ERIC'S TRIP INTERVIEW ARCHIVE February 22 , 1996 - Canada

Jason Schneider
Rick White
Publisher Title Transcript
The Life and Times of Eric's Trip Yes

The phone call is late. No big deal, I don't ever expect punctuality from anyone in the music business, however it's getting on in the afternoon and even I have things to do. Rick White, the towering Druidic beanpole who fronts Eric's Trip eventually calls and is graciously apologetic about his memory lapse, explaining he was finishing up some recordings for a friend.

This isn't surprising, since White and his bandmates Chris Thompson, Mark Gaudet and Julie Clayton (nee Doiron) are one of few groups since The Kingsmen who can crank out a full-length album in an afternoon by using whatever recording device was available.

Of course, that was during the heady days of 1991 when songs sounded better with a little hair on them. But the slew of records Eric's Trip began putting out would have sounded eclectic even if they had been produced by Butch Vig. Songs alternate between full-on rave-ups to barely audible acoustic numbers, all underscored by White and Doiron's timid but effective vocals. It's the sound of punks on dope and Eric's Trip became the epitome of East Coast slackerdom, recording albums at home, sometimes on a ghettoblaster. When SubPop Records invaded the Maritimes on a feeding frenzy, Eric's Trip was nudged into the spotlight with others like Sloan, Jale and Hardship Post and touted as part of the "scene" even though the band members' histories date back to the 1970s.

Recently White, who also produces artwork for album covers, T-shirts and posters, came up with an Eric's Trip family tree for Chart Magazineto illustrate this fact. The Moncton odyssey begins in 1974 with drummer Gaudet's band Purple Knight and his brilliantly named subsequent unit Whoremoans. White's first appearance is in 1984 with Bloodstain, the same year guitarist Thompson appeared in Dang. The two joined up in 1989 by forming The Forest, which recruited bassist Doiron a year later.

These three then formed a band in 1990 and name it after a Sonic Youth song. Gaudet replaced drummer Ed Vaughan in 1991 and the Eric's Trip story begins."A lot of those bands we were in played hardcore '70s-type punk, like Discharge, and sometimes a little speed metal," White says. He credits the addition of Gaudet as the turning point in the band's progress. "We had another drummer and it was okay but Mark is so much heavier that when we got him, the sound came together better. We could play a lot faster." Which brings us to their new album, Purple Blue. For the first time, loud and fast songs dominate the album and make it a thoroughly enjoyable listen the first time through. Previous Eric's Trip records required a little more attention in order to capture the subtleties.

White is as introverted as his vocals suggest, but he says this result is mostly due to the band's hefty touring schedule over the past year which brought heavier moments such as the new songs, "Spaceship Opening," "Universal Dawn" and "Beach." "We're much more of a live band now, so we did this album kind of like a concert with that `Introduction' song starting it off. Sort of like a 40-minute set. People always said that seeing us live was so much louder than our records, so on this one we tried to make it more the same."

1995 also saw Eric's Trip as part of The Tragically Hip's Another Roadside Attraction tour, forcing the band to play in the middle of the afternoon, a radical departure considering their traditional dimly lit club set-up. "We were treated really nice but it was weird playing in front of these big crowds of people who were just waiting for The Tragically Hip. But we got to experience what being a big stadium band is like, I guess. I'm not sure if we want to be that."

There's nothing to suggest that will happen with Purple Blue, even though it is the most accessible Eric's Trip album thus far. The progression from recording on a home 4-track to a real studio is slowly taking hold even though White still has no problem releasing his demos.

In fact, the first two Eric's Trip EPs,Peter and Songs About Chris were simply demo recordings that caught the ear of SubPop which quickly put them out in the midst of the sudden fascination with the East Coast scene. Listening to the EPs now, as well as their first full-length album Love Tara, requires some patience even though there are great songs hiding there. The fact that there is obviously more going on than meets the ear accounts for much of the music's charm, and White denies that he's ever felt the urge to go back and rework some of the early songs in sonically better ways.

"That's the way it just happened, but I think now we're beginning to change the way we do stuff because we're still learning how to get the best sound out of our equipment. We're still doing it all ourselves so the way I wanted to hear something then is different than the way I want to hear it now. We'll just keep working on new things and learn as we go."

A big leap forward occurred with 1994's Gordon Street Haunting EP and Forever Again LP which showed the band had more to offer than low-fi novelty. The sound is improved and songs such as "Viewmaster" and "I'm So Near Here" are filled with shiny happy pop hooks but still pound with the force of high tide in the Bay of Fundy.

Around this time, Julie had a baby and forced the group on a temporary hiatus, during which White and the others concentrated on side projects devoted to their seemingly endless capacity to write new material. Chris Thompson has appeared under the name Moonsocket, White and Gaudet as part of Elevator to Hell and Doiron-Clayton has played the occasional show as Broken Girl. One of the problems White has, in fact, is an overabundance of material. "I did have a lot of time on my hands but I always try to write different kinds of songs and do demos all the time. Some songs will end up being Eric's Trip songs just by getting everyone else together to work on them. The new Elevator To Hell album could have been an Eric's Trip album, but different people were helping me out. I don't really save songs for specific things."

White's super laid-back attitude, a dominant characteristic in members of the East Coast underground, may trouble fans about the band's future but he says they will be back on the road across Canada beginning sometime in May. And even if Purple Blue does sell a million copies (as it deserves), White doesn't expect anything to change in his approach to music. "I just take everything day by day," he says with the tone of a veteran hockey player.

It's fitting that this record has come out in the middle of another bitterly dismal winter, because an Eric's Trip record has always given me a cosy feeling of being there in the house with them as they put it together. There probably isn't a better way to get through the winter than to record an album and White seemed to agree with me as I rambled on about this. "I can't build as many snow forts as I used to," he concluded.

© Jason Schnieder, 1996