Over the span of 14 years and eight full-length records, Northwest rockers Blitzen Trapper have compiled one of the most consistent—often underrated—catalogs in the Americana and alt-country world. Their 2008 record Furr still stands as a towering achievement of the genre, and while their new record, Wild and Reckless, doesn’t veer wildly off course from a musical perspective, it still probably counts as their most unusual effort to date.
That’s because for the past month, the songs on the album have served as the soundtrack for a musical production the band is currently staging in their hometown of Portland, Ore. Titled Wild and Reckless: A New Concert Event with Blitzen Trapper, the show features the group weaving a full set of songs amid bits of storytelling courtesy of bandleader Eric Earley and performances from the professional actors who make up the cast. The show tells the story of two sci-fi kids as they navigate a futuristic vision of Portland’s past, combining a set of unreleased songs with staples from the Blitzen Trapper oeuvre, including “Black River Killer” (from Furr) and “Astronaut” (from 2010’s American Goldwing).
Unfortunately, the accompanying Wild and Reckless album may never receive a proper release. For now, it’s limited to just 500 copies each of vinyl and CD, and they’re only being sold at the theater. So for all those fans who can’t work out a trip to Portland, Paste is excited to do our part in getting the music out by premiering the song “Stolen Hearts.
“I can’t even say that I’ve ever seen a musical live,” Earley admits with a laugh.
“I wrote it as a song about what it means to lose your heart to someone,” Earley explains over the phone, “and it takes on a similar role in the show. It’s in a scene recollecting moments from a relationship with this girl who’s stealing and going to rehab and freaking out.”
Wild and Reckless began with a batch of songs Earley had written and a commission from Portland Center Stage at The Armory for its “Northwest Stories” series. It takes some autobiographical aspects from Earley’s life and his experiences in Portland and blends them with a distinct postmodern aesthetic, “mostly drawing on ‘80s sci-fi films and music.”
Asked about his musical-theater influences, Earley admits with a laugh, “I can’t even say that I’ve ever seen a musical live.”
As Blitzen Trapper dove into the project, they found that playing a show for a theater audience calls for a different mode of performing than a usual rock concert. As Earley explains it, “You have to find that energy every night, no matter what’s going on.”
“We learned a lot about how to connect with an audience through storytelling, though” he reflects, considering how the experience will influence the band going forward. “I don’t think there’s another band who has really done this kind of thing that we have.”
Check out our exclusive premiere of “Stolen Hearts” here, and then head below to watch Blitzen Trapper play a special set for Paste at the Newport Ruins in 2012. For those readers who do live in Portland, the show closes April 30 at The Armory, so there’s still time to go catch a uniquely electrifying show before it ends.