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Blitzen Trapper’s Eric Earley Tries to Offer a Different Perspective
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Friday, June 24, 2022
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Eric Earley’s day job as a caseworker at a homeless shelter places him right in the middle of the drug epidemic and other problems.

And the stories he hears daily provide plenty of fodder for the music he writes, including that of Blitzen Trapper’s latest album “Holy Smokes Future Jokes,” which the band is finally taking on the road.

“When I started working in the field, I developed a new way of looking at humans—things like the trauma they encounter and the ways we get attached to things in this life,” said Earley, who provides housing vouchers to homeless people. “We’re so attached to our own egos, our material possessions, our independence, substances of all kinds from sugar to coffee. I have come to realize that attachments can suffocate our relationships. If they’re not helping, they lead to our destruction.”

Earley and his Portland, Ore-based Blitzen Trapper will perform some of the songs off that latest album when they perform at The Argyros as part of their “Holy Smokes Future Jokes Tour.” The experimental country/folk/rock band with its driving, electrified rhythms will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 25.

Tickets are $20, available at https://theargyros.org.

Formed in 2000, the band has tackled existential questions about life and death ever since Earley penned “Baptismal,” a song about high school classmates who perished in a drunk driving accident when their car veered off the road into the river.

“Empty bottle on the backseat floor filled with dreams from a forgotten shore and your heart let open like a bedroom door.”

The latest of their 10 albums ponders what it means to escape the cycle of birth and rebirth. It was inspired from George Saunders’ 2017 “Lincoln in the Bardo” and the “Tibetan Book of the Dead.” And it revolves around the idea that humanity is not the center of the universe, that humans are not the big deal they think they are because they’ve only been around for a fraction of a second in the grand scheme of things.

One song, “Dead Billie Jean,” imagines the title character from the Michael Jackson classic ascending to the bardo where she rubs shoulders with Abraham Lincoln and Jim Morrison.

“That whole record is like my own take on the ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead,’ ” Earley said. “I think working in the shelter influenced it, as well. I don’t find death as a dark topic—it’s a portal into other things. And you gain a different perspective as you move through it—it’s a place of wonder.”

The album garnered good press when it came out in 2020. But the group had to cancel multiple tours it had scheduled to promote it because of COVID.

Earley said the band has spent a lot of energy relearning the songs after being laid off for three years.

“It was hard. You’ve got fans who want to see you and places you want to go and you can’t do it,” he said.

The name Blitzen Trapper is a reference to Earley’s seventh-grade girlfriend who drew pictures of Santa Claus and his reindeer—specifically Blitzen—on a Trapper Keeper binder. The band’s breakthrough came in 2007 when their “Wild Mountain Nation” spun to No. 98 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Songs of 2007. Their album “Furr” went to No. 13 on Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of 2008 while the title track ranked No. 4 on Best Singles of 2008

Earley said he and his band dote on improvisation.

“We play songs and stuff but we also do a lot of improvisational stuff so our concert sounds different every night. We may do an a cappella harmony of a song one night and present a totally different version of that song the next night. We’re always trying to make things interesting.”

 

 

 

 

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