The Trading Co. (I)

The Trading Co. Interview & Gallery, Part 1

The Interview, Part 1

The Interview, Part 1

Blues-rock duo The Trading Co. (early can¬≠di¬≠dates for band names: Tre Vero [‚ÄúThe Three Truths‚ÄĚ]; King James Version) belong to a small sta¬≠ble of artists call¬≠ing Old Dog Records their home. Like label mates the Kamals and Black Jack Gypsys, their sound is loud and heavy. It‚Äôs a sound that‚Äôs been com¬≠pared to the early Black Keys; lyri¬≠cally, they traf¬≠fic in sto¬≠ries of sin and redemp¬≠tion, lone¬≠li¬≠ness and betrayal.

Singer/‚Äčdrummer Jonathan Eldridge, a slen¬≠der, square-jawed young man with brown, side-parted hair and thick plas¬≠tic eye¬≠glass frames, sings with an anguished inten¬≠sity usu¬≠ally reserved for jonesing addicts. His drum¬≠ming is work¬≠man¬≠like‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČhe makes no claims of vir¬≠tu¬≠os¬≠ity; the beat keeps time and under¬≠lines the suf¬≠fer¬≠ing of the var¬≠i¬≠ous sto¬≠ry¬≠tellers as he chan¬≠nels spurned lovers, vagabonds, and wan¬≠der¬≠ers. The first time I heard him sing, I was reminded of the way Gary Burger once spat out his shock¬≠ing decla¬≠ma¬≠tion‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI hate you! (But call me)‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČto audi¬≠ences in cold war Germany.

Joshua flashes a wide, slightly goofy grin with lit¬≠tle provo¬≠ca¬≠tion. During the inter¬≠view, the gui¬≠tar player and some¬≠times singer emerged as the sun¬≠nier half of the pair. His reced¬≠ing hair¬≠line belies his rel¬≠a¬≠tive youth, as does his expert gui¬≠tar play¬≠ing; he knows the lan¬≠guage of elec¬≠tric blues. Despite the elec¬≠tri¬≠fi¬≠ca¬≠tion, his play¬≠ing owes more to ‚Äúprim¬≠i¬≠tive‚ÄĚ coun¬≠try blues‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČthink John Lee Hooker‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČthan to Chicago blues, with the instru¬≠ment used as per¬≠cus¬≠sion as much as for scales and har¬≠mony. It‚Äôll get you swaying.

We caught up with The Trading Co. between their November Blue Note Lounge appear¬≠ance and their late February gig as part of the Old Dog Records show¬≠case at the Route 66 Roadhouse. Their epony¬≠mous sopho¬≠more release is avail¬≠able as a dig¬≠i¬≠tal down¬≠load or a vinyl LP. The LP includes a code for a dig¬≠i¬≠tal copy of the album in MP3 format.

Jonathan (III)
Jonathan (III)‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČThe Trading Co. at the Blue Note Lounge

Mercury Photo BureauPlease intro¬≠duce yourselves.

Jonathan EldridgeMy name‚Äôs Jonathan; I sing and play drums.

Joshua GriffinI‚Äôm Joshua, and I play gui¬≠tar and sing.

MPBWho‚Äôs the prin¬≠ci¬≠pal writer?

JoshuaUh, both, actu¬≠ally; yeah.

JonathanThere‚Äôs a few songs that each of us have writ¬≠ten indi¬≠vid¬≠u¬≠ally, but we pretty much call it a ‚Äúcor¬≠po¬≠rate‚ÄĚ effort. [‚Ķ] one of us will come up with a riff and we‚Äôll [‚Ķ] jam with it for a while, and, usu¬≠ally, the lyrics start as we‚Äôre play¬≠ing. I‚Äôll just make them up as we go, and we‚Äôll remem¬≠ber one line from that, and one of us will go and [‚Ķ] write a full lyric [‚Ķ]. I don‚Äôt think we‚Äôve ever writ¬≠ten a song [with the] lyrics first.

JoshuaYeah, I usu¬≠ally have a vocal melody [‚Ķ] in my head and [‚Ķ] base a gui¬≠tar riff around it.

MPBThe band‚Äôs been described as a blues-rock band, and I think that‚Äôs a fair descrip¬≠tion. Most of the chord changes are blues-based, and the lyrics fol¬≠low the basic twelve-bar blues struc¬≠ture. I only know the stuff I heard you play at the Blue Note [Lounge] and the stuff I‚Äôve heard on Bandcamp. Do you ever stray out¬≠side of that basic form?

Jonathan[‚Ķ] I don‚Äôt think [‚Ķ] we sat down and thought about it like, This is the way we‚Äôre gonna do it, we just both grew up with that kind of music. [‚Ķ] I think it‚Äôs just so [‚Ķ] ingrained in us that that‚Äôs the way it turns out. If we came up with a dif¬≠fer¬≠ent idea, I think we‚Äôd be happy to explore it.

MPBHow did you meet each other?

JoshuaWe met at a pre¬≠vi¬≠ous job, about ‚Ķ ‚Äô99? Right at the turn of the cen¬≠tury. [‚Ķ] I‚Äôd played in bands and stuff for a while; I don‚Äôt think you‚Äôd [looks at Jonathan] played in any¬≠thing, had you? We‚Äôd known each other for years before we even started play¬≠ing music together. Just hung out, you know, mutual friends and stuff.

Joshua (II)
Joshua (II)‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČThe Trading Co. at the Blue Note Lounge

JonathanWe [‚Ķ] ended up mov¬≠ing in‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČwe‚Äôd known each other for seven or eight years‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČended up mov¬≠ing in next door to each other. We kind of jammed once or twice [after that]; I actu¬≠ally played gui¬≠tars; [they were] kinda the first instru¬≠ment I picked up and learned. We‚Äôd jam with some other peo¬≠ple like that; noth¬≠ing seri¬≠ous, not intend¬≠ing to do any¬≠thing with it, just hav¬≠ing fun.

And then, I kinda looked‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČnot really looked for a band, but [had] been inter¬≠ested in join¬≠ing or start¬≠ing 1, and not found any¬≠thing, so I just decided at one point, well, I was gonna do it myself. So I bought a drum set, just a lit¬≠tle cheap mixer, and some junk soft¬≠ware [‚Ķ], and I thought I‚Äôd just do a scratch track, you know, lay down the drums; I‚Äôll just make an album myself [‚Ķ].

But then, like I said, I had the drums; we lived next door to each other and I‚Äôve got friends who are musi¬≠cians too, so it just turned into a thing where we started play¬≠ing together. And, I think, sec¬≠ond or third time [‚Ķ], we started writ¬≠ing songs, not with the inten¬≠tion of doing any¬≠thing with them [‚Ķ].

MPBJoshua, you said you‚Äôd been in some other bands before?

JoshuaI used to play a lot of sports and stuff in school, and, one day I quit and bought a gui¬≠tar. And [‚Ķ] a cou¬≠ple of‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČtwo or three months after I started play¬≠ing [‚Ķ] I jammed with a cou¬≠ple of bud¬≠dies and just [‚Ķ] watched them, and the next thing you know, we‚Äôve got a band. Played all through high school with those guys. It was a band called Chief; it was just four bud¬≠dies that I went to school with [‚Ķ]. And we ended up break¬≠ing up: one of the guys joined the mil¬≠i¬≠tary right out of school, so that [‚Ķ] fiz¬≠zled away. I don‚Äôt even actu¬≠ally know how we started play¬≠ing; I don‚Äôt think it was ever brought up. [addresses Jonathan] Did you just say, Hey? ‚ÄĒ

JonathanI think we just started play¬≠ing; I don‚Äôt think it was ‚ÄĒ.

MPBThe two of you guys together? So that was in one of your houses; were you play¬≠ing before an audi¬≠ence, or was it just the two of you?

JoshuaI think, like, when¬≠ever me and my old bud¬≠dies would get together and like, jam at that house, Jonathan would come over and sit in on the drums or sit in on the guitar [‚Ķ].

MPBWho does most of the singing?

JonathanI prob¬≠a¬≠bly sing ¬ĺ of the songs, but I don‚Äôt think there‚Äôs a rule of I‚Äôm the singer.

MPBOn your epony¬≠mous debut album, five of the ten songs‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČfully half‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČare what are pop¬≠u¬≠larly described as ‚Äúkiss-off‚ÄĚ songs. What‚Äôs going on there?

JonathanNone of the songs‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČat least none of the ones you‚Äôre refer¬≠ring to‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČthere‚Äôs one that‚Äôs actu¬≠ally about some¬≠one, but none of [those 5] songs are about a spe¬≠cific per¬≠son [‚Ķ]. I feel it‚Äôs [‚Ķ] eas¬≠ier to write about sad things and about neg¬≠a¬≠tive things than it is to write about hap¬≠pi¬≠ness. And maybe that‚Äôs my personality ‚ÄĒ

MPBHappiness can be boring.

JonathanIt can be. There‚Äôs so much more. [‚Ķ] Rarely is happy com¬≠plex; [‚Ķ] sad[ness], despair, bad things, [‚Ķ] they‚Äôre com¬≠plex; there‚Äôs a lot to them [‚Ķ].

JoshuaI‚Äôve never writ¬≠ten a song when I was happy. [chuck¬≠les] It‚Äôs always been after a breakup or some¬≠thing along those lines. I‚Äôll admit; there‚Äôs a cou¬≠ple that I wrote that the lyrics are about a spe¬≠cific person.

JonathanAll They Had is a song that I wrote, and it‚Äôs not about a girl; it‚Äôs not about break¬≠ing up [‚Ķ]; it‚Äôs more about a feel¬≠ing of loneliness.

MPBYou’re both self-taught musicians?

JonathanI took one les¬≠son when I first started play¬≠ing gui¬≠tar [when] I was about 20. My dad had [a gui¬≠tar] and I‚Äôd messed with it on and off, but I really decided I was gonna play gui¬≠tar [and] I took one les¬≠son from Joshua; [that] may be one of the big¬≠ger mis¬≠takes in my life. [laugh¬≠ter] Great gui¬≠tar player; ter¬≠ri¬≠ble gui¬≠tar teacher.

JoshuaI do not remem¬≠ber that les¬≠son at all; I have ADD, so I prob¬≠a¬≠bly‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČWhy can‚Äôt you do this? Just do it.

MPBDo either of you read gui¬≠tar tabs?

JoshuaI can read tab¬≠u¬≠la¬≠tion, but I can‚Äôt read musi¬≠cal notation.

JonathanI can‚Äôt read music at all.

MPBHow long have you been play­ing as The Trading Co.?

JoshuaSince late 2009. [Our first pub¬≠lic gig was] at a place called Grady‚Äôs 66 Pub in Yukon. It was before they had a stage; we set up in front in between two pool tables. I‚Äôd bro¬≠ken my arm [in a] motor¬≠cy¬≠cle [acci¬≠dent], and we‚Äôd booked this show, and I thought that we were gonna have to post¬≠pone because I wasn‚Äôt sure if I would have the cast off in time. And I got the cast off about a week before our show, and it went off with¬≠out a hitch.

JonathanActually [‚Ķ], that was the first year they were open for Fat Tuesday; last night was the third Fat Tuesday in a row we‚Äôve played there. It‚Äôs an annual thing now.

I thought [The first show] went great; actu¬≠ally, I was amazed‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČmy fear was, no one was gonna be there, [but] there were at least a hun¬≠dred peo¬≠ple there. [‚Ķ] I think Josh was really afraid because I‚Äôd not been in a band before, and I think he was ner¬≠vous for the fact that he thought I was gonna screw up. [laugh¬≠ter] I‚Äôve never been the type‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI don‚Äôt get ner¬≠vous about things very often [‚Ķ], and I think Josh was ner¬≠vous for me, because he was like, You should be ner¬≠vous; why aren‚Äôt you nervous?

JoshuaNo, I was actu¬≠ally ner¬≠vous because I hadn‚Äôt played [‚Ķ] for at least three months, and we hadn‚Äôt prac¬≠ticed; I don‚Äôt think we prac¬≠ticed at all before the show, maybe once?

JonathanI have a lot more faith in Josh‚Äôs gui¬≠tar play¬≠ing than he does most times. [laugh¬≠ter]. I expect and demand him to do things that he‚Äôs not com¬≠fort¬≠able doing, [more laugh¬≠ter] which helps the band‚Äôs over¬≠all dynamic.

MPBWell, now that you men¬≠tion faith, the song Faith explic¬≠itly addresses the sub¬≠ject. Your music is rooted in the blues tra¬≠di¬≠tion, and the blues can¬≠not be dis¬≠en¬≠tan¬≠gled from African-American spir¬≠i¬≠tual tra¬≠di¬≠tions‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČgospel and blues being two sides of the same coin‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČso, did you have that in mind when you wrote the song?‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČor do you have a more per¬≠sonal rea¬≠son for writ¬≠ing about faith?

JonathanI think most of the songs that deal with faith, I‚Äôve writ¬≠ten. I guess the answer is: both. I grew up in church; I still go to church reg¬≠u¬≠larly. I grew up with all those stan¬≠dard church songs, but my favorites were the old negro spir¬≠i¬≠tu¬≠als; that style of music really inter¬≠ested me. I like how hon¬≠est it is; it‚Äôs as sim¬≠ple as it could pos¬≠si¬≠bly be [and] it‚Äôs some¬≠thing we try to hold onto in our music, is the sim¬≠plic¬≠ity, [‚Ķ] but, it prob¬≠a¬≠bly has more emo¬≠tion than any other kind of music [‚Ķ].

MPBI think that sim¬≠plic¬≠ity is of one the things I really like about your songs, and cer¬≠tainly it‚Äôs the same rea¬≠son I like that other drum and gui¬≠tar duo that you‚Äôre inevitably com¬≠pared to, and I think that not only should you be flat¬≠tered that peo¬≠ple com¬≠pare you to the Black Keys, but I think it‚Äôs also an apt comparison.

JoshuaJust as longt as the hword ‚Äúecmopy‚ÄĚ isn‚Äôt used.

MPBAnd I wouldn‚Äôt go that far, but how do you deal with the peo¬≠ple mak¬≠ing those com¬≠par¬≠isons, at least to their early work, when you‚Äôre try¬≠ing to do your own thing?

JonathanYou can‚Äôt con¬≠trol what peo¬≠ple think, and it‚Äôs never both¬≠ered me that peo¬≠ple think that, but I don‚Äôt [encour¬≠age it]. Before we were a band or right around the time we started play¬≠ing, we met [the Black Keys] and kinda hung out with them [‚Ķ]. They were just get¬≠ting ready to release Chulahoma and they came through [Oklahoma], and a friend of ours [‚Ķ] knew them [‚Ķ]. They‚Äôre really nice guys.

But, if peo¬≠ple com¬≠pare us to them, I‚Äôm hon¬≠ored by that. You [men¬≠tioned] their ear¬≠lier work; those are still some of my favorite albums. I lis¬≠ten to them all the time. But [the com¬≠par¬≠isons] are some¬≠thing you just can‚Äôt let bother you.

Jonathan (VI)
Jonathan (VI)‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČThe Trading Co. at the Blue Note Lounge

MPBWhat‚Äôs the strangest or most mem¬≠o¬≠rable thing that‚Äôs hap¬≠pened to you as musicians?

JonathanWe played a show one time where there was a real tight fes¬≠ti¬≠val [sched¬≠ule], and we got up there and the band before us ran long. It took us for¬≠ever to get set up, and we finally get set up and start going, and Josh has a Gibson Falcon [ampli¬≠fier], I think it‚Äôs a ‚Äô59 or ‚Äô61; it‚Äôs an old tweed model. 99% orig¬≠i¬≠nal, and, just like any¬≠thing that‚Äôs fifty years old and elec¬≠tronic, it starts cut¬≠ting out and not work¬≠ing, so, [we] went through a ton of work, got up there and played four songs, all but a dis¬≠as¬≠ter, and peo¬≠ple still seemed to mildly enjoy it. That‚Äôs when I felt like, We‚Äôre doing some¬≠thing okay here.

JoshuaI think it was the elec¬≠tron¬≠ics in the [venue] a lit¬≠tle bit. It was late, and the place was packed; you know, peo¬≠ple were stand¬≠ing out¬≠side the door. It was just‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI wanted to kick that amp.

Jonathan[laughs] I did, too.

Joshua[laughs] But I still own it; I still love it.

MPBDo you have a favorite piece of musi¬≠cal equipment?

JoshuaI do. The gui¬≠tar that I nor¬≠mally play‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČthere‚Äôs two, actu¬≠ally‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI have an Epiphone Firebird ‚ÄĒ

JonathanIt‚Äôs a pro¬≠to¬≠type that we just found some¬≠how. I‚Äôm a bit of a tech freak, so any¬≠time Josh or any of my friends get any¬≠thing, the first thing I do is open it up and look inside. So we opened [the gui¬≠tar] up, and most of the parts inside are stamped ‚Äúpro¬≠to¬≠type‚ÄĚ, so, I‚Äôve played other ones since, and none of them sound the same [as the Firebird].

JoshuaThe Firebird and the Gibson Falcon; I really love it [‚Ķ].

Jonathan[‚Ķ] When some¬≠one asks me if I play an instru¬≠ment, I [‚Ķ] nor¬≠mally tell them I play gui¬≠tar. I do play drums in the band, not very well; but I play them. I have an old‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČprob¬≠a¬≠bly a ‚Äô65 or a ‚Äô66‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČTraynor [gui¬≠tar amp], which is [‚Ķ] Canadian [‚Ķ]. It‚Äôs kind of a [Fender] Twin Reverb meets Marshall Plexi, uh, a kind of a weird amp they put out ‚ÄĒ

f

JoshuaLoud!

JonathanIt‚Äôs another thing [where] I got it [and] did some stuff to it. I built an 18-watt Marshall clone; I like it quite a bit.

MPBDo you pre¬≠fer NOS tubes, or do you buy the repro¬≠duc¬≠tion tubes?

JonathanI‚Äôve never bought any‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI think I did buy one set of Russian EL34s, but for the most part, like in the 18-watt Marshall, I bought an old amp, which came with Amperex ‚Äúbugle boys‚ÄĚ tubes. I‚Äôve used those, and also‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČthose tubes are still fine.

In my house one day, they had a big junk day, and I saw [‚Ķ] an old record player/‚Äčstereo con¬≠sole; I [‚Ķ] looked in the back and sure enough, it was all tube. Without even look¬≠ing at any¬≠thing I throw it in the back [of my vehi¬≠cle] and get it home, and it‚Äôs all Amperex and Mullard tubes [‚Ķ].

Joshua (I)
Joshua (I)‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČThe Trading Co. at the Blue Note Lounge

JoshuaI thought you were gonna tell the other story.

MPBYeah?

Jonathan[laugh¬≠ing] This shouldn‚Äôt go in any inter¬≠view. At the same house where I found that record player, two years later, I‚Äôm dri¬≠ving out of the neigh¬≠bor¬≠hood, and I see a lit¬≠tle half-track ¬ľ‚Ä≥ recorder, not real big, and prob¬≠a¬≠bly made by Sony in the late ‚Äô70s or some¬≠thing like that. And I think, Well, that‚Äôs some¬≠thing I need to have, and I get out and look at it, and there‚Äôs, maybe, seven or eight rolls of 7‚Ä≥ tape.

I grab them [‚Ķ], and I grab a big stack of records, you know, I‚Äôm flip¬≠pin‚Äô through them, see if there‚Äôs any¬≠thing I need. And there‚Äôs a photo album, and, stu¬≠pidly, I flip open this photo album, and first thing, there‚Äôs four Polaroids [‚Ķ], and [they‚Äôre] closeup[s] of a guy, com¬≠pletely naked from about the knees to the chest, in dif¬≠fer¬≠ent stages of ‚Äúexcite¬≠ment.‚ÄĚ So, I see that, and I thought, This is the price I pay for get¬≠tin‚Äô this stuff for free!

Gallery: The Blue Note Lounge

Gallery: The Blue Note Lounge

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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