ERIC"S TRIP INTERVIEW ARCHIVE February, 1996 - Canada
- Scott Ingram
- Julie Doiron
|Exclaim! Magazine||Eric's Trip||Yes|
I had never spoken to someone in Moncton before. That all changed when I recently spoke to Julie of New Brunswick's best melodic fuzzy noise band, Eric's Trip. Julie plays bass and, with her guitar-friends Rick and Chris, and drummer friend Mark, just released a third album. It's called Purple Blue, it's on Sub Pop, and it makes a good conversation piece, as does her side project Broken Girl.
Eric's Trip are Moncton-bred and based, although thy're often mistakenly identified with another Nova Scotian city that spawned bands. Julie admits that it's "a little bit of a drag" being often mistaken as a Halifax band. Here's the lowdown for you: Moncton's population is about 10 ,000, most home have running water, it has its very own professional recording studios, and it is a full three hours away from Halifax (if you drive the speed limit). As for hyping the Moncton scene, "It's pretty much like any other city or scene. There are some good bands and there are some bad bands, and it's always going to be like that."
Eric's Trip is one of the good bands. Purple Blue is yet another fine release in a long string of seven-inches, independent cassettes, compilation appearances, and albums. It represents a bit of a departure for this band that dates back to June of 1990. Up until now, the vast majority of their work has been recorded and produced at Rick's house, but this entire album (except for the four-part introduction) was recorded in a geunine studio. They used a producer too -- Chicago indie guru Bob Weston, no less.
"Although I thought that working with a producer and under the time constraints of a studio would be more pressure-filled than recording at Rick's house, that wasn't the case. "I thought it was really fun. We were there to record. I knew what my job was and I knew it was going to get done. It wasn't just Rick calling me up to see if I could go do bass tracks on a certain day and saying 'Well, I can't make it today.' This time I knew, 'I'm going into the studio, I'm going to do my bass tracks, and it's going to go really well."
On previous albums each song had been constructed piece by piece: individual parts laid down at different times. On Forever Again(1994), Mark started off by doing all the drum tracks with no instruments at all. Julie went in the next day and recorded the bass tracks, even learning several songs right on the spot. Purple Blue, in contrast, was recorded live off the floor. THey had the studio booked 24 hours a day for 10 days, allowing them to come and go as they pleased. The arrangement seemed to take all of the pressure off the process.
There are two schools of thought on the studio issue. The "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school was a little worried that Eric's Trip in a studio would not sound like Eric's Trip. On the other hand, the "a kick in the pants might do them some good" school was thinking this could be a good idea.
Both schools, by all accounts, are very happy with the results. It's the songs that matter, not how you record them. Bob Weston has managed to maintain the intimacy of previous "lo-fi" recordings.
Julie justifiably feels that the term has been overused. "A lot of times you'll be reading a review and pretty much the main word will be lo-fi, but that doesn't tell you anything about the songs or the music. It's kind of frustrating. The reason 'lo-fi' even got started is because that happened to be the only means for people to record. And they were happy with those sounds. They didn't need to have it more perfected and it made things sound nice too. There can be stuff recorded on crappy equipment that sounds crappy and there can be really nice songs recorded on crappy equipment that turn out really nice. You shouldn't just read a review and say 'Oh it's lo-fi -- it must be cool' or it must be horrible." Mark has described Eric's Trip as "dreamy punk," at other times, "noisy love garbage" has come up. There's no such snazzy term now, but Julie notes that, "I find we're fairly melodic and I guess we're just noisy."
The same can't be said for Julie's side project, Broken Girl. While the melodic component is definitely present, the noise has fallen by the wayside. Since Broken Girl is a solo project, Julie's quiet, shy and vulnerable side is more evident, especially on stage.
In Eric's Trip, although Julie is neverous on stage, she finds she can forget what she's doing. As Broken Girl, she is very concious of standing on the stage by herself. Her vulnerability also comes out in her songwriting, the bulk of which occurs when she's sad. "When things aren't going too well, that's when I manage to write and when things seem to be going right then I just sort of practice other songs." She hasn't written too much lately, and that can probably be attributed to her fairly recent marriage, as well as the birth of baby Benjamin (who turned one on Christmas Eve). This whole new experience has inspired a new approach to songwriting.
"I have written a few nice ones too, when I've been happy, but those have been mainly about the baby. But there were some hard times too, like when the baby was really young and I was really tired and I didn't really feel I was doing a very good job at being a mother." She's finding mothering is getting easier as she goes on, and she's much happier now (and less tired).
As if she's not busy enough with motherhood and doing the majority of interviews for Purple Blue, (the rest of the band is also shy), there will be a full-length Broken Girl album coming out in February. Adding to the busy factor, it will be released on Julie's own Sappy Records label. That would be enough for most mortals, but not for Super Julie. She will also be embarking on a two-week tour with Plumtree in late February.
Also due for release in February on Sappy is the second seven-inch by Moncton friends Orange Glass, who share similarities in sound to Eric's Trip, and convinced one reviewer that Orange Glass was really Eric's Trip in disguise. Julie dismisses the similarity but notes that a lot of people from out of town have mentioned it. Coincidentally, as the topic of Orange Glass comes up, Julie notices that the rest of the band, rehearsing while the interview was conducted, was doing an Orange Glass cover.
There is a strong tie-in with Orange Glass and one of the other Eric's Trip side projects. Ron and Tara of Orange Glass also play in Rick's band, Elevator to Hell. Elevator has a seven-inch out on Sappy, as well as a full-length (vinyl only) album on Sub Pop. Eric's Trip named their first album, Love Tara, after the Orange Glass member, although that's not her on the cover. (It's Julie.) That album came out in the fall of '93, just a couple months after Rick and Julie's relationship ended, which lead to most of the material on the highly personal and often painful Forever Again.
I asked if it was difficult to play those songs live, because of their highly personal nature. Julie is well past the stage of feeling uncomfortable with the material, but mentioned that her husband still does not listen to that album. Rick also wrote a song on Purple Blue, partially in response to fans gossiping on the internet. "Sun Coming Up" describes how he's "sick of writing love gone wrong songs", and how he has progressed from the post-relationship gloom of Forever Again. Rick is a newlywed himself, having married Tara last October, capping a very eventful period for the band.
The fact that he's not married has not stopped Mark from getting in on his share of action in other bands. Mark drums in Elevator to Hell with Rick, and is also half of the legendary Purple Knight. Not to be outdone, Chris has his own side project, Moon Socket, and has released three seven-inches, a cassette, and most recently a full-length album on Derivative.
With all this side project action going on, it's obvious that there are plenty of songwriters in the band. On the new Eric's Trip album, songs are generally sung by the person who wrote them. With this much activity, where does the line get drawn between Eric's Trip and various other commitments?
"I never try to attempt to bring any of my songs to the band, but if Rick happens to hear one that he wants to try then we do it" Rick beccame very familiar with Julie's songs when they recorded a whole session for her just before the baby was born. Lucky for us he brought them to the band because Julie wrote some grat songs on Purple Blue, notably "Eyes Shut" and "Soon, Coming Closer". Generally, what they don't use in Eric's Trip, they use in their side projects.
It's difficult to summarize all of this activity. I like Purple Blue. I'm looking forward to seeing Broken Girl. But this is alal just too much to keep straight in my head, and wrap up in a nice neat package. I don't think it's possible.
© Scott Ingram, 1996