‘It’s pretty different from anything I’ve experienced so far,” says Nap Eyes frontman Nigel Chapman, calling from and speaking of South By Southwest. “Visually overwhelming. So many people.”
He hasn’t found the massive music/arts/industry festival’s saturation off-putting, mind you: Chapman answers his phone while making use of a couple gift cards Nap Eyes earned playing an “unofficial” showcase. And SXSW aside, there’s no shortage of interest in the Nova Scotia-based band down in the US at present, as it makes its first trek through the country.
With a sound that pulls on ’90s college radio, Lou Reed’s disaffected delivery and warmer, seaside folk, the band’s debut LP, Whine of the Mystic, saw a quiet, 200-run release in 2014, but its acclaimed reception dwarfed availability; the album was re-released in 2015 on You’ve Changed Records, lending the band the wider reach that’s now greeting its follow-up, Thought Rock Fish Scale.
The album finds Nap Eyes more relaxed than before: songs feel spacious, like they could take a long walk down the beach at any moment, while Chapman’s lyrics remain precise in imagery and questioning in intent. The songs on Whine skewed a little more dramatic, perhaps, but Thought Rock Fish Scale feels like a band stretching out instead of overreaching, getting comfortable with its powers without letting their potency diminish.
Those blissed-out vibes might be partly due to location of recording: Whine was constructed in Montréal, while, for the follow up, the band decamped to Chapman’s family cabin in Nova Scotia for a four-day recording session.
“It was more relaxing, for sure, than being in Montréal—just a different vibe, I guess,” Chapman says. “We had four days where it was just quiet, really peaceful, and we could really take our time with it. Although, by the end of the sessions, we were rushing to make sure we could finish everything.
“I think, in one way, it was just the setting of the record and the recording, and also the nature of the songs, the way they were written, they were more laid-back songs,” he continues. “But also, maybe we unconsciously, or somewhat consciously, tried to play in a more restrained way. We didn’t want to bother our neighbours up there.”
Like Whine, Thought Rock was recorded live, with no overdubs; many of its songs were fully fleshed out during those scant few recording days, a liveliness that Chapman notes offers something tangible to a recording, even when time’s a pressing issue.
“For some of the songs, if we’ve been playing them live before we get to recording, in that case it’s obviously pretty practiced. But for the most part, 60 to 70 percent of the songs, at least on this last record, you learn at the session,” he says. “Which is fine; if you’ve been playing the song for months and months, you might be a little tighter with it. There’s something else if you’re learning a new song: you get to capture the newness and the spontaneity of it on the recording. But it’s mostly been out of necessity that we’ve had to do that. We only had four days.”
Tue, Mar 29 (8 pm)
With Cian Nugent,