Nap Eyes (from Nova Scotia) are about to release a very thought-provoking album. It is composed of cool melodic blues-folk with lyrics that make you think: think about yourself, how others see you, your life choices, and all of the meanings behind your decisions. It’s a cool mellow way to reassess and self-reflect. To set the mood, the band recorded all seven tracks live on a porch beside the beautiful coast of Pictou, NS.
On a recent Sunday afternoon I got a chance to talk with Nap Eyes’ songwriter, lead singer ,and rhythm guitarist, Nigel Chapman. We discussed songwriting methods, recording with 4-tracks, lyrical concepts, influences, and ideas.
Stylus: You write your own music. Many artists write many different ways. What’s the best way you come up with songs?
Nigel Chapman: With Nap Eyes I’ll be writing something at home. I’ll start with strumming some chords and then I’ll try to sing along to that. Usually I get words and a melody at the same time. Writing words down in a book. Then I’ll take that basic song, with chords, words, and a melody and bring it to the guys (Josh Salter on bass, Seamus Dalton on drums, and Brad Loughead on lead guitar). Then we’ll just jam. I play my part and they make up their own parts. Everyone’s pretty independently creative within the band. In this case we learned a lot of the songs at our recording session. There were maybe four or five of them we learned as we recorded.
Stylus: This new album was recorded live on a porch using a TEAC 4-track with no overdubbing. What made you guys choose that live sound over a controlled studio environment?
NC: I like recording live for a couple reasons. I like the way it sounds when everyone plays together at the same time. And when it comes to dynamics, it gets a real natural vibe. But I also find it’s really good for being able to accept the sound, instead of going back and constantly changing it. In the studio everyone has a perfectionist impulse. You’ll always want to correct something. I find with recording live, if you have an overall good vibe or feeling in the take you just accept the take with the mistakes. I like that for being able to let go of things . . . It helps a lot.
Stylus: Were there any challenges to this process?
NC: The technical stuff, with using the 4-track. We only had four tracks of course, but including the singing, there were five instruments. So, my rhythm guitar and Josh’s bass were recorded on the same track. There were sometimes when we got a song in two or three takes. Other times we’d have to stop and start over 20 or 30 times. It can be frustrating, but overall I like to do it that way.
Stylus: Does it affect how the songs were played and delivered?
NC: Yeah, the mood of the place where you are has a lot of opportunity to really come through in a united way. Being on Pictou, on the shore, it’s really relaxing. Just to take a few days to take it easy. Most of our recordings were done in the day, finishing in early evening. Where on Whine of the Mystic, we recorded that album in a studio in Montreal late at night. We played louder on that album.
Stylus: Tell me about one of the songs on the album, “Lion in Chains.”
NC: “Lion in Chains” was a metaphor that can have various meanings, but the idea is that you have things that you want to go your way (ideas, plans, relationships, success in the world), but the universe is not really concerned with that. It is an overwhelming force that in the end decides everything. It was nice writing the verses to that song, just thinking about that from different perspectives, imagining other people’s views.
Stylus: Were there any consistent underlying themes throughout the whole album?
NC: There are definitely recurring themes. The idea is that I question myself a lot. Sometimes more than I should. Hesitating too much. Sometimes less than I should. Acting too conceited, like I know what’s up, or something. Kind of like a self-analysis or a shyness. This is another theme that comes up in my life. I feel my most comfortable when I’m on my own. Solitude I really love sometimes. When I have solitary time, it gives me time to reflect on the meaning of my relationships, and trying to develop some kind of sense of personal ethic. In a way everyone knows their own self and has their own value in their own way. And no one else can give them the answer. A lot of the times that can feel lonely and very negative. The way to pull that around is to recognise the tension and recognise the negativity and try to see the upside. Find a positive way to keep moving forward and do the functional things you need to do in life.
Stylus: You’ve mentioned in the past that you’re very ‘heavy’ with your influences, like the Clash, Lou Reed, Neil Young, etc. But as you progress, do you find you are getting away from their sounds and creating more of your own unique sound? Or do you take them and mix their styles together to create something new?
NC: Yeah, I still feel my influences really strongly. What might happen in my life is that I will listen to a band a lot and then forget about it for a while. The Clash would be a great example as I listened to them so much in high school and then I would have a time where I wouldn’t listen to them at all for several years. Later I would eventually pick up London Calling or Clash on Broadway and then remember ‘Holy Cow! They’re so good. I would have a combination of personal nostalgia and a new perspective from where I am in my future life, where you can see the influence in a whole different way. I definitely carry my influences around with me all the time, just to keep inspired . . . Over time you find your own voice a little more. It synthesizes your different influences as well with something original in you. You shouldn’t worry if you are starting out and people say you sound like this band, or are trying to imitate these guys. It’s just a natural stage to finding your own sound.
To hear their sound for yourself pick up Nap Eyes second album, Thought Rock Fish Scale, on February 6. If that’s not enough, catch Nap Eyes live on April 1 at the Good Will Social Club, 625 Portage Ave.