Halifax quartet Nap Eyes are touring in support of their sophomore record, Thought Rock Fish Scale, and will be playing Seattle on Friday, March 25th at Barboza. This is the kind of record you will want to listen to after a long, difficult day at work when all you want to do is relax with a whiskey, neat. I had the chance to chat with songwriter and guitarist Nigel Chapman about the stripped down recording process of Thought Rock Fish Scale, day jobs, stories from the road, why making music and touring matters and mixtapes.
If you want secure an awesome night of really, really great music make sure to see Nap Eyes this coming Friday, March 25th at Barboza. Get tickets here!
the mixtape: What are you doing right now besides answering this question?
Nigel Chapman: Drinking some coffee!
tm: On your Facebook bio all you have written is “A little less than too much” and “Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years”‘. What is the significance of having just these two things as your bio?
NC: Haha good, I didn’t expect to have to answer a question about this. It’s hard to write bios and so I thought a few semi-cryptic statements could fit the bill. The first one is something like, things are always on the verge of excess, it’s good to keep it a bit restrained – even if some might feel we don’t go far enough. For the second, well I am a Paul Simon fan, but mainly I like the joke of the ambiguous “‘s” as possessive or contraction.
tm: What does your album title, Thought Rock Fish Scale mean?
NC: Thought Rock was the name my parents gave to a rock near our cottage where they would go to sit and, apparently, think. But then in the album title it could also be a kind of joke name for a genre of music. Fish scale is like a fish’s scales, which are iridescent and cool, and also a pun for a kind of musical scale.
tm: From your Press Release: “… the album is framed by a set of severe self-imposed strictures: a mere four days to capture as many songs as possible completely live, with no overdubs, to a temperamental old TEAC four-track ¼” tape recorder.” Why such tight limits to your recording process? Also, having such severe strictures, were you then using first takes of everything recorded?
NC: Well in the case of Thought Rock, that TEAC (the A3340s) was the only reel-to-reel tape recorder we had access to, and it’s portable so we could bring it with us up to the shore to set up a studio-away-from-studio. As for why we record live, I find it helps capture takes that are spontaneous, where the different instruments and dynamics all fit naturally together, so that you get a coherent sound that feels like it’s all one thing, as opposed to several things stitched or layered together. It’s definitely possible to achieve a sense of unity with overdub multitracking, but it takes more time, and you probably need fancier gear. Live recording also helps to curb perfectionism, because when you get a good take that everyone plays well on and it sounds all right, has a good vibe, you have no choice but to accept it, along with whatever imperfections it might have.
In answer to the second question, definitely not! Haha, occasionally we can get songs in a couple takes if we’ve been playing them live for a while, but a lot of the time we’re learning them at the sessions, so sometimes it takes maybe upwards of fifty, including false starts and times we don’t make it all the way through.
tm: Do you guys have day jobs? If so, what do you all do?
NC: I think I’m the only one of us right now who has a job outside of music, though until recently everybody’s had various part-time and full-time jobs. I work as a part-time research lab technician at Dalhousie University here in Halifax. You could say that Josh and Seamus’s other job is writing and playing their own songs for their band Monomyth; likewise, Brad writes and plays his own songs in Each Other, and also plays bass in Homeshake.
tm: What is your favorite part about making music and touring?
NC: I love to play and listen to music and to sing and write songs. I would still do this on my own even if I never left my house in pursuit of it, you know. But being on the road you get to connect your introspective self with others, by playing with your friends and for an audience; that’s pretty cool, could help reveal and even perhaps help heal cognitive dissonance. Really learn a lot from seeing the way other people live, and seeing the mirror for your own relationships in other people’s communities. Also definitely moved and humbled by people’s kindness and hospitality.
tm: Any crazy, scary, funny, awful or otherwise notable moments while touring?
NC: Oh I dunno, the odd scary driving moment (drive carefully, pay attention!) or unusual social circumstance. The crappy side usually comes from exhaustion or ennui or being confronted with your own limitations at times when you’d prefer not to have any (not a very wise preference, of course :). Other times when you’re receptive, some meaningful conversations that make you feel very aware of life and lucky to be where you are. Still other times when you can’t stand your own nature or other people’s and would like to occupy the invisible asocial realm. It’s a grab bag!
tm: If you were to make a mixtape for someone, what three songs would you absolutely have to include?
NC: This is arbitrary and changes all the time! But:
1) Neil Young – Don’t Be Denied
2) Bob Marley – African Herbsman
3) Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels On A Gravel Road