Nap Eyes’ Thought Rock Fish Scale was one of my favorite albums of 2016. I wrote about its “simple and easygoing but meticulously constructed” songs, the “top-notch treatises on family, friends, loneliness and the modern ennui,” and the “modern laid back take on the Velvet Underground” vibe. I wrote about how I wanted to start the album over every time it ended. I’m Bad Now continues down this artistic and spiritual path with the same chilled out, thoughtful, pleasing vibes – and it’s just as addictive.
They’ve upped the production values a tick and, most interestingly, leaned into their rock-out tendencies a little more. The guitar solos are a lil’ more kickass and they last a bit longer. Whereas before, they might end a song like ‘I’m Bad’ with a quick 2 or 4 bar tagger solo – here lead guitarist Brad Loughead lets loose with a minute-long guitar freakout, more reminiscent of Kicking Television than anything Lou Reed ever did. More frenzied guitar is let loose on ‘Dull Me Line’ in short 4-bar bursts, channeling Paul’s brilliant and ripping raga-by-way-of-Coltrane ‘Taxman’ solo and serving as a foil to the temperate and bass-led verses.
While they’re flexing their rock muscles slightly more, the core of the band’s sound remains unchanged. Chapman’s smooth and reaching baritone works like a balm as he ruminates on life, love, loss, anxiety, confusion, social awkwardness and cultural works. He flirts with verbosity but never slips into lazy talk-singing. Each turn of phrase feels imbued with a sense of purpose and can often contain both a superficial and a more profound meaning. The clean melodic lines and easygoing hooks, the mellow strums of an electric well enveloped with reverb, and the sixties-beach-party-meets-melancholic-but-friendly-late-night-diner vibe are all still here as well. I’m Bad Now is a lovely continuation of a great bands’ sound and journey.
Last month, Blocland’s Saul Wright phoned Nap Eyes principal songwriter, Nigel Chapman, to get his thoughts on healthy living, romantic poets and their killer new album. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Blocland: What are you doing today?
Chapman: Well, I guess I did a little cooking… I was listening to an audiobook and yeah… reading, little things.
Blocland: What were you cooking?
Chapman: I was cooking some beans today. I like to cook beans most days. Recently, I’ve been trying to do that. They’re high in fiber.
Blocland: Are you vegetarian or vegan or anything?
Chapman: Not in any firm sense but, I guess at home, we usually cook like beans and tofu. I also recently started using whey protein and that is also really helpful when you’re eating less meat.
Blocland: I’ve been eating less meat too and trying all these vegetarian and vegan things like nutritional yeast and all this kinda weird stuff.
Chapman: Nice. Yeah, nutritional yeast is great.
Blocland: So you’re in Halifax? Did you grow up there?
Chapman: Yeah, myself and also Seamus, Josh and Brad from Nap Eyes – we’re all from Nova Scotia, here on the east coast of Canada. The city of Halifax is the capital here and then Montreal is to the west, which is where they are now.
Blocland: How did the band meet? Did you grow up together?
Chapman: We met each other around high school. I think I knew Seamus a little bit before high school through some other friends. Then in high school, we were in bands – all of us playing in venues and things in Halifax and then, over time, it was just like, social groups that merged so I feel like our friendships deepened or strengthened kinda during university and after, when we first started to collaborate.
Blocland: What did you study at university?
Chapman: I was a science student and I majored in Biochemistry.
Blocland: Do you have a day job or are you guys full time Nap Eyes?
Chapman: Well, I guess I can only speak for myself… I worked at the university for some time but now, and over the past year or so, I guess we haven’t had day jobs. I’ve sort of been able to work freelance and from home to my heart’s content, in a nice way. It’s different too – not having structure and also not having a steady income. So I’ve been getting accustomed to that, but yeah, it’s good.
Blocland: What are you guys up to now? When do you go on tour?
Chapman: We begin our main tour for the new album in April – starting I think, in Ontario and then down towards the Northeastern and Eastern United States. Before that, we have two shows, one in Montreal for the release and one at a festival in Ottawa that’s coming up. We’re basically touring throughout April, May and June, I think.
Blocland: Speaking of Canada, how do you – or do you – feel like Canada and Nova Scotia is reflected in your music at all?
Chapman: Yeah, yeah, I think definitely. Especially because it’s a truism, I think, that you are a part of your environment so in this way, living here with that influence… There are all kinds of various factors about the way that affects, the way people have their lifestyle generally in certain parts of the world and what the main philosophies are. So, in this way, definitely.
Blocland: Do you guys get any support from the Canadian government? I know in the U.S., we’re always hearing about the government boards in Canada cutting musicians and filmmakers cheques and stuff like that. Does that still happen?
Chapman: Yeah, man. We’re very lucky. We’re very lucky. Not all of us are eligible for the grants and the eligibility is pretty narrowly defined so if you’re not in a certain kind of music, maybe, it would be more difficult, the required eligibility to get the grants. And there is a huge range of the grants provided by organizations like FACTOR, the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings who give, like, they will give a showcase grant to almost any band that wants to apply…
Chapman: Yeah. So like if you want to go to a festival, if it’s within Canada, for some bands, you could get maybe like 1,100 dollars guaranteed…I mean, Canadian dollars. And it’s expensive to travel in Canada. The airfare is very expensive in comparison to within the U.S.A. And for things like – for us to come down the U.S.A. legally, we’d spend at least 2,000 or 3,000 dollars a year on visas.
Chapman: So in this way, yeah, the grants really help make it possible for us to compete in the market or whatever. And also give us a great advantage – we’re really lucky. But in our case, yeah, we get, there’s like touring grants from Music Nova Scotia, which is a small organization. We’ve been able to get reimbursement grants for like- the idea is 50% of your tour expenses, 2,500 dollars per quarter. So if you were doing a bunch of touring within like 3 months a year or one big consecutive tour that would be expensive, typically, we’re able to get that money in return. We spend more than that but we also get paid for the shows so this helps us a lot.
We work hard, you know, but this just makes it possible in a way to be a musician, like if you’ve decided that’s what you’re doing as a profession, it makes it possible to do that. Whereas, I feel like in a super-competitive market where you have to really be above the rest in terms of like… whatever it is, talent or marketability or whatever, in order to even stand a chance of paying for your life, if you were to work in music. But again, it’s great. You can do two jobs, in the sense of like, you can pursue music and create recordings and do a little bit of touring now and then and at the same time, work in another field and that’s totally doable in today’s world and in fact, recommended. I would recommend that. And education, I think, is so important and helpful for making that possible.
Blocland: Do you guys get played on the radio much there? I know Canada has that law where it has to be like 50% Canadian artists, is that right?
Chapman: Yeah, I’m not sure what the exact number is but that’s essentially correct. There’s a CanCon (Canadian content) requirement or quota or whatever for radio stations. Especially the commercial stations, I’m not sure if college stations would have to meet that but then again, they almost always would because the local bands are getting played on the college radio stations.
Blocland: Tell me about the new album. When did you guys record it?
Chapman: I guess it was back in July of 2016 so it’s been quite some time. But it wasn’t all done. Most of the main tracking was done then and then later over time we did some overdubs. But yeah, I’m really happy that it’s finally done and being released now.
Blocland: I can’t imagine what that feels like to be more or less done and then wait another year, year and a half.
Chapman: Yes, it’s been quite unusual. It’s really rough on you ‘cause you kind of go through the anticipation of like, “Oh great, now this is done. I can’t wait to share it.” You fully exhaust that. Then you get into this stage where you’re like “It sucks anyway and like it’s good that no one has heard it” and then you kind of level out of that. But I think that for things that happen more quickly in your life, like you undergo them so that… you undergo the anticipation then the exciting thing happens and then you’re depression comes after it. So you get excited and then you get really depressed like after the thing. But it’s funny to kind of go through that almost before the external events.
Blocland: Have the songs kept growing at all? When you play live, do they sound different than on the album or do they have kind of the same core base?
Chapman: That’s a good question. Definitely – they change and they have changed, I think. When we first recorded them, it would be like earlier, earlier versions. Some of the songs we’d been playing for longer, but some of the others were pretty new. But anyway, so they have changed and, especially, I think – even just your mood on each day, but also your overall mood, like for example, for that month or several months long thing that I was just describing – getting excited and then getting depressed, you know, about a given event in your life. In that way also, if you are singing the song in a certain part of that cycle, it will have a different kind of mood energy as well. Or gaining skills over time, just as you learn and grow up and things. But also you are being disillusioned. Then your sort of useful art ardency, like a feeling of sincerity, a conviction – you have to be careful to nurture that because I think otherwise you get disillusioned and this grown-up way that makes you more…. Not that all adults are disillusioned, you know, but… Well, we all are, to varying degrees at different times.
Blocland: Where did you guys record the album – in Nova Scotia?
Chapman: No, actually in Montreal. We recorded in a studio there [Hotel2Tango] with the engineer and studio owner Howard Bilerman, who was a great person to work with. He recorded like… I really like that British Sea Power album Do You Like Rock Music? He recorded that one. And he recorded the very famous Funeral by Arcade Fire. And played drums on that album. I really love that album… I also love the others, I mean the ones that I know of that band, like Neon Bible and Suburbs. I really love those albums. They’re great.
Blocland: Can you talk a little about the gear you used, like guitars and pedals and whatnot? Is it similar stuff as on the last album or did you find any new pedals or a new axe?
Chapman: That’s a good question. Yeah, gear is fun and I think, you know, everyone’s always experimenting with different things. I know that Seamus has a nice cymbal, I can’t remember when he got that, but he’s using that and Brad with his guitar, like sometimes playing a Stratocaster where before he’d always play the Telecaster. And for me… pretty similar. My friend, after the first two albums, built me an amp which is like a Fender reverb amp and I was happy to use that for the first time as well. Just yeah, gear stuff is fun.
Blocland: Thought Rock Fish Scale was one of my favorite albums of 2016 and it was kind of a breakthrough for you guys, professionally – as far as I’m getting known and acknowledged. Did you guys feel pressure recording a follow-up? How did that feel?
Chapman: Yeah, I think so. Some amount of pressure, for sure. But in a way that… it was kind of like feeling nervous for a test or something. It’s like, if you didn’t have any anxiety or whatever, then you might not be motivated to study. You don’t want to get over-anxious because that’s not helpful either. But I think we were aware of it. It definitely felt different and it made the after-effects of it a little more stressful than they had been in the past, as far as like, getting excited and then getting discouraged and then the album comes up. But anyway, sorry to go back to this… [laughs] These are things that aren’t even interesting to me anymore. But like they might be interesting. I don’t know.
Blocland: I feel like, even though this is your third album, like I said, Thought Rock Fish Scale was like a breakthrough… I feel like for bands, there’s always this tough situation with the sophomore album where if they play it too much the same, people might get bored or if they take too much of a left turn, people say, “What the hell is this?” And so it’s always tricky for that second album.
Chapman: Totally, totally. Yeah, that was very palpable, for sure.
Blocland: You guys are on Paradise of Bachelors, which is definitely my favorite record label. I love like 90 percent of what they put out… but I was reading you also have some sort of deal with, You’ve Changed Records in Canada and then distribution with Jagjaguwar in the rest of the world?
Chapman: That’s right. We’ve been really happy to work with You’ve Changed in Canada and they’ve all been just great colleagues and people to work with. It really has helped us a great deal in terms of our own ability to do this and keep working on these things. And it’s a great sense of affirmation to have people who are just encouraging you and making things possible so that’s been really great. And now we just started, just began working with Jagjaguwar. They basically sub-license the Paradise of Bachelors, like, territory outside of America. So PoB is still taking US and… those are contractual details or whatever but yeah… now it’s like You’ve Changed in Canada, Paradise of Bachelors in the US and Jagjaguwar, our new friends and colleagues that we just began working with. But they seem very friendly and nice.
Blocland: Tell me about your songwriting process. Do you write all the lyrics yourself?
Chapman: Yes, I do.
Blocland: I’m a songwriter myself and I’m always curious how other people do it. Everyone has their own way but do you do like lyrics first or melody first or get the chord progression going first? What’s your process like?
Chapman: That’s another good question and I like to think of it in those terms as well. Often, we’ll start with like a chord progression, just kind of a groove with kind of a rhythm to it and it might even be two chords or something. And then kind of, then start to just sing silly sounds over it, like not really worrying about what the sounds or the words are. And then starting to listen to the sounds that weren’t silly sounds or just like, let those suggest to you what kind of thing you might be saying with that chord groove and the silly sounds that were sounding. That’s been mostly my main process since I began songwriting when I was younger. But sometimes you might write down some lyrics or something and then you just, when you start playing guitar and then you start reading and singing the lyrics, and that might be another way. And it creates a different kind of thing sometimes. And both can be very bad 90% of the time.
Chapman: [laughs] 99% of the time.
Blocland: I always find myself with a bunch of lyrics that I can’t seem to write music too. And then, music that I can’t seem to write lyrics to.
Chapman: Yeah, I know what you mean. My only advice in those cases is just try to start, yeah… force them together or something, and eventually you’ll get natural at doing that. [laughs]
Blocland: I was reading that this new album has some sort of influence from Olaf Stapleton’s, a philosophical science fiction novel, Star Maker from 1937. Is that right?
Chapman: It’s a novel that I haven’t read, but Brendan (Greaves) from Paradise of Bachelor’s, I think he was, he was seeing a lot of connections in that… but I am interested to read it now.
Blocland: OK, interesting. So it’s a connection that he made listening to the album.
Chapman: Yeah, that’s right.
Blocland: As far as like the lyrics on this album, do you feel like they have any sort of overarching theme or concepts?
Chapman: Um… yes. I would say, you kind of put the theme on to it from your interpretation of what you’ve got here. But you could naturally… you wouldn’t be wrong, in a way, to label certain tendencies that you see coming out of the group of songs or whatever. It’s not about being wrong or right, basically. You just kind of put forth a theory – what are the themes of the work – and it could be helpful to think of it in that way or it could be kind of constricting to think of it in that way. But at the same time, it could be helpful so it’s very important.
And you have to have some kind of system for what you think about what you do. In those songs, I think a lot of the feelings that I think about, that I was expressing… I think it has to do with a sense of independence and the frustration at not believing in one’s own independence. Like frustration about not feeling in control and like the feeling that you need to be in control. Or when it comes to theory of mind and knowing what other people have in their experiences… having that social ability. I guess, not turning away from the world in that kind of way. So these kinds of themes I think, they’re in there and also the various sort of more mundane things… like going for a walk or what have you, mundane things – everyday things that you can turn into a song.
Blocland: I feel like my favorite songwriters have that way of mixing the mundane with the profound. Like Destroyer or Mount Eerie and those kind of artists will somehow mix those two…
Blocland: Just the way that they mixed something deep with something everyday that you do without thinking about.
Chapman: Yeah. That’s so true. Those are amazing songwriters.
Blocland: Pretty much every article or review I read about you guys, they bring up The Velvet Underground or Lou Reed. Probably because of your singing style or the band’s somewhat similar sound… Well, first, do you listen to Lou Reed? Do you like The Velvet Underground?
Chapman: Yeah, yeah, for sure. [laughs] Huge influence. I love The Velvet Underground and I love Lou Reed so much, for sure.
Blocland: Does that ever get on your nerves or get grating to have that constant comparison or is it a compliment since you’re a fan of the band?
Chapman: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think my answer would be it’s like a mirror of… like, at a certain time, if someone were to say that to me, I might feel like encouraged but that would probably just be because my attitude or mind at the time was open-minded or whatever. So yeah, it’s an interesting thing to have because people do kind of come up to us to say that. I think it was in our first press release kind-of-thing. And then… it’s kind of like, if the press release hadn’t said it than someone probably would have. But as far as the identical comparison or something… I see myself as deeply influenced by artists but I don’t see myself as like beholden to their legacy in any particular way. And everyone should feel that way.
Blocland: What are some of your other musical influences?
Chapman: I grew up listening to Green Day a lot. They’re still one of my favorite bands. Arcade Fire… that’s sort of a more recent cultural touchstone… I really like Wilco, in that same category. Yeah… other artists, you know… so many people… just hearing their music and I feel like the creators’ positive feeling or whatever. There’s so many people – again, this would be true in everyone’s life, in ways, you know. But if it’s very personal and social than it might be limited to your social group. Then, if it has this like aesthetic or philosophical aspect then it can be very wide-ranging to different cultures across time. So I feel like, yeah. And, in not only the music medium, all people in history and then in… [laughs] Sorry, it’s so grandiose. But no, joking aside…I really like Joni Mitchell, I really love Smokey Robinson, Bob Marley…
Blocland: One of the great things about your music is the lyrics. You’re a very lyrical, loquacious band, I’d say, and you said you were reading today. Do you read a lot? Who are some of your favorite writers?
Chapman: Reading is this funny stigmatized thing. There are many stigmas in the culture and it’s not always clear if it’s positive or negative or what is the effect of the stigma around a given thing… Like around reading or whatever – I know, in a conventional sense, it’s not stigmatized, it’s not like “Oh, don’t read!” or like “People ought not to read” or something. But you know, at the same time like you don’t want to appear to be someone who’s like [does pompous hoity-toity voice] “Oh yes and I’M a reader. I’m someone who reads all the time…” It’s a very gratifying thing. It’s an incredibly fulfilling pursuit. Like…it’s so good and you can learn about anything! Reading is the activity, but the topic is ANYTHING, so it’s just so rewarding and you know – it’s something that you can start with like five minutes a day, ten minutes a day. So it’s not about the amount of time… [laughs]
But yeah, recently I’ve been reading science, popular science, like stuff by Siddhartha Mukherjee. He had a book called The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. That was a great, great monumental book. I really like Robert Sapolsky, as well. He had a couple excellent books that I really loved. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers from 1994, which is all about stress and its long-term effects on the body. Then recently, last year, he had a book called Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. That was a really good, interesting, wide-ranging book – so good. I’m really into popular science writers and especially listening on audio books because I find it such a more accessible way to get inspired by the topic. Because it’s like… you arrive at your first year course in biology or something and the teachers are there and they rock – it’s just that you’re not applying yourself. In order to get that excitement out of it, I find these more popular science approaches are really an incredible starting point. For example, Carl Sagan, Cosmos… Stephen Hawking, who I haven’t read that much of, but you can see their effects are pretty wide-ranging. That’s just been my thing I’m excited about lately.
Blocland: Do you feel like any authors had any sort of strong influence on your lyrical style or your songwriting?
Chapman: Yeah, definitely. I think when I was younger, especially. Just, you know, really taking the image of the poet really seriously. Also the romantic poets as well, like their effect throughout the centuries that followed the romantic age, poets like Keats or Shelly. And especially the poet Yeats. I really, really love his poetry. He’s such a cool persona or character, that is in the poems… I probably came to them through the idea of singing poets like Bob Dylan seeing himself in that way, you know. So very literary about it… The stigma around reading is also related to this issue. The stigma around being like [does effete little boy voice] “so precious that you just love the gentle imagery and like the fading violets and the rosy cheeks but that’s just because you have tuberculosis so it’s like tragic..” but it’s a very specific time period. It’s a very specific kind of imagery. It’s no better or worse than most things. You know, it’s just – it’s open to being mocked. So it took me awhile to sort of be honest with myself about passions I might have and not be so defensive about them, just like an ongoing thing. (laughs)
Blocland: It’s almost like a hurdle, especially when you’re young, to get to that point where you’re a openly saying, even just “I’m a musician,” but especially “I’m a poet,” without feeling self-conscious about that.
Chapman: Yeah. So true.
Blocland: Not too long ago, we finished up “list season” at Blocland and the rest of the Internet music world. Do you listen to new music a lot? Did you have a favorite album from 2017?
Chapman: There’s probably one out there but I may not have heard it yet. Especially lately where I’ve been listening to audiobooks a lot. It’s not something I always did or identified with as much but really… listening to audio books, it’s such a great deal and I think that’s meant that I haven’t been able to listen to as much music. But I know there are some great, great artists out there. We’ve certainly been hearing some great songs, you know… and I can feel connected to my peers. I mean especially… I mean, I can’t name anyone because if I just put one name out there, it skews the whole richness of the image, making it seem like I only listen to like this one genre or like that I would say that that band is THE new band or something like… Anyway, that stuff is so like, grandiose to think or whatever but yeah.
Blocland: Speaking of your peers, I saw recently on Ryley Walker’s Instagram Story, he was talking about his favorite shirt, which was a Thought Rock Fish Scale white shirt, but just as he was talking about it, he spilled coffee all over it.
Blocland: So there’s not really a question there, but are you gonna get him a replacement shirt?
Chapman: Someday, maybe. [laughs]
Blocland: It’s good advertising.
Chapman: Yeah. Yeah, Ryley rocks.
Blocland: He’s one of my favorite guitarists and he’s a funny-ass dude on instagram.
Chapman: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve been seeing some interesting… Like Seamus and Josh actually both do a lot of posting from our twitter so they often are interacting with Ryley on there.
Blocland: Yeah, he’s really funny on there too. So, are you guys naps fanatics? Do you love taking naps? Do you still have time in your life for naps? What are your feelings on naps?
Chapman: Yeah, it’s also a legit question. [laughs] Um, I don’t really nap very often, but my sleep schedule… usually, I’m like midnight to 8 or no… midnight to 9 with like some fitful sleeping and like sweating and stuff, sometimes. You know, where you don’t sleep so well or whatever? But other times, I sleep really soundly. I don’t really nap, though. I was hearing that… I mean, they say that, for example, when people are struggling with depression or things like this, they discourage napping, just because it might make it more difficult for you to sleep through the night later. But you can take small refreshing naps if you need them. And then the siesta is a part of the culture in different parts of Europe and things or maybe also in Spanish speaking South America and North America and Central America. I’m not sure.
Blocland: Yeah, I live down here. I’m calling actually from Santiago, Chile.
Chapman: Oh, cool.
Blocland: They don’t exactly have the nap culture, like the siesta in Spain, but they definitely do nap a lot in it and I appreciate it. I’ll just be walking or I’ll be riding my bike and see a bunch of construction workers all go to the park and just lay down and take a nap for a bit, you know. You don’t see that kind of stuff in the states that much.
Chapman: Yeah, totally, totally. And it’s a sensible thing to do sometimes. Here, especially in the winter up here now, like depending on the heat in your apartment, if you sit still for too long or something like you might not notice, but like you gotta get your circulation going again. Breathing and things like that.
Blocland: Finally, what are you looking forward to for 2018?
Chapman: I guess just the same kinds of things every day… just trying to share music with people and getting to meet people and travel and social times and things like that. I’m also really excited to keep working at home and just continuing reading and trying to live a healthy lifestyle and self-development kinda stuff. Also, you know, hoping that everything goes well generally, those kinds of things. Both the external but also the internal.