Since the last time we saw you… | Music | Salt Lake City

Ask Blitzen Trapper frontman Eric Earley how his music will sound or translate live, or how his new touring band will compare to the classic Blitzen Trapper lineup who have toured for nearly two decades together, and you won’t. will get no response. Earley is literally starting to find those answers himself as he embarks on his first tour in three years.

Yes, some things have changed since fans last saw Earley and Blitzen Trapper. Some of his former bandmates no longer work with Earley – or any other touring band, for that matter. While Earley still wrote the band’s songs and recorded most of the instruments himself on albums, the live lineup of Erik Menteer (guitar), Marty Marquis (guitar), Michael Van Pelt (bass), and Brian Adrian Koch (drums) had remained untouched since 2000 until the band’s 2018 tour marking the album’s 10th anniversary Fur. Now things are smoother with the live band.

“We’ll have a four-piece band for each tour, some slightly different lineups, some familiar faces and some not,” Earley said.

And Earley’s life has changed a lot since 2019, when he recorded Blitzen Trapper’s last album, Holy Smokes Future Jokes. For much of that time he spent his days, first as a social worker and more recently as a housing specialist at a homeless shelter in his hometown or Portland, Ore.

His work with the homeless actually started before he did holy fumes. He had friends in a local organization that worked with the homeless and found a job at a winter shelter. “I wasn’t touring as much and needed more income, so I started doing night shifts in a winter shelter,” Earley said. “Then when the winter shelter closed in the spring of this year (2019), so I did holy fumes and I did a European tour, I believe. It was the last tour I did. It was summer, then fall, I started working at a 24/7 homeless shelter. And then COVID hit, and I just stayed there. I just kind of fell into it.”

With over three years of experience in the field, Earley has found her work to help homeless people put their lives on the right track to be rewarding and even enjoyable.

“I think in a way my personality is good for this kind of work,” Earley said. “I (can) do this kind of work just because I’m able to detach and not have…I mean, the trend in social work is you get a lot of second-hand drama. So to be able to deal with it or detach from it or how you can deal with it (that’s fine) In three years I don’t feel like I’m even close to burnout or anything, that which is a very real reality in this work.

Now he’s taking a break from his work with the homeless to tour and reconnect with the significant audience that was drawn to Blitzen Trapper’s music, which grew from the ramshackle mix of folk, psychedelic rock and of pop from early albums like 2007. Savage Mountain Nation in a more focused, yet still distinctive mix of these styles.

Holy Smokes Future Jokes is another appealing album from Blitzen Trapper. This time around, Earley creates a more relaxed sound by frequently using finger-picked guitar and lots of acoustic instruments. This sound accentuates the inviting vocal melodies of songs like “Don’t Let Me Run”, “Baptismal”, “Sons and Unwed Mothers” and the title track and immediately sounds like the work of Blitzen Trapper.

What is not immediately apparent with Holy Smokes Future Jokes is the pretty big inspiration behind many lyrics. In the time leading up to the making of the album, Earley had read the Tibetan Book of the Dead and become fascinated by the book’s discussion of the bardos, the transitional states between life on earth, death, and rebirth into an eternal state of nirvana. The connection to the Tibetan Book of the Dead isn’t that evident in the lyrics themselves – which was the point, according to Earley.

“I didn’t really want to get too attached to it,” he said. “It was more just a lot of feelings and ideas. I mean, I’m quoting directly (the Tibetan Book of the Dead) in several songs, but yeah, I think the lyrics are really my kind of more codified surreal storytelling as opposed to kind of a direct approach. So yeah, for me it wasn’t important what the focus was when I was making the record. But then when I do interviews I can talk about what was the focus. It’s interesting. But you don’t necessarily need to know to listen to the record in any way.”

Blitzen Trapper plays at the historic Egyptian Theater (328 Main Street, Park City) Wednesday, June 22 through Friday, June 24, with nightly performances at 8 p.m. Visit parkcityshows.com for tickets and additional information.

Elizabeth J. Harless