Over the span of 14 years and eight full-length records, Blitzen Trapper have compiled one of the most consistent—and 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 the songs on the album, which was officially released Nov. 3, serve as the soundtrack for a musical production the band staged earlier this year in their hometown of Portland, Ore. Titled Wild and Reckless: A New Concert Event with Blitzen Trapper featured the group weaving a full set of songs amid bits of storytelling courtesy of bandleader Eric Earley and performances from the professional actors who made up the cast.
The album 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).
The Wild and Reckless show 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 admitted with a laugh, “I can’t even say that I’ve ever seen a musical live.” As the band dove into the project, they found that playing a show for a theater audience called for a different mode of performing than a usual rock concert. As Earley explained 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.”
The resulting album contains seven songs from the stage production, plus five more new originals. Watch Blitzen Trapper perform “Rebel,” Wild and Reckless” and “Stolen Hearts” live at Paste.