There's something very (David) Lynchian about the demeanor of Blitzen Trapper, Portland's rollicking alt-country golden boys. Dark glasses, uncut hair, and songs with a proclivity for trance-like interludes shattered with high-octane guitar fits. That, or the other end of the spectrum, stripped-down folk constructions about murderers and heavy drinkers.
In addition, the group played its first gig back in the early 2000s under the name Garmonbozia, a reference to the bizarre concept of pain and sorrow—embodied by cream corn—in the twisted small-town dreamscape of Lynch's "Twin Peaks."
Blitzen Trapper specializes in painting vivid portraits of the turmoil of small-town America, drowning in the bottoms of bottles in dark, rustic bars. All that, and the rural roots of the band, several of whose members grew up near Salem, Ore., a town that inflects the secretive and forested "Twin Peaks" aesthetic. Although the group has lived in Portland for over a decade, front man Eric Earley's pastoral storytelling hasn't lost any connection to the rural Oregon they came from.
"[Growing up in a small town] gave us time to play music. There wasn't a lot going on in the town," said singer and primary songwriter Earley in an interview with the Source. "I started playing when I was really young. I was able to play with others and figure out how to do that."
Since being Garmonbozia, Blitzen Trapper has released seven albums and made a name for itself as some of Portland's most well respected troubadour country rockers.
"We get to play rock music every night. I've had a lot of other jobs that were way worse," contended Earley. "I've done a lot of factory work, kitchen work, farm work in my 20s. The worst job I've ever done was working at the garbage incinerator outside of Salem. I turned 30 and we started touring."
The most recent release is 2013's aptly titled VII. The opening track titled "Feel the Chill" has a borderline disco funk-country vibe, a genre I had never conceptualized until listening to the album, and feels dancier and twangier than some of the band's previous releases.
"Those influences are coming from soul music and hip-hop," said Early. "I listen to hip-hop for lyrical content and I like the way they put beats together. I like Kendrick Lamar and I like Biggie, Public Enemy."
The track "Thirsty Man" returns to the full-fledged Americana and begins to stack up to the pure, hot-burning power of the band's 2008's stripped-down album Furr.
"There are always three or four songs that click," said Earley of the new album. "'Thirsty Man' is a really popular one and 'Don't be a Stranger' is another one that people really like."
When I ask him about why he thinks listeners and critics connect so well with one my favorite coming-of-age songs, the title track on "Furr," he's cavalier about his craft.
"I have no idea. I really don't know. People like it," he shrugs. "Why do people like anything? It's got verses and a chorus, but every song has those."
Perhaps it's the woodsy imagery, the idea of sheading responsibility like a coat of fur only to have it returned with age, the Simon and Garfunklesque construction, or the pounding-heart kick drum that enters at precisely the right second. Whatever makes the song loveable, it immortalizes a nearly perfect feeling of absurdity in a dreamlike four minutes. Very Lynchian of you, Blitzen Trapper.
5:30 pm. | Sun., July 6
Black Butte Ranch, 13899 Bishops Cap