Alt-country-turned-progressive pop act Blitzen Trapper is back with brand new album American Goldwing. 225 caught up with songwriter Eric Earley before the band’s performance in Baton Rouge this month.
225: I hear elements of the Band, Bowie, some Zappa-esque playfulness in your music—what kind of band is Blitzen Trapper?
Eric Earley: I just write songs. I write what I like to listen to. I think the spirit is in that. I listen to a lot of hard rock and country music.
Who are your go-to artists or albums?
I listen to so much Black Sabbath. They are pretty much my favorite band, but also a lot of outlaw country and folk country like John Prine, Waylon Jennings and Billy Joe Shaver, Johnny Paycheck, stuff like that.
Does Portland really live up to that reputation of being progressive yet rootsy?
Yeah, sure. Portland has a small town feel to it. When I go to Seattle or San Francisco, I’m reminded of what an actual big city is like. I don’t know why that is, maybe because Portland is isolated.
Does it still have an insular music scene feel? It’s one of those cities that music fans in places like Baton Rouge get starry-eyed about.
Well, there’s a million people here. There are a lot of bands, so many that there’s not really a scene, there’s tons of scenes. I’m friends with a lot of bands that are touring, bands that are signed—like the Fruit Bats and the Thermals—and we hang out, and then there are all these other bands just starting out that have their own thing going off. Then you have huge bands that have moved here because it’s comfortable. It’s a weird music place.
What are some of the ideas behind the new album American Goldwing?
I wrote all the songs to go together, and there is a lot more hard rock on the record. There are more country songs, too. It has more of an American influence to it. The lyrics and subject matter of the songs are all personal, all close to me.
I like the title American Goldwing. It invokes the rebel motorcycle imagery of say, Harley Davidson, and then you replace it with a Goldwing, a more practical way to go out on the road.
The Goldwing is the bike you use if you really want to travel and go far. If you want to see America, you don’t want to do it on a Harley, or if you do, it’ll take a lot longer. A touring bike is gonna get you there and back in comfort.
Blitzen Trapper performs live appear at Manship Theatre October 15 with Dawes and Smoke Fairies. blitzentrapper.net