Oregon inspires latest Blitzen Trapper album

Singer Eric Early taps Salem for lyrics




If you go

• What: Blitzen Trapper, in concert for ages 21 and older.

• When: 9 p.m. April 17.

• Where: Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E. Burnside St., Portland.

• Cost: $25.55 through TicketFly.

• Information: Doug Fir Lounge.

Eighteen months ago, Blitzen Trapper went on tour in support of its fifth CD, “Destroyer of the Void.” But frontman and songwriter Eric Earley admits that he had already moved on musically from that CD.

The reason was that he already had his mind on the sixth Blitzen Trapper CD, “American Goldwing.”

“That (“Destroyer of the Void”) tour felt like work to me,” Earley said in a recent phone interview. “Records, because I’m the one writing them, they have a lot of emotional and personal significance, and that’s where your head is. So for me, my head was more in the studio during that year and working on this record (“American Goldwing”) that I really cared about.”

Earley got ahead of himself because of the timing for the release of “Destroyer of the Void,” a CD that had been recorded in two years in a series of recording sessions between stretches of touring.

The new CD actually is a bit of a throwback to earlier Blitzen Trapper CDs. “Destroyer of the Void” also sounded very much like the band, but it had an element of progressive rock that gave it a different edge.

“American Goldwing,” which was released Sept. 13, though, recalls the mix of folk, old-school country and indie rock that characterized the band’s earlier CDs such as “Wild Mountain

Nation” (2007) and “Furr” (2008).

But where those earlier CDs had a shambling, rough-around-the-edges quality, the instrumentation on “American Goldwing” sounds tighter, and the songwriting stronger and a bit more focused.

What also makes “American Goldwing” different to Earley are his lyrics, which have a more personal thread than on other Blitzen Trapper CDs.

“I think that, in a very basic way, each song is very specific to people and places,” Earley 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. I don’t know; it’s what it is. It’s songs written about the stuff that’s been going on with me, and I think as you get older, you start thinking about where you came from, what that means, (and you) take a look back.”

Where Earley came from is Salem, Ore., a city that he said has probably tripled in size since he grew up there. 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. “I’ve seen big changes that have happened in past 20 years, in Oregon specifically. When I go home now, I don’t recognize it. All of the empty fields have been turned into strip malls and gas stations.”

Some of Earley’s lyrics on “American Goldwing” also deal with wanting to get away from the claustrophobic existence that many people find is part of small-town life. For Earley, part of that process meant forming Blitzen Trapper in 2000 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, keyboardist-vocalist Marty Marquis.

After self-releasing its first three CDs — 2003’s self-titled effort, 2004’s “Field Rexx” and “Wild Mountain Nation” — the band signed to Sub Pop Records, and beginning with that third CD, has steadily grown its audience and gained praise as one of indie rock’s leading groups.

“American Goldwing” should only build on Blitzen Trapper’s success. It’s arguably the group’s strongest effort to date.

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

“We’re probably going to play the whole new album,” Earley said. “We’ll probably (also) do the old favorites and stuff. The last tour that we did, we did three or four sets that were slightly different. We’ve finished so many songs now that people want to hear, and for us it’s better if there are different sets happening all the time. It’s more interesting. So yeah, we’ll probably have different sets for different shows.”