There are some things that Cy Erickson doesn't want you to know - like how old he is or what he does for a day job.
But if you want to talk to him about his main passion - his band AM Interstate - then he'll gladly answer any question you might have about the Redmond-based act that he and his older brother, Seth, have fronted in one form or another for nearly a decade. He'll tell you about the throwback, true-blue rock and roll band's two new records and let you in on what its like to be signed to a record label, tour the world, then, on one occasion, get kicked out of the UK.
Another thing he'll tell you is that the AM Interstate that's playing at the Black Horse Saloon on Saturday night isn't the AM Interstate that was arguably the biggest band in Central Oregon in the middle of the 2000s. Sure, the popularity allowed them appearances at industry fests like SXSW and CMJ, but the Ericksons and their music has changed, thanks in large part to the fact that the brothers have expanded their artistic scope, bringing their band more into the writing and recording process.
"I don't want to say that we fully reinvented ourselves," says Cy Erickson, "but a lot of the [old] sound came from what we were able to write and record. Before, Seth and I did everything on the record and we realized that we had a lot of rock and roll in us that we weren't really capturing."
Now, Erickson says that the band has used its new disc, Love Your Sniper, to not only move from what he called the "psychedelic country" feel of the band's early years to capture a simpler, poppier, yet still powerful sound that is more indicative of AM Interstate as a live band rather than a two-brother studio project. This move has resulted in the band's strongest tracks yet, making Love Your Sniper a disc that's not to be ignored.
While they were in the midst of some lineup changes, the brothers Erickson also decided to take a look at their stage presence.
"We started watching videos of Bon Scott with AC/DC and we realized there was a lot we needed to do in terms of the live show," says Erickson.
Love Your Sniper still hasn't been released and probably won't be until later this summer or early in the fall (but they'll sell you a copy at the show). The guys are still shopping the record around to record labels in the hopes of landing another deal, like the arrangement they previously had with a small New York-based imprint. And once they do secure another deal, AM Interstate has yet another album, which they've already named Spit Leather and Roses, that's also ready for release. So, when most bands struggle to complete just one disc, these guys already have two in the can.
One thing hasn't changed, it seems, and that's the fact that these dudes still look like somebody dropped them off in the present day in an El Camino straight from 1974, having stopped briefly for a shot of whiskey with the fictional rockers of Almost Famous' Stillwater. If there's a band in Central Oregon with a more awesome attention to rock and roll conventions, we haven't seen them yet.
There was a time when AM Interstate could be routinely found playing in Bend's bars and clubs, but in recent years those gigs have fallen off, leaving some Central Oregon live music fans wondering if AM Interstate is still even a band. They certainly are, having played a steady string of shows in Portland, where two of their members, bassist Jake Busa and percussionist Emerson Vanderburg, currently reside. With a focus that's been targeted at times more on out-of-town shows than impressing their neighbors, it seems that AM Interstate might be looking to head to a bigger city. But that's not the case, the Redmond natives who've grown up gigging in the area since Cy was 16, are comfortable sticking around the area, where they still have a following.
"I've personally thought about moving to a city, but what we've found is that us being out of left field has helped us," he says.
As they prepare for the next step in the AM Interstate saga, this band has hardly forgotten about its roots in this region. They want people to know they're still playing and that Cy Erickson and company are still the sort of guys who can make tasty rock star comments like this:
"For anyone who's seen us before, but hasn't seen us in a while, you're going to hear something you like. You're going to dance and you might meet your next lover - who knows?"
9pm Saturday, May 1. Black Horse Saloon,
20565 Brinson Blvd. No cover.