ERIC'S TRIP INTERVIEW ARCHIVE February, 1996 - Moncton, New Brunswick

Tara Wittchen
Rick White
Publisher Title Transcript
VOX Magazine Issue #144 Eric's Trip: Journey to the Centre of the Mind Yes

Remember the Saturday Night Live sketch when William Shatner told the folks of the Star Trek convention to get a life? Old Captain Kirk himself felt these Trekkies had spent too much time in their parents' basements analyzing the show. They had forsaken their "real lives" in pursuit of the most minute of Star Trek trivia and frantically obsessing over irrelevant details. And Bill called them on it.

Eric's Trip is my Star Trek.

The Moncton four piece have become much more than the group I consistently put at the top of the "Favourite Band Ever" list. Song lyrics are saved in notebooks, autographed records sit on high shelves in my bedroom, old set lists are lovingly tucked away. Close friends know btter than to question the sheer genuis of anything created by Chris Thompson, Julie Claytor, Mark Gaudet, and Rick White. At least within earshot.

Ha ha, I'm even listening to them as I write this.

Unlike Star Trek, Eric's Trip explores inner space, a place much more scary than the undiscovered galaxies of Kirk's world. And, unlike other sicknesses or addictions, Eric's Trip are quite harmless.

"It's a really comforting image, I find," comments Rick, on the phone from his New Brunswick home.

Yes, that's exactly how I see them, I think to myself. But no, Rick is speaking about Erick herself, the waif like angel girl covering much of the band's earlier artwork.

The image was developed out of the feelings he had for his sister who had died shortly after birth. During what he refers to as his "unstable teen years", he would spend time in the graveyard near his home where her grave was located. A dark, quiet place to smoke up and think about all the really scary things inside his head. Eric represented something calming and manifested herself into a lot of the art Rick was creating when the band first started. The image came to represent the band, as well.

Eric's Trip have come to be associated with a few other things. Lo-fi recording techniques. A madman of a drummer. Rumbling and fuzzy guitars. Lyrics that read like the pages of an accidentally discovered diary. And the soap opera between Rick and Julie.

"Sometimes I wonder if that's mainly what gets people into our songs," he begins cautiously.

There are other bands who utilize the same formula as Eric's Trip. Soft boy-girl vocals. Feedback laden tracks juxtaposed against acoustic heartbreakers. Dreamy images and artwork. Four track recordings.

"I like spearating the vocals sometimes. I first got kind of amazed by the Simon and Garfunkel record Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme where the whole production of the record is recorded so well, like the space of it," Rick says of his own production work with the band. "If you listen to it between your speakers or in your earphones, you can just... you know the way you can see everything?" Every time the vocals come in, it doesn't feel like they're right in the music. It feels like this ghost, a face appears over top of it all and just sings the the vocals."

What makes Eric's Trip so special? What is the difference between lame Sebadoh rip-offs and Eric's Trip?

"There's a real force behind this band, something for people to connect to," Rick says.

Like two band members writing almost exclusively about their disinteresting love affair?

"Julie and I never fought, like we never tore each other apart or anything. It was always weird little bickerings, I think because we were like friends; we were more like guy friends, me and Julie. Where we just played in a band," he explains.

In the beginning it was Rick and Julie playing acoustic guitars together and discovering a mutual love of Neil Young and My Bloody Valentine. Chrisand original Ed Vaughan got in the picture and Eric's Trip was created in 1990. Mark replaced Ed in 1991.

"Once we started bickering, it was troubling us because we wanted to still play together because it was still fun. We just eventually had to work it out. But it went through lots of weird feelings in the meantime," he recalls.

Those weird feelings became the central theme in projects like The Gordon Stret Haunting EP, Forever Again LP, and the Notes From Stereo Mountain 7" and comic book. Painfully honset portrayals of the confusion, desperation, and frustration that happens when a doomed relationship gets dragged out. Absolutely endearing to those of us who until hearing these blissfully, dreamy, noisy songs were convinced we were the only ones who had mangled a love affair so thoroughly. (There's only so much Morrissey can do.)

The comic strip from Notes From Stereo Mountain was based on a real day, Rick says.

"I threw one of Julie's records up the street," he says, a bit self concious. "It was funny, right after it got into midair, it was like one of those moments where you just go "Here, don't forget your record" or something."

Sigh. We've all done that.

"It hardly ever gets that dramatic, but when it does, once the record was in midair, I realized how ridiculous it was and I just watched it fly. And then it came right down on its corner and mushed the corner in. I just felt so bad," he continues. "And she picked up the record and came back to talk." At least for a while.

The drama would continue until eventually it was messed up forever, he says.

"We both wrote a few songs just about getting over all this, moving on," he admits. "It was getting kind of sickening."

What happens to their lyrics now that Rick is married to Tara, Julie is married to Jon, and Chris has found a stable relationship with Dawn?

"I don't think anything else very interesting is going to happen between me and Julie, bcause we're both just friends now and she has a kid. There's nothing more soap opera happening with that," he says. As for Chris, Rick says Chris will always find ways to write sad songs about being hurt, although he cheerier these days.

Unlike Shatner, Rick isn't about to tell Eric's Trip fans to get a life. He is well aware of the emotional connection these personal songs have made with them and he states an admiration for those who care enough to really listen in the first place.

At Eric's Trip shows, there are two main groups of fans, he says. Up at the front, the younger kids are waiting to jump around and smash into one another, screaming out requests for "Blinded", "Happens All The Time", and "Spaceship Opening." Another group stands to the side, listening and feeling each song in their own way, he explains.

"That's who we'd rather play for, people who are going to listen, just like you would in front of your stereo. Feel it, hear it really good," he says softly. "It's weird, because I guess [the relationship] is all we wrote about for a couple of records, so we got everyone involved."

"I just write about other things that I think are even more scary or more important now," Rick continues. He worries about his health and thinks about getting old a lot. Remembering the woods he played in as a child spooks him out, too.

"Like the cover of the new record [Purple Blue], the vortex that's kind of going up in the sky. It just means it's further now. It's not the end of the...well, it's kind of the end of a journey, but it's more. It's the next part of the story."

To boldly go...

© Tara Wittchen, 1996