Blitzen Trapper draws on the dead for latest release

The indie rock veterans came by the KHOL studios to play a few songs and discuss the inspiration for their latest album, "Holy Smokes Future Jokes."
Brian Adrain Koch, left, and Eric Earley, right, pose with KHOL DJ Kevin P, center, in the KHOL studios. (Jack Catlin/KHOL)

Over the course of 20 years and 10 full-length albums, the band Blitzen Trapper of Portland, Oregon, has crafted a collection of songs that celebrate the human experience. On Blitzen Trapper’s newest album, “Holy Smokes Future Jokes,” frontman Eric Earley wanted to dig deeper and attempt to tackle big-picture cosmic explorations inspired by his fascination with “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.”
In advance of their show at the Center for the Arts on June 27, Eric Earley, Brian Adrain Koch and Nathan Vanderpool of Blitzen Trapper joined longtime KHOL DJ Kevin P for a conversation and to perform a few live songs in the KHOL studios.

The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

KEVIN PUSEY/KHOL: Eric, you grew up in Oregon and based a lot of your songs on life growing up in Oregon. Can you tell me a little bit about the songs “Cadillac Road” and/or “My Hometown?” What inspired you to write songs about growing up?

ERIC EARLEY: Oh, you know, I think it’s always wise for someone who’s writing anything to just write about what they know–the stories that they are familiar with, places, people. That’s kind of always been what I’ve tried to do successfully and unsuccessfully, probably. That’s always kind of been my starting point. “Cadillac Road” is about an old timber town that went ghost town, sort of a story about folks living there. And then “My Hometown” is really just about Salem, where I grew up. I would say [it’s] a sort of surrealistic rendering of that town [and] growing up there.

KHOL: So, tell us about this new album. What makes it different than your last albums? Is there anything that inspired you or this album, “Holy Smokes Future Jokes?”

EARLEY: The backdrop for this record is my obsession with “The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” also known as the “Bardo Thodol.” I got into it from George Saunders’ book called “Lincoln in the Bardo,” which everyone should read. It will change your perspective on life and death, I think. So, yeah, I really knew “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” is a narrative of afterlife reincarnation, which has always attracted me.

Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Blitzen Trapper.

This coverage is funded in part with an Arts For All grant provided by the Town of Jackson and Teton County.

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About Kevin Pusey

Kevin Pusey is a longtime KHOL DJ. His show "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out," showcases psychedelic Rock, B-Side rarities, and live jam bands.

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