question I see in the song is, does the form of justice she undertakes give her release or does it pull her farther down? Does it mean she's free or does it mean that now she is simply a killer?
How’s your 2017 been?
It's been very eventful, had a first kid, bought a house and fixed it up, released a new record, did a two month stage show.
Where’a the strangest place you’ve played live?
We did a show recently up in the Rocky Mountains in literal freezing weather, we could see our breath crystalizing in mid-air and the crowd had fires going in steel drums all around to stay warm, we were surrounded by dense forest and there were no city lights for miles and miles. Definitely weird.
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
'Brighton Rock' by Queen.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
What books have you been reading?
What’s the question you always get asked and wish you didn’t?
Where's your band name come from?
Finally, how do you take your coffee? (Or alcohol?)
I don't drink coffee, never have. Beverages aren't my thing.
Thanks so much for your time Eric.
You can stream Blitzen Trapper's new album from all the usual (Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Tidal (below)) or buy from Amazon and the like. You can also keep up to date with the band on their website, Twitter or Facebook.