“Rocky Mountain Whoop Ass,” the nickname Blitzen Trapper’s fans coined for the band’s sound, is beginning to stick.
Frontman/songwriter Eric Earley laughs about it, but says for him, their music isn’t about labels; it’s about storytelling. His music is like an Americana melting pot of style that just feels good, and does more than tell a story; it’s a journey through song that takes you far away and back home again.
The Oregon five-piece’s new album, VII—released in fall 2013—adventurously departs from the folksy feel of their past albums. Gospel and rap elements color songs like “Shine On” and “Valley of Death.” While Earley says he appreciates the production value of this album and acknowledges that it’s different, the change doesn’t seem intentional. “I don’t think about it in terms of records; I just continue to write songs,” he says. “For the most part, it’s the same kind of storytelling I’ve always done. It’s a sort of darker sound—the kind of sound that reminds me of the woods in certain ways.”
Somber lyrics about longing and leaving weave throughout many of the tracks on VII, including “Thirsty Man.” The line “I’ve been running so long I can’t recall what it means to stay” alludes to a core theme that runs throughout all of Earley’s music, which he says is about man’s “capacity to want to do the right thing and his inability to ever do it.” Things lighten up with the feel-good, hip-shakin’ track “Drive on Up,” which Earley says was inspired by always driving up to see a high school girlfriend who lived in the mountains. “It’s also just about all the driving we do on the road touring,” he says.
“Don’t Be a Stranger,” a sweet little ending tune, steers the listener back home and settles Earley back into his own music roots. “I think all my music sort of comes back to country music, always that sort of seed of country music or bluegrass, that kind of stuff,” he says. Influenced by all different kinds of music, from gangster rap to old Appalachian tunes, music is not about particular genres to Earley. “It’s about the actual performers, the writing,” he says.
The freedom to experiment with influential sounds from outside the boundaries of alt-country/folk has enabled him to find a unique, eclectic style. The only formula Earley seems to adhere to is wandering creatively wherever he wants to go. “It’s not like I sit down and go, ‘Oh, I’m gonna do this or that,’ ” he says. “It just kind of winds around and ends up where it ends up.”
Maybe this is what makes Earley’s music feel so authentic. “It’s easier as I get older to be more honest because I care about fewer things, things affect me less,” he says. “I don’t really care much anymore what people think about what I do. What I care more about is the people that enjoy it.”
The State Room
638 S. State
Thursday, April 3, 8 p.m.
Limited no-fee tickets available at CityWeeklyStore.com