Even before Blitzen Trapper was picked up by indie stalwart Sub Pop for a record deal, the band stood tall on its own. Prior to the release of last year's "Furr," the Portland, Ore.-based rock troupe managed to move plenty records, including 16,000 copies of its self-released 2007 set "Wild Mountain Nation."
"That was a pretty critical time for us. Pitchfork and Rolling Stone were picking us up and we started feeling like that was a pretty good record for that year," says frontman and founder Eric Earley. "But it was really difficult to put out our own records. We were touring all the time and we could only distribute anything in the Northwest."
Earley -- who is now joined in the studio and on the road by a five-piece band -- was already headlong into writing "Furr" when Sub Pop was ready to sign. Chock full of harmonies, '60s pop, acoustic guitar, clanking piano and roots rock 'n' roll, "Furr" wound up becoming what was for Earley "the easiest of all the Blitzen Trapper albums to digest." Which might explain why, even after debuting in October, the album remains on Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart.
"It also helps that Sub Pop was able to take us to the next level. They're such a great label and they're close by. We knew they'd let us do what we do on the album," Earley continues.
What exactly Blitzen Tripper does has its origins in a high school in Salem, Ore., where Earley cut his teeth in various bands before writing on his own and recruiting his schoolmates to join. Fast forward, and the band's tracks have been licensed to television and commercials and the act has toured all over North America and overseas.
After a busy 2008, Earley and company are taking a break from the road before heading back out in February. The band has already begun recording its next album, which will include strings arrangements and the contributions of guitarist Mike Coykendall (M. Ward), who could also played on "Furr."
Earley says the next album might be a testament to his new state of mind. "I like to take it easy now," he says. "I spent a lot of years doing crazy sh*t but things have been so good, I've turned back into a five-year-old. Because we have a label taking care of more business stuff, I can spend time ignoring grown up sh*t. I have a sense of wonder."