When we were all little kids together on the FADER commune, hillibillies were the dudes who hung around the feed bank and threatened to stab our goats everytime we went to town. Now it's just dudes like Blitzen Trapper making these here fancy videos that remind us of the Jacko and Talking Heads videos our spiritual guide made us watch for breakfast. Weird times. Anyway, we sent Jessica Suarez out to the wilds of Portland, Oregon to meet the Trappers for FADER 47 and you can read the resulting story after the jump.
Blitzen Trapper's songs of the soil and cement
Story Jessica Suarez
Photography Annie Marie Musselman
“Someone left kiss marks on the door. Who would do that?” Eric Earley, leader of Portland’s Blitzen Trapper, wonders out loud. Before he decides why someone made out with the entrance to the band’s rehearsal space he’s interrupted by a passing friend. Then he needs a cigarette.
It’s tough to get a word in with Earley. It’s not because he’s a talker. When discussing the songs on Wild Mountain Nation, Blitzen Trapper’s hyper-modern country album, he trails into a sheepish “It’s hard to explain…” Instead it’s tough because the band’s rehearsal space nestles up to the Willamette river, next to a bike path where other musicians frequently travel.
Earley has a lot of friends, so it’s strange that Bltizen Trapper’s songs aren’t really collaborative. Earley knows everyone, but works alone. “Everybody is just scraping to make money at this point,” he says of his five bandmates. “I live on nothing, basically, so I’m always writing and recording.” Earley’s currently homeless, which gives him more time for music and hanging out in the woods. The rehearsal space is one of the few spots where people know they can find him.
Portland is a place where it’s easy to divide your time between the city and the country: the forest and the urban center exist in the same space: “If you get on the river and just ride south for ten minutes, you’re out in the woods. Then it becomes city again,” Earley explains. If you wait around until evening, you can even watch beaver swimming by. Wild Mountain Nation reflects that mix of the developed and the wilderness. Though grounded in country and folk, the band’s “vast collection of crappy Casio synthesizers” cuts through the woodsy charm. Title track “Wild Mountain Nation” buzzes with beer-bottled guitars that bend amiably around Earley’s natural country twang, and “Sci-Fi Kid” transforms from pleasant guitar stomp to wiggly space jam. Every track is like this: dozens of genres and melodies, divided into delirious three-minute portions.
Lyrics are harder for Earley to remember, let alone explain. But he’ll talk about “Badger’s Black Brigade,” a languorous track that sighs like a love song. Or maybe not. “It had something to do with The Wind in The Willows. The weasels take over Toad Hall and so Mr Badger and Mr Toad and Ratty and Mole have to go in and take it over,” Earley recalls. “Badger just comes in and starts beating the shit out of everybody.”