Blitzen Trapper drops Furr on the heels of uber-successful Wild Mountain Nation

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:: Blitzen Trapper ::
:: Gothic Theatre :: November 6 ::

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By Timothy Dwenger

Since the 1980s, the Pacific Northwest has been a hotbed for indie rock bands (although back in the ’80s it was called “alternative”). Whether it is the dreary weather, the strong coffee, or the hip venues remains up for debate, but what is for certain is that interesting new bands have been breaking through into mainstream consciousness with impressive regularity for the last 20-odd years.

The latest of these bands is Portland-based Blitzen Trapper. While they’ve officially been a band for eight years, until recently their lo-fi blend of Americana and indie-rock wasn’t well known outside of the Northwest. However, with the 2007 release of Wild Mountain Nation, all of that changed.

Wild Mountain Nation garnered the band significant critical acclaim and went a long way to increase their fan base on both sides of the Atlantic, and it also forced the band to make some changes. After releasing their first three albums on their own Lidkercow Ltd. label, the band realized that the demands of the business were catching up with them. Speaking with The Marquee from Portland just hours after returning from a lengthy European tour, Trapper’s creative mastermind Eric Earley talked about the changes a successful album brought to his world.

“Once we did Wild Mountain Nation we had to start touring all the time,” he said. “That makes it really difficult to release our records on our own because we didn’t have enough time at home to do everything right. So I guess that signing with a label was kind of a necessity because now they do all the work that we can’t do.”

It makes sense that Trapper stayed close to home when selecting a label and went with the “indie” behemoth, Sub Pop. Known for their artist friendly practices, Sub Pop has been a critical element in the explosion of the Pacific Northwest music scene and with bands like Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, and Iron and Wine (in addition to the most famous former client, Nirvana) in their stable, their nose for talent is second to none. “It’s been really nice so far,” Earley said, referring to working with the label. “They do really good work and they are really hands off as far as the records are concerned. I asked those guys for help in deciding the order and what songs to choose out of the group that I had recorded, but for the most part they just went with what I wanted.”

This kind of creative freedom is critical for a songwriter like Earley who genre hops like he’s got ants in his pants. With influences that range from Dylan’s work with The Band to Cat Stevens piano tunes, “Blitzen Trapper is a history of American music in some ways,” he said. “Our music hits a lot of high points in the way Americans have written music. It is all over the place.”

Their most recent album Furr stays true to this formula and keeps the listener guessing with each new song. The record is peppered with chestnuts like the spiritually infused title track “Furr,” and the timeless murder ballad “Black River Killer.” While both of those are a bit on the slower side, “War on Machines” is a barroom rocker that boogies hard and is sure to get you up outta your chair, and “Fire and Fast Bullets” recalls the windmill rock-n-roll of The Who.

While the Americana and classic rock influences are evident in their sound, Earley admits to some other, more contemporary influences as well. “Pavement is definitely an influence on us,” he said. “On Wild Mountain Nation the production values of the guitar and drums definitely reflected that, while on the new record, not so much. Wowee Zowee is probably one of my top five records of all time. I was really into that in high school.”

In a well orchestrated pairing, Blitzen Trapper is heading out on the road this fall with Stephen Malkmus, Pavement’s lead singer, and his band The Jicks. Despite the fact that Earley is a huge Pavement fan, he probably won’t be too star struck. “Stephen lives here in town and Janet Weiss [drummer for The Jicks]is a friend of mine. She and I go drink whiskey and play pool together sometimes,” he revealed.

There will probably be plenty of time for whiskey drinking, and maybe even some pool playing, as the bands wind their way from Calgary through Canada and the Midwest enroute to Colorado.
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:: Blitzen Trapper ::
:: Gothic Theatre :: November 6 ::

Recommended if you Like:
• Pavement
• Fleet Foxes
• The Band

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