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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010

Trapper Schoepp: Lived and Moved, Ready for More

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“Milwaukee is a great city, with all these great clubs,” says Trapper Schoepp, “but unfortunately it’s really hard to play out a lot when the frontman of your band can’t even buy a drink at a bar.”

It’s a sentiment shared by many underage musicians in the city, but Schoepp seems to feel it particularly deeply. As you’d expect from a songwriter whose latest album, Lived and Moved, exudes an eagerness to meet life’s challenges as quickly as possible, Shoepp is itching to give his band Trapper Schoepp & The Shades a full push.

“I feel like it’s definitely hard getting some people to take us seriously at first,” the 19-year-old UWM sophomore says. “We just got back from a tour of six or seven shows around Wisconsin, and the majority of the people at those shows were older, and the bands we played with were older. Usually once we get to the venue and start playing, people are like, ‘OK, you guys aren’t so bad,’ or ‘That young kid can write a song,’ but I just don’t see why age really matters that much.”

Lived and Moved certainly doesn’t sound like the work of a 19-year-old. With a clean, professional sound captured by one of Milwaukee’s go-to producers, Justin Perkins—who Schoepp sought out, having heard his recordings for acts like Cory Chisel, Blueheels and Limbeck—the album recalls the rambling Americana of Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes sessions with The Band, tempered by some of the jaunty chime of I.R.S.-era R.E.M.

Schoepp is a distinguished songwriter, with a knack for bold sentiments and an ear for clean melodies, and he’s self-aware enough to understand the irony of a 19-year-old titling his second album Lived and Moved. The title refers, quite literally, to capture Schoepp’s move to Milwaukee from rural Ellsworth, Wis.—proud home to the annual Cheese Curd Festival few people outside of Ellsworth have heard of, and little else.

“I really wanted to get out of that small town, but I think that everyone who goes through that transitional phase feels a little lost,” he says. “You have all this ambition, but you’re really clueless and you don’t know what to do with it. There’s this uncertainty. So for me, recording this record was definitely a way to deal with those adolescent blues that I think everyone experiences around this age.”

For all its songs about youth, though, Schoepp sometimes seems to have the soul of an old man. His favorite Dylan album, for instance, is Dylan’s 1997 withered comeback effort Time Out of Mind.

“Much as I love Dylan’s socially charged, early work, it’s his love songs that really get me,” Schoepp says. “I love the way he opened up over his career. You look at his earlier work and it’s all about the outside world. It took him until 1975’s Blood on the Tracks to really open up about his own life, and by Time Out of Mind he was so much more candid.”

By that timeline, Schoepp has a strong head start. Dylan didn’t even release his first album until he was 20.

Trapper Schoepp & The Shades play an 8 p.m. CD release show with The Battle Royale, The Last Rhino and Ian Olvera & The Sleepwalkers at the Miramar Theatre on Friday, Feb. 12. The $5 cover includes a copy of the CD.