words by Erin Wolf
Trapper Schoepp & the Shades have oft been described as ‘young’, but as the band gains ground (and years), their music is moreso the main focus — straight-up roots rock with a warm Midwestern appeal and the natural gloss of the harmonizing brotherly vocals of Trapper and Tanner Schoepp. The Shades seem to be heading in some interesting directions recently with new lineup changes and the thoughtful output of their latest album Run, Engine, Run. WMSE talks to Trapper Schoepp before he and his Shades open up for a show at the Hotel Foster this Thursday that should prove even more interesting as far as directions are concerned.
How has it been writing music with a new crew?
Well, I’ve been studying up a lot on bands like The Clash and The Replacements, so I think some of that will influence the new material and will mesh well with our current style. We’ve definitely become more of a simple, straightforward rock band with these latest lineup changes. Our drummer, Jon Phillip brings to the table over ten years of experience, and guitarist Graham Hunt’s energy has had a big impact on our live shows. We also occasionally have violinist Gina Romantini and guitarist David Boigenzahn along for the ride. My brother and I feel pretty lucky to have encountered such talent here in Milwaukee.
Run, Engine, Run has been out since early this winter — how’s the feedback been now that it’s settled a bit?
Yeah, we’ve gotten a great response so far. People seem to be digging the mix of the softer, Americana songs and the heavier rockers. And although the record isn’t really about Wisconsin, the sense of place in the songs is something that listeners are definitely picking up on. Our buddy Matt from The Snowbirds just said that some of the tunes reminded him Jackson Browne. Any comparison like that really humbles me.
Your hometown of Ellsworth and life in small towns in Wisconsin are a big component of your songwriting — will that always work its way into your music, even with some changes working their way into the band?
I don’t know that our sound will ever be categorized as either rural or urban per se, but the more I go home, the more connected I feel to it. I think that’s just part of growing up. I find it sad though, that the economics and environment of towns like Ellsworth are being so affected by factory farms and the like. The decline of small town America is not a hard thing to see in Midwest states like Wisconsin. But regardless of the musical direction our band takes, my roots and the continuing changes in the state are definitely a topic I’ll continue to touch on.
What’s lined up for you guys, aside from this week’s show? Any big news? Big plans?
We’re talking with a pretty big label from L.A. right now. They’ve put out some records I really love, and we’d all be thrilled if we were added to their roster. Either way, we hope to find a way to log a lot more time in the van and studio. We always joke that our band dream is to be Bob Seger’s ‘Silver Bullet Band’. In all seriousness, The Shades are going to try to fit in some backing band work on some local records. You know, it’s a good time to be in a rock and roll band. There aren’t as many as there used to be, but this type of music will be around for a long time to come.
Tune into 91.7 FM WMSE today at 1 p.m. for an interview with the band on WMSE’s Local Lunchbox segment. Trapper Schoepp & the Shades play the Hotel Foster this Thursday, January 26th alongside The Championship.