It was like a scene from an Edward Hopper painting. But instead of 2 am, it was happy hour. I was sitting at the bar in the completely empty Castagna Cafe on Hawthorne.
In walked Eric Earley of Blitzen Trapper. He lived just blocks away, in Ladd's Addition. You could tell by his blue leather moccasin slippers, they looked comfortable, but I wouldn't want to walk more than a block in them. As for the rest of him, it was what you'd expect: well fitting country-western short-sleeve and road-tested, cool-looking, euro-americana grey jeans (god, I love hyphens). But it did seem like cowboy boots should have been where those slippers were.
You can tell this guy is from Oregon. I can't say exactly why. Perhaps it's the down-to-earth, comfortable grounded feeling he gave off or maybe it's because the word "river" literally came up 22 times during the course of our 30 minute chat. After all, the band's name contains one of the most mystical and beautiful rivers in our amazing state—the remote and enchanting Donner & Blitzen river, in Oregon's South East corner. Yeah, you river people know what I'm talking about.
"Want a beer?"
No. I've been drinking all weekend out at Pickathon.
How was it?
[Or at least that's what I think he said. Despite some of Bitzen's hard rocking sounds (see previous album, Wild Mountain Nation), Earley is not a loud individual. In fact I could barely hear him in a restaurant with only six people, including the bored-looking staff. I scooted closer along with the microphone.]
How long have you lived in Oregon?
My whole life, I was born in L.A. but moved to Salem as a young kid.
Where do you live now?
Just blocks away. (Looks down at his slippers and laughs quietly.)
How long have you been in that house?
Not even three years. Before that I was squatting at our rehearsal space, bouncing around... basically homeless.
Is that the rehearsal space that's photographed in Rolling Stone a few months back?
Yeah. That's the one. SE 6th and Ankeny, just behind rontoms over there. That photo was taken in the basement.
Is that where your hit album Furr was created?
Yep, pretty much. I wrote the song Furr there, in the room above the practice space. Over half the songs were written there. "Black River Killer" was inspired by living in SE, it's so close to the river. Lots of characters walking around that area. I'd go down to the river and chill out. In the song when the killer sharpens his knives on the rocks... that came out of hanging around down by the Willamette in the city.
In just a few days you take off for extended European tour, what do you like most about being home?
Just being in my house and cooking for myself. It's hard to live in hotels, buses and eating restaurant food all the time.
What's a perfect day for you here in Portland?
Well, I don't like it hot (like today). I like it cold and rainy. I'd say October is good. I just like cruising around on the bike... heading down to the river.
What kind of bike do you ride?
An old beater 10-speed.
What's your favorite place to eat?
We'll for breakfast/brunch it's Genies and the J&M Cafe. Also I'm loving this new Mexican place on Hawthorne that just opened called La Palapas. The make their own tortillas.
How about your favorite place for a gig?
Doug Fir. The sound is awesome. But I wish it was all ages.