Kyle Shaw
Julie Doiron
Tara Landry-White
Rick White
Publisher Title Transcript
Impact Magazine But Where Is Eric Going? Yes

In the their five-year existence, Eric's trip have put Moncton and Halifax on the map, established a whole cottage industry of side bands, labels and production projects, and grown and developed into a great band themselves. Now, after releasing their best album yet, it looks like they're breaking up. Is too much fame to blame, or has ET just run its tangled course?

Some bands wear their influences on their sleeves: others wear their hearts. Eric's Trip does a little of both, laying it bare all over their record sleeves. For a band that seems impossibly shy even on stage,the members write surprisingly openly about their tangled romantic history. The four-piece group borrows its name from a Sonic Youth song, and the emotions they write about are clear from the titles of their songs. "Anytime You Want," "Follow" and "Secret For Julie," for instance, are from Love Tara, Eric's Trip first full-length album for Sub Pop Records.

The Julie from the song is Julie Doiron Claytor, who plays bass and sings in the band. Back before Love Tara came out (in 1993) and before she got married (in '94) she was plain Julie Dorion, and she and Rick White, the bands guitarist and singer, were a couple. "New Love," "Girlfriend," "My Chest Is Empty" and "Hate Song" are cuts from their album Forever Again, which came out after their breakup.

Dorion and White continued to work together not only through the breakup, but also through their subsequent marriages, the birth of Julie's son (Ben) and the establishment of Rick's side project wife (the Tara from Love Tara). And they wrote about it.

The realistic approach to real life might be what fans like about Eric's Trip. That, or the surprisingly hard edge they have when they play live. Either way, the band's support is growing beyond a small, intense core of ET fans. Forever Again was nominated for a Juno award last year, and their newest album, Purple Blue, is selling very well.

"Purple Blue is a switch," Julie says in a telephone interview from her New Brunswick home. "It's at number 11 on the retail alternative chart, and generally our records don't sell."

Asked to describe Eric's Trip style, she pauses, then says,"Noisy love-pop rock. I'll go with that today." The recorded effect isn't far off. Noise is definitely there, but so is a lot of melody, provided by White, Clayton, guitarist Chris Thompson and drummer Mark Gaudet.

This lineup had been together since December, 1991 when Ed Vaughan, the drummer who had been with the band since it formed in 1990, left and was replace by Guadet. Vaughan got out before the record deal - Sub Pop's first Canadian signing - and before whatever celebrity the band has achieved, sometimes in spite of itself.

Ironically, Rick White taught me a lot about fame-he taught me that fame is a very strange thing. I work for a newspaper in Halifax, and when the paper had a party to celebrate its 50th issue, I attended wearing a tuxedo. This journalist in a penguin suit surrounded by masses of people wearing jeans and, true to the stereotype, plaid shirts was an unusual image. Mike Cambell, the host of MuchEast, picked me to interview, and few weeks later I appeared on MuchEast. I didn't see the piece or ever know that it was running, yet for days afterward, people commented on it when I met them around town.

But that happened last July, and my moment of glory has become a dim memory. Now I wear jeans and, frequently, plaid shirts and talk about what other people are doing. That means reporting about the "music scene," because lately Halfax has been thriving, almost-but not quite-true to the stereotype.

Although that stereotype is tired and mercifully not discussed as often as it once was, in case it must be gotten out of the way. It goes like this: Seattle is the home of Sub Pop, Sub Pop signed Eric's Trip, Eric's Trip are from Halifax, Halifax is the next Seattle, Seattle is the home of Sub Pop, Sub Pop signed Eric's Trip, Eric's Trip are from Halifax, Halifax is the next Seattle. The problem is this: Eric's Trip are from Moncton.

It takes over three hours to drive from Moncton to Halifax, which means even though the two cities are right next to each other on the map, they're not right next to each other. Bad weather can make the distance even greater. I discovered that when Eric's Trip cancelled two Halifax concerts in a row, both on the night of the show. But a couple of weeks later I bumped into Rick White at a mutual friend's house.

This was lucky, but I was reluctant to approach him. White seems painfully shy, this tall thin guy withdrawn behind his long black hair. This impression carries through ET's live show (in which they frequently hide behind their hair and turn their backs to the crowd) and in their album and promotional art, where images of him are often very small, blurred, distorted or all of the above.

He's so obviously not impressed by media attention that I didn't want to bug him when he was just hanging out. Then again, it was my only chance to make face-to-face contact with any part of the band. Nervously I approached and asked if there would be any chance for us to get together and talk about Eric's Trip. And he said he recognized me from Much Music.

The next day White and Tara S'appart, White's wife since September'95, meet me for lunch. They're not late, even though they went out the night before to watch the Monoxides playing at Birdland. Also a Moncton band, the Monoxides called White onstage to help them sing The MC5's "Kick Out The Jams."

In person White's not neatly as shy as I'd suspected, especially when we talked about side projects. Having side projects is apparently integral to being a member of Eric's Trip. Drummer Gaudet's other band is Purple Knight; Dorion has one called Broken Girl; Thompson is in Moon Socket; and White's is in Elevator to Hell, which also includes Gaudet an S'appart.

The side projects have taken on a life of their own, which may, ironically, end up threatening Eric's Trip itself. Elevator to Hell released a vinyl-only album under a separate Sub Pop recording deal. Broken Girl has just released a CD and is negotiating with Sub Pop, and Moon Socket has a disc out on Montreal's Derivative label.

"Moon Socket's been around almost as long as Eric's Trip," says White. "He used to put out little cassettes, but now he's got a CD."

Beyond successful band side projects, some Trippers have whole side industries on the go. Dorion owns Sappy Records, which she started in '9 . "I was getting slack about it," Dorion says. "I was getting overwhelmed by mail, and it got to the point where it was easier to procrastinate than to start working."

That's when her husband Jon stepped in, helping Julie with the backlog of mail and moving the company into new projects. Sappy put out the Broken Girl CD with money borrowed from Sub Pop, and releases 7-inch singles for small bands. One of these is Orange Glass, the side project to Elevator to Hell for S'appart. They're also working with more well-known acts, getting organized to release records with The Inbreds and Wooden Stars.

Some of those Sappy singles, and two songs on the Broken Girl album, were recorded by White, who has set up a studio in his house. He cut his production/engineering teeth on Eric's Trip records, which reflect his determinedly lo-fi style.

"We wanted, to do it ourselves to get our sound," explains White. "In the early days, we had a four track because that's all we could afford. We started doing them that way just so we could do them ourselves and get the sound the way I wanted it."

Those early records include the EP's Peter (for Halifax's murderecords) and Songs About Chris (Sub Pop). White also did the first two Sub Pop albums, Love Tara and Forever Again, accumulating equipment and experience along the way.

"I'm slowly getting better at recording," he says. "Things aren't sounding as lo-fi anymore. They're starting to sound more like normal records."

To a point, hopefully. Whether it happened by necessity or design, Eric's Trip epitomized indie rock before it became trendy. They were lo-fi when lo-fi wasn't cool, so it would be quite a shock if they became mainstream. Still, and perhaps inevitably, Purple Blue is the band's most accessible album yet. "I don't think the difference in sound about our records was really the recording quality, it was more how we did it," says White. "I don't mind good sound, I just want to get it the way it sounds at home. "We're starting to get better, but it still sounds like my recordings. A little more hi-fi, but it's still an Eric's Trip record."

White's serious about developing his technique. Lately he has been studying old recordings, trying to add a new dimension to his productions. A third dimension. "I try to copy a lot of the 3-D records from the '60s," he explains. "Because you can't do them exactly, they come out kind of '90s. But no one else is really doing that yet."

"No one famous, anyway," S'appart points out. White pauses to consider his place in the pantheon of recording technicians, then laughs. "No one famous is doing it yet," he says. "Including myself."

"You know what I mean," she says. "Bob Weston [Sebadoh, Velocity Girl, plays in Shellac] or Butch Vig [Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, plays in Garbage] isn't doing that kind of thing yet."

By citing Weston, S'appart unexpectedly adds a touch of reality to the discussion, because Eric's Trip have worked with extensively. He recorded a song of theirs for Never Mind the Molluscs East Coast compilation, and the band liked him enough to get help on the mixing of Love Tara. White handled Forever Again by himself, but they sought out Weston again for Purple Blue.

"We decided we wanted the new record to sound live," says White. "So we got him to come up and record us all playing at the same time. "I think it worked. A bit, anyway. It doesn't sound quite as dreamy as the other records. It's more straightforward, which is good. You have to try and capture all the different sounds of a band on different records."

Weston recorded the album in a 24-track studio, which was definitely a departure for the band. Perhaps to make up for the relative luxury, they did all but two of the songs in just one take. "Spaceship Opening" and "Universal Dawn" make the cut on the second take.

"Bob Weston teased us a bit about our techniques," admits White. "But overall he thought there was nothing wrong with them. I think he actually thinks we're doing cool stuff just on our own."

White uses a similar style when he's recording other bands, either at his studio or after lugging a portable 8-track machine to where the band feels most comfortable. He trusts that the energy of a band playing well together makes up for technical mistakes, and by now he would know. Documenting bands is an obsession that led him to call people and ask permission to record them. The list of musicians White's worked with is long, and growing: Jale, Hardship Post, Merge, Tristan Psionic, Thee Suddens, the Monoxides. He's recorded all the Moncton bands "a couple times each," which naturally includes all of the ET side projects. In fact, he has so much Moncton, a compilation album is in the works .

White records himself extensively too, taping material almost daily. He does this and takes photos instead of keeping a traditional journal, which perhaps explains why his songwriting is very personal. "I record songs which document my thoughts and feelings," he explains. "If i get sick or something, I want to be able to look back at everything when I'm old and have lots of good stuff to remind me of the good days. But maybe the good days will last quite a while."

White cites Arthur Lee of the legendary '60s band Love as someone who had a good life, explaining, "They never got too popular because they wouldn't tour."

If a band can't make it from Moncton to Halifax to play a gig in support of a new release, one may assume there are problems with the band. (Eric's Trip is booked again for an appearance at Halifax's Birdland, with the club's posters featuring the caption "third time lucky.") It goes beyond a natural - for a Monctoner - desires not to leave Moncton. It might indicate that the band is going to break up, which is the rumor currently in wide circulation.

I ask Claytor about the future of Eric's Trip. "I think we'll be done in June," she says. "I don't really like to talk about it, but one of the people in the band doesn't want to do it anymore.

"As far as I know, it'll be a real breakup - although he's changed his mind a couple of times about it." She doesn't say, not even off the record, who is the instigator of the dissolution, although everyone assumes it's White. I ask if the band's breakup related to their romantic breakup,but she puts that theory to bed.

"No. It would have been easy to break up the band back when we broke up, but the band stayed together really well now, sometimes better than we used to, and we're still friends."

For his part, White is comfortable discussing the potential demise of the bands. His directness reminds me that this is someone who sings his diary entries to rooms full of strangers.

"It used to be we were excited to try to prove something to everybody," He says. "We felt like we had a real power, but it's the same power. I'm curious to find another kind of power with different people."

As White talks about what comes next it sounds like a simple shifting of priorities, with side projects becoming the main focus. The bands and people will rotate, constantly orbiting the center of music and Moncton.

Then White teaches me more about fame. The story goes like this: Eric's trip was headlining a concert in Vancouver in the summer of '94, and just before the show a band got added to the bill. White watched this surprise addition and enjoyed them, so after their set he went over and introduced himself. He liked the music enough to ask the band for a demo tape, if they had one yet. The band told him they already had a record contract with Geffen and after the gig they were heading to Los Angeles to make a video with celebrity director Spike Jonze.

After Rick White tells me about the time he met Weezer, he heads back to Moncton. And I know that fame isn't just a very strange thing, it's a trip.

© Kyle Shaw, 1996