Local band Trapper Schoepp and the Shades don't let success go to their heads.
Regular Lake Effect listeners will recognize Trapper Schoepp's name from the weekly credits on this show. Trapper worked in various capacities on Lake Effect for four years while he studied at UW-Milwaukee.
To say he's gone on to do interesting work since then is a vast understatement. We interviewed Trapper and his band, the Shades, not long after their first CD, "Lived and Moved" was released.
But the band's 2012 release ushered in a breathtaking year for a young band, putting them on the rock-and-roll map far outside the borders of Wisconsin. "Run, Engine, Run" was the band's debut album after signing a record deal with Los Angeles-based Side One Dummy Records.
It's been a fast rise for the Ellsworth, Wis., native. Schoepp says he once longed to leave his hometown for the music scene of Milwaukee. But even the big city wasn't enough for the driven Schoepp - and his restlessness inspired the song "Tracks."
"I was just getting a bit tired of sitting around Milwaukee, I guess, and I really wanted to get out on the road and be playing shows," he says. "And we were kind of just stuck playing around Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Madison, all these cities that are great, but we weren't moving anywhere more than that, so I wrote a song to express those feelings of wanting to move farther from Wisconsin basically."
It wasn't long before the band was taking their sound across the country. With the release of "Run, Engine, Run" came great reviews, tours with The Wallflowers and Soul Asylum, and music videos, as well.
It's been a whirlwind for the young men of the Shades - Trapper on lead vocals and guitar, brother Tanner on bass and vocals, drummer Jon Phillip, and lead guitarist Graham Hunt. But Schoepp says the band has taken time to enjoy the moment - like playing onstage with Jakob Dylan.
"There's the video of us doing "One Headlight' with them at South by Southwest, and I think you can see in that video all of us looking around at each other going, 'Okay, this is new,'" he says.
Signing with an L.A. label and going on national tours has also brought the band new contacts in the industry. But that doesn't mean Schoepp and the Shades haven't worked hard to promote themselves.
"I'm kind of a firm believer of trying to take whatever little opportunity you can to kind of further yourself," drummer Jon Phillip says. He credits Trapper with making the in-person connections that have inspired people to become "champions" for the band.
"There's a lot of hard work that you do as a band that seems so pointless at the time," Schoepp says, "but in the long run you look at it and say, 'Wow. So that's why that actually happened. That one little meeting.' Just getting in front of someone's face and saying, 'Hi, I'm Trapper. It's really nice to meet you,' and having that face-to-face communication goes really a long distance."
Of course, touring can take its toll on a band, but Schoepp quotes Harry Chapin in describing the feeling as "a good tired."
"Just that feeling of the accomplishment and being worn out all the time, but it being a very celebratory sort of tired, and I think these guys would all agree that getting back from tour and seeing the signs for Milwaukee, it's a great feeling," he says.
Touring also doesn't leave a lot of time for writing, Schoepp's particular talent. The songs on the new album marry a keen ear for songwriting detail with a rock, country, and folk tradition. Schoepp says his writing style has come along over the years, evidenced on a story song about his distant relative called "The Ballad of Olaf Johnson."
"If I (had written) it five years ago, the song would be very vague and no one would be able to follow the storyline and there'd be a lot of ambiguity there," Schoepp says. "But I've paid a lot more attention to detail, making every word count as I grow as a songwriter."
"And he has me complaining, and suggesting things every second," brother Tanner chimes in.
While the past year's success of the past year might go to the heads of some less grounded bands, but Schoepp knows the Shades still have a long way to go.
"We're still a baby band, and getting to where we have I think in part has been because we haven't had colossal expectations," he says. But the band has its own expectations - which Schoepp acknowledges aren't always feasible.
"Having our first big tour come with The Wallflowers, it sets a precedent with us - we should be able to get big tours like that and we always should be able to do that - and that's completely unrealistic," he says. "We have just scratched the surface as a band, of paying our dues, and I think we're all on the same page with that and have no delusions of where we're at as a band."
The band will open at the Old 97's concert at Turner Hall in Milwaukee this Thursday.
Our interview was engineered by Jon Strelecki.