Consequence of Sound premiered the video for the track. Read more about the Origins of “Masonic Temple Microdose #1.”
“This song is about American apathy and the nihilism that emerges from the bogus idea that complete personal freedom should be man’s ultimate goal, when in fact man’s ultimate goal should be ecological balance, all things follow from this,” offers Earley. “Comedy and horror combine on this track, teenagers dropping acid in a masonic temple at the end of the empire, the American consumptive death-drive laid bare as a desire for extinction.”
Led by existential questions about life and death, Holy Smokes Future Jokes finds frontman Eric Earley ruminating on the intermediate period between a person’s separate lives on earth, “and what it means to escape the cycle of birth and rebirth,” he explains.
Recorded at Long Play Recording in Portland, OR, Holy Smokes Future Jokes takes the listener on a wild and dramatic journey through the Bardo, that transitional state between death and rebirth. With an inherent otherworldliness in the lyrics and imagery, the album’s ten songs take inspiration from several works, notably George Saunders’ 2017 Lincoln in the Bardo, which led to Bardo Thodol, more commonly known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
“I became obsessed with it, “Earley notes. “All the ideas contained in that book were speaking to me in a lot of different ways. The main theme that kept drawing me in when I was writing was what I call ‘cosmic humility,’ he adds. “It’s the idea that humanity is not the center of the universe or even the center of our own universe here on earth. We’re not the most important thing.”
Throughout Holy Smokes Future Jokes, he addresses these concepts by homing in on deeply personal and profoundly affecting stories from the album’s hypnotic fingerpicked opener, “Baptismal,” which recounts an oft-told tale from high school days about a drunk driving accident, to the briskly-strummed closer “Hazy Morning” that focuses on mental health in the all-too-common American tragedy of school shootings.
In between the album’s powerful bookends, Earley takes a lighter touch with the indie-roots “Masonic Temple Microdose #1,” which sees a group of friends break into the titular temple to party while “Dead Billie Jean” imagines the title character from the Michael Jackson classic committing suicide, ascending to the Bardo, and getting high with Abraham Lincoln, Jim Morrison, and the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones.
The first track from the album, “Magical Thinking,” premiered at SPIN, who noted that it “features the delicate alt-folk that has become synonymous with the group.”
Produced and engineered by Raymond Richards, who also contributes upright bass/keys/pedal steel, Blitzen Trapper was joined in-studio by Michael Blake (keys), Luke Price (fiddle), Ben Latimer (saxophone), Heather Woods Broderick (backing vocals), and Haley Johnsen (backing vocals).
Over a 20-year career and ten full-length albums, Eric Earley has written, recorded and toured extensively as Blitzen Trapper, amassing a devoted fanbase and earning critical praise from a vast array of media that includes The New York Times, NPR Music, Rolling Stone Country, Paste, Pitchfork, SPIN, New York Magazine and Consequence of Sound.
Holy Smokes Future Jokes Tracklisting:
2. Bardo’s Light (Ouija, Ouija)
3. Don’t Let Me Run
4. Magical Thinking
5. Masonic Temple Microdose #1
7. Holy Smokes Future Jokes
8. Sons and Unwed Mothers
9. Dead Billie Jean
10. Hazy Morning