Cool things about Portland: There's no sales tax; it's the hometown of "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening; the Willamette Valley was the destination of travelers on the Oregon Trail; and there's lots of locally brewed beer.
Hailing from a city like that, it's no wonder that Blitzen Trapper " Eric Earley, Brian Adrian Koch, Drew Laughery, Marty Marquis, Erik Menteer and Michael VanPelt " is doing pretty well for itself.
The native Stumptowners' fourth record, "Furr," was released last September to much critical acclaim and garnered several "best of" mentions, including a couple from Rolling Stone. Despite the cyberspace response from the new album, frontman Earley said the experimental act's last disc, 2007's "Wild Mountain Nation," likely earned more support from the Web.
"'Furr' hasn't been an Internet hit," he said. "It's been a hit with people that like music and come to shows."
Earley said that, to him, such Web accolades "don't hold much stock, but it's flattering. We sell more records, and we're playing to more people."
While that may be true, the number of listeners who can accurately describe what they're hearing is up for debate. While fan reviews frequently name-drop the likes of The Kinks and the Grateful Dead, the folk overtones of the recent LP's title track " and the group's tendency to discuss wildlife " seem to have misled many critics into thinking Blitzen Trapper is a bunch of hippies.
"Strangely, 'Furr' has three folk songs on it," Earley said. "The rest are everything from hard rock to country, which shows the pathetic inconsistency of either our music or music writers. Probably both."
Ironically, "Wild Mountain Nation" was often derided for its utter lack of stability. Where that album was all over the board, the "hard rock" and "country" tracks on "Furr" at least have the decency to sound like they belong on the same album.
"I write and record songs simultaneously, generally the same day," Earley said. "I wrote and recorded about 40 songs last year; 13 ended up on the album. I had other folks choose and sequence the thing. Most people find the record more cohesive because it sounds more hi-fi, (and) get fooled into thinking we're more consistent than we actually are."
Earley was working on the record prior to joining the band for its current two-month tour, but he said he doesn't write on the road. And although the act's MySpace page predictably lists Pavement and Neil Young, Earley said his current influences vary from the expected ("trout fishing in the mountains, riding motorcycles in the desert and riding horses near the Columbia") to the completely left-field ("Dr. Dre and Black Sabbath").
It's a safe bet that the next record will sound as far away from "Furr" as that album did from its predecessor. But one thing will remain consistent: It'll be produced in Blitzen Trapper's own fertile back yard. "Becky Carman