Ewert and The Two Dragons

Ewert and The Two Dragons

While he was growing up in Estonia under the Soviet regime, music wasn't a chief import for Ewert Sundja. Contemporary pop had been unanimously prohibited due to its potentially harmful influence. Nevertheless, the vocalist of Ewert and The Two Dragons still managed to get his hands on some seminal albums that impact him to this day.

"We had record and cassette players, but we didn't have access to contemporary music," he remembers. "So, I listened to Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Queen, and The Rolling Stones throughout my childhood. We were lucky to get those. If one of our friends got an Elton John tape, we all recorded it. When the Soviet era ended in the early nineties, it was a bit of culture shock. The pop music wasn't what we expected so I just kept listening to the same old records—except for when Radiohead and Jeff Buckley came along."

Now, the group's second album and American debut for Sire/ADA, Good Man Down, is a shimmering distillation of timeless melodies, folk sensibilities, and effusive indie energy. It builds on a national legacy that these four lads—Sundja, Erki Pärnoka [guitars], Kristjan Kallas [drums], and Ivo Etti [bass, guitar]—forged with their 2009 breakout The Hills Behind the Hills. Touring constantly around Estonia and neighboring countries, they became a consistent live draw even joining the likes of Muse and Scissor Sisters on massive Eastern European festival bills.

Good Man Down saw an initial Estonian release in 2011, becoming a phenomenon. It garnered five Estonian Music awards, taking home "album of the year", "song of the year", and "band of the year". They continued blossoming outside of their home turf as well, becoming honored with Skype's "Go Change the World" award from Tallin Music Week. One year later, they inked a deal with Sire/ADA to release their sophomore set stateside. Their biggest accolade came in early 2013 as well. They were honored with a "European Borders Breakers Award" whose previous winners have included Mumford & Sons, Adele, Swedish House Mafia, Milow, Afrojack, Of Monsters & Men, and more.

The album serves as a fitting gateway into the world of Ewert and The Two Dragons. Its elegant harmonies bare cultural flavors informed by the snowy winters and forests, yet there's nothing icy about Ewert and The Two Dragons. In fact, they're quite warm. To harness this sound on Good Man Down, the group retreated to a music school in Türi, where they lived and recorded for only a week-and-a-half.

"There are cultural houses in Estonia from the Soviet time," explains Ewert. "They were typically used for either theaters or concert halls. We recorded in one of those. We got away from our homes and all of the every day business and focused on the music."

That music transcends country and genre bounds. Songs like the title track and first single build on organic instrumentation into unshakable hooks. At the same time, the boys are always telling a story.

"That one is a tragic love story from a time of being brokenhearted," the vocalist reveals. "The melody is upbeat though so it'd be easy to interpret as a more joyous song. We like to write music that can lead everyone to draw his or her own conclusion."

Elsewhere, the vibrant "Jolene" serves as something of a male answer to the Dolly Parton classic of the same name. He smiles, "Erki went through a period where he listened to a lot of Dolly Parton. He heard 'Jolene', and he hummed it in a different way. That stuck with him. It's an answer to the female voice in Dolly's original. Think of it as the man's point-of-view that was missing in the first song."

Then, there's the upbeat album opener "(In The End) There's Only Love" which celebrates as Ewert puts it, "The good times when you're in love."

As a whole though, Good Man Down reflects an entire emotional spectrum for Ewert, and it's bound to resonate with listeners globally for that very reason. "It captures various themes from the beginning of life to adult discussions about it," he concludes. "There are darker songs, and there are brighter songs. It's a circle that we all live."

Trapper Schoepp

Trapper Schoepp has the ear of a troubadour, the eye of a journalist and the heart of a young poet. He began writing songs at a tender age with startling facility, distilling rock, folk and country traditions into tunes that are at turns spirited and melancholy. Themes ranging from pride of place, love and adventure shine with surprisingly sophisticated metaphors for a songwriter so young. Run, Engine, Run won’t be out of place filed next to other artists distinguished for their early talent like Justin Townes Earle, Ha Ha Tonka and Lucero. Trapper, his brother Tanner, and the rest of their band the Shades offer this album as a love letter to their beloved home state of Wisconsin, and SideOneDummy will release it internationally on September 25, 2012.

Like his namesake M*A*S*H surgeon Trapper John, the 22-year-old Wisconsin songwriter found himself prepping for surgery a month before recording his band’s third and latest album, Run, Engine, Run, the result of a gnarly BMX bike crash 6 years earlier. Fortunately, his mother gave him a guitar after the accident and Trapper was able to turn his experiences on the operating table at the MayoClinic (for spinal decompression surgery) into songs like the Stones-flavored rocker, “Pins and Needles.”

“'Run Engine Run’ has a lot of meanings for me. My grandfather’s way of life was tied to timeless farming traditions passed down from generation to generation, the same way a songwriter is tied to and nourished by traditional songs. Musicians need to keep the engine running, to keep moving forward. The song is not only an ode to the car our grandpa gave us, but a nod to the perseverance of farmers in the Badlands and to preserving traditions.” Tanner agrees: “It’s about inheriting something of value from the past in a way that is not nostalgic, but vital and never-ending. The album title is a request for resiliency, a way of honoring the past, without getting stuck in it.”

Trapper Schoepp & The Shades is comprised of Trapper on lead vocals and guitar, brother Tanner on bass and vocals, drummer Jon Phillip (Tommy Stinson, Limbeck), and lead guitarist Graham Hunt. Daniel McMahon (Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, Cameron McGill) produced Run, Engine, Run and contributed keyboard during the sessions. Grammy-award winning engineer Geoff Sanoff (Fountains Of Wayne, Green Day, Nada Surf) mixed the album.

“As a rock n’ roll band, we play music that has absorbed a whole range of stylistic overtones,” Trapper says of the musicality he’s after with the help of his band, The Shades. “In a sound bite world, it’s crucial to regard certain music not as a static art, but one that transcends tidy categorization. A radio station once said our music is ‘as much Pavement as Parsons.’ I thought that was telling, because this album has a little bit of everything – rock, country, power-pop, even some punk.”

While it’s difficult to capture the band’s live charisma on record, Run, Engine, Run comes close with 12 well-crafted tunes that describe the everyday triumphs and tragedies of Midwestern life. As soon as the album hits the streets, The Shades will take to the road, bringing their heartland rock to the masses. “There’s a blues song by the Rolling Stones called ‘No Expectations’ that hits on a person moving forward and not looking back,” Trapper says. “I hear the song as the story of a young, lonely rambler or musician whose has lost wealth and love, but accepts the fact that there’s a whole world ahead of him. I’m young, so I look at this as an opportunity to press on and share songs. Right now I have no expectations other than to keep on keepin’ on.”

Look for Trapper Schoepp and the Shades on the highway in support of Run, Engine, Run this fall.

$10.00 - $12.00

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Ewert and The Two Dragons with Trapper Schoepp

Saturday, October 5 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at Johnny Brenda's