My name is Trapper Schoepp and I am a 21-year-old songwriter from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Like my namesake, M*A*S*H surgeon Trapper John, I found myself prepping for surgery a month before recording our new album, “Run, Engine, Run.” The pain of a slipped disc in my back had become intolerable, and the painkillers ineffectual. Postponing upcoming studio dates for the record seemed ludicrous, so here we are.
It was this injury that got me to pick up the six-string in the first place. After a gnarly BMX bike crash, my mom encouraged a safer hobby and signed me up for guitar lessons. Fast-forward six years and I’m on an operating table at the Mayo Clinic for spinal decompression surgery, relaying my hospital experiences into songs like “Pins and Needles.”
“Mouth is dry, legs weak
IV’s runnin’ like a creek
On a scale of one to ten
Please don’t ask me that again”
With my back behind us, the Shades are surefooted and ready to rock. We all grew up in Wisconsin milieu, which informs the autobiographical narratives that appear throughout the album’s twelve tracks. The Schoepp brothers and David are from a northwestern town called Ellsworth, the self-proclaimed Cheese Curd Capital of the World. Songs like “Cold Deck” and “I-94” portray a Wisconsin landscape marked by frozen lakes, basement bars, the Mississippi, and the Green Bay Packers.
The pastoral theme evoked on the record is most apparent on the title track, “Run, Engine, Run.” We knew our grandfather wouldn’t see another Christmas on his South Dakota farm. The chores were over for the day, but our grandpa said he could use a quick hand in the shed. That’s when he unveiled his red 1964 Mercedes Benz, idling in a kind of out of place majesty aside archaic farm equipment and rusted tools. I jokingly asked grandpa if we could drive it home to Wisconsin. Soon we were scrambling around the nearest town looking for roadworthy tires.
“He won her at an auction just a couple months before
It seemed he gave away everything he saved up to afford
He wore a cowboy hat, a pearl snap shirt
Got up real early for his daily work
He was tied to a tradition from a long time ago”
The track is an ode to the classic set of wheels my brother and I inherited from my grandpa, and also a nod to the perseverance of farmers in the Badlands. As a turn of phrase, the album title is a request for resiliency and grace. It also sounds like a sigh of frustration someone might say aside a stalled car, or something screamed by a pissed off mechanic.
The sentiments of “Run, Engine, Run” are traceable in the songs “So Long” and “To Have You Around,” travel tales contextualized in both abandoned and imagined love. As a vintage sedan, the car that drives this album harks back to a musical purview established by our rock ‘n’ roll forefathers. They’ve provided us a vehicle, and we’re pressing down the pedal to keep the sounds moving.
Our Americana, “y’allternative” sound is implemented by the pedal steel guitar of “Spacey” Casey Prestwood (Limbeck, Hot Rod Circuit) and the violin work of Gina Romantini. My introduction to this cosmic side of country music came when I found a stack of CDs by Gram Parsons on a 30 pack of PBR, compliments of my upstairs neighbor, Geo Valentine (sorry about the decibels). The influence that this musical lineage had on me is traceable in the traditional-sounding prison ballad, “Twenty Odd Years,” a song inspired by Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home.”
Unlike my past releases, “A Change in the Weather” (2007) and “Lived and Moved” (2009), this collection of songs fuses pop with roots rock, favoring musical repetition and straightforward lyricism over shrouds of ambiguity. From the fictitious nightclub singer in “Wednesday, My Dear,” my prophetic partner Sam in “Tracks,” to the outlaw narrator in “Mercy Blues,” these songs had me staring at my own young life through characters I strived to understand.
We owe our current lineup to happenstance and fandom. Our previous drummer, Sahan, introduced us to the music of Limbeck, a defunct California rock band that featured Jon Phillip; low and behold, he’s a Milwaukeean. After catching our set on Record Store Day 2010, Jon and the Shades bonded over a bottle of Phillips, with musical collaboration coming soon after. Guitarist Graham Hunt and I became fast friends after bonding over a mutual love of the Replacements in a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee music class. Phillip recently toured with Tommy Stinson of the Replacements, hence the vocal appearance of Stinson’s wife, Emily, on “To Have You Around.” Tanner keeps it in the pocket on bass while singing vocal harmonies that only a brother could deliver with such naturalness. David Boigenzahn, who has been our right-hand man from the get-go, fills the sound out with wavering effects on his custom Fender Jaguar.
“Run, Engine, Run” was engineered and co-produced by Dan McMahon (Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons) at Howl Street and Mystery Room in Milwaukee, WI. It went east to New Jersey to be mixed by Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, Amos Lee). Justin Perkins mastered the record.
We thank the following: the Wizard of Waukesha, Christian Frederick, Frederick Miller, Frederick Pabst, Bruce Frederick Springsteen, and our home on Frederick avenue.