Blitzen Trapper gets personal

Some songs on new album reflect on growing up in Salem, Ore.




If you go

What: Blitzen Trapper, in concert.

When: 9 p.m. Nov. 12.

Where: McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside St., Portland.

Cost: $19 through Cascade Tickets, 800-514-3849 or

Information: Call 503-225-0047 or visit

When Blitzen Trapper went on tour in support of its fifth album, “Destroyer of the Void,” frontman and songwriter Eric Earley had already moved on from the music he was performing.

His thoughts had turned to Blitzen Trapper’s next release, “American Goldwing,” he said.

“Destroyer of the Void” had been recorded over the course of two years, and was finished a full six months before its release and the band’s tour to back the album.

“During that six months, a lot of stuff happened and I ended up writing like 90 percent of ‘American Goldwing’ in a two-month period,” Earley said.

“American Goldwing,” which was released on Sept. 13, is a bit of a throwback to earlier Blitzen Trapper albums.

Unlike “Destroyer of the Void,” which had an element of progressive rock, the new release recalls the mix of folk, old-school country and indie rock that characterized the band’s 2007 album “Wild Mountain Nation” and “Furr,” released in 2008.

Where those earlier CDs had a shambling, rough-around-the-edges quality, however, the playing on “American Goldwing” sounds tighter and the song writing stronger and more focused.

Earley said the lyrics on the latest release are more personal than on previous Blitzen Trapper recordings.

“Each song is very specific to people and places,” he said. “There are a lot of songs about where I grew up and the imagery about my hometown where I grew up. And a lot of it, too, deals with very specific relationships with women that I’ve had over the past few years. … As you get older, you start thinking about where you came from, what that means, (and you) take a look back.”

Earley came from Salem, Ore., a city whose population has nearly doubled since his childhood in the 1980s. Some of his lyrics touch on that sort of change.

“Places change so quickly, especially in Oregon, where we’ve had a lot of growth,” he said. “When I go home now, I don’t recognize it. All the empty fields have been turned into strip malls and gas stations.”

Some of Earley’s lyrics on “American Goldwing” also deal with the claustrophobia of small-town life. Forming Blitzen Trapper in 2000 was part of Earley’s efforts to escape that claustrophobic existence. The band started with four other musicians from Salem — guitarist/keyboardist Erik Menteer, drummer Brian Adrian Koch, bassist Michael Van Pelt and keyboardist Drew Laughery (since replaced by Brandon Koch) — and one native of Yakima, Marty Marquis, on keyboard and vocals.

After self-releasing its first three CDs, the band signed to Sub Pop Records. Beginning with that third album, its audience has steadily grown and the band has gained praise as one of indie rock’s leading groups.

With “American Goldwing,” that momentum should continue. The album is the group’s strongest effort to date.

Fans can expect to hear a heavy dose of the new material on Blitzen Trapper’s current tour.