Experimental folk rock outfit Blitzen Trapper made its theatrical debut this year with Wild And Reckless, a narrative rock musical that ran in Portland from March to April.
“It was about homelessness and drug abuse in this science fiction world where all of the energy used is harvested from lightning,” lead singer and songwriter Eric Earley says. “People start realizing the by-product of this lightning harvesting is this dust you can shoot up and get really high.”
The homelessness theme comes from Earley’s own experience during his time of “non-consistent living” where he crashed around Portland for two years.
“It wasn’t a kind of thing where I was like ‘I’m gonna be homeless now,’” Earley laughs. “It was more like we had this house a bunch of us were renting and we stopped. I just started floating around and crashing and it extended into a two year period. I was staying in the old Telegraph Building or someone’s car. Portland was different back then. There’s much more desperation now for those people who live that way.”
Mining from personal experience has always been the way Earley has written lyrics during his extensive career.
“I just try to paint pictures with words,” Earley says.
Sometimes these pictures come in the form of a feeling Earley can’t shake or an image he has experienced first hand.
This is most evident on the song “Let the Cards Fall,” off of Blitzen Trapper’s latest album All Across This Land.
“I sing about this forest fire coming and this guy just playing music in his trailer. In Oregon we have so many forest fires and I’ve been out camping or hunting and I’ve had to move on ‘cause there’s a forest fire coming. So It’s definitely an image I’ve experienced.”
Though many have tried, it is very difficult to pigeonhole Blitzen Trapper’s sound into one genre. It’s always had a Southern tinge to it so many have called them alt-country or Americana, but due to Earley’s love of experimentation, those definitions are easily altered.
“I would say it’s a function of where we grew up,” Earley says. “It wasn’t very city like, but more rural and small. Rural Oregon has always been pretty backwater so we listened to a lot of country and bluegrass. I think that combination of the country and riff rock gives it that Southern feel.”
That feel also comes from Earley’s lyrical style. With his Tom Petty-esque vocals, Earley enjoys telling stories about old Cadillacs, sunsets, rivers, the countryside, girls, basically anything associated with the American South.
Wild and Reckless featured all new Blitzen Trapper material and few of the band’s well-known tunes like “Black River Killer” and “Astronaut.” Fans will be delighted to know that many of the new songs from Wild and Reckless will make up the band’s upcoming album.
“The record is all done. It will be out this year and it sort of mirrors the show in a way with certain theatrical elements,” Earley says. “We have this magical realist world that talks about homelessness, but also heroin abuse.”
Sun., June 18 (8 pm)
Blitzen Trapper w/ guests
Starlite Room, $19.50