Analogue Music | Nap Eyes

Nap Eyes

By Matt Conner

It's a balance, Nigel Chapman says, of self-discipline and self-forgiveness.

The vocalist for Nap Eyes says his songwriting approach stems from this free-writing mix—an intentional act to write whether inspired or not balanced by a non-judgmental approach to what comes out. At this point, with four studio albums in tow, Chapman and his bandmates—guitarist Brad Loughead, drummer Seamus Dalton, bassist Josh Salter—the balance isn't so challenging anymore.

Snapshot of a Beginner is the band's latest effort, and this time around, Chapman and company decided to employ the production help of James Elkington (Steve Gunn) and Jonathan Low (Big Red Machine). We recently caught up with Chapman to hear more about this free-writing process and how important community can be for someone who'd much rather stay at home all day.

Analogue: I've read that the creative approach to this album came from some freewriting exercises. How much of this album stems from those?

Nigel Chapman: A little more than half of it, I'd say, especially the newer songs that are there, they're more from that style. Over the years, I've created a workflow. Because the recording gear is in a stable place, I can just turn it on and then start singing or playing around. I'll put on a drum machine and make little loops or I'll strum along with a guitar and then say or sing ideas. Sometimes I'm just so uninspired I just rehash the same things over and over again as if I was just externalizing my routine internal mind. Every once in a while, it gets clear and focused to where it gets to a more valuable aesthetic or clearer communication. That's five or ten percent of the total time.

It's hard because you have to keep yourself encouraged. You don't have to force yourself exactly and you don't want to be too hard on yourself, but there's some kind of self-discipline mixed with self-forgiveness involved. Sorry that's a tangent.

Snapshot of a Beginner
Snapshot of a Beginner

Analogue: No I think that's key, what you're saying, and no one really talks about this.

Nigel: I think so, too. I mean, to the extent that we're all creators, I think it's so helpful for humans when we're using a creative part of our mind or whatever—and we all have that—to optimize the process. The techniques of relaxing the body and relaxing the mind or being patient with ourselves are so universally applicable but so is having a systematic approach. I think they can help us as creators and people. It doesn't mean the frustrations of the work goes away, but it makes the energy most productive. You can't avoid the longer drives on tour, but you can benefit everyone if you bring peace of mind to that. It's not a strenuous goal, but it's ambitious, but it's all about being gentle with people.

Analogue: How much of this is natural to you and how much has been learned over time as a songwriter?

Nigel: It has changed over the years. When you're a teenager or whatever, there's a lot of inspiration as your body and mind are developing and you're so emotional. You're so heavy-handed in some of your teenage concepts. It is something I had to try to learn. Because I have the personality style of an absent-minded professor, I have to come at myself from the outside in or from the concepts into realizing the principles in my own life.

So it's almost like meditation or practicing the guitar on a regular basis in order to gain skill, I had to understand first that it was possible or worthwhile before I ever practiced it systematically. My mind knew what was right but my habits or my self-discipline did not like that. That's only one side of it, but you can sense the principles in a more intuitive way. People learn in really different ways, but that's a bit on my development with this.

Analogue: How does the rest of the band fit into that?

Nigel: They help me so much. Just in terms of getting things to connect to other humans, even in terms of life like social skills or knowing how to present artwork, if I'd been doing this on my own, I'd have made so many bad recordings of me doing mediocre performances that I wouldn't want to compromise about changing or improving and just posting them all on a massive blog online with no sorting or quality control. [Laughs] That's one thing.

I need my friends and bandmates to help me realize the vision in a way that others can relate to. They have such good sensibilities and their perspectives really round out things that woud be lopsided if I did them alone. I've improved over the years but I depend so much on them for the quality of the work and social support. Doing this together with Seamus [Dalton] and Josh [Salter] and Brad [Loughead], I needed them in a deep way. It's really a strong bond and karmic connection that we have which keeps me going and helps me learn to be patient. Knowing we're all in it together helps a lot, actually.

Of course, we have to compromise with each other and learn to get along but it's also so good for you. If I had things my way, I would live at my home and never have to leave, except that wouldn't be good for me. It's good to be pulled out to do stuff.

Analogue: It's interesting to hear you say that as you stare down the barrel of a bunch of tour dates.

Nigel: [Laughs] That's correct. I actually feel good to get on the road. It gives meaning to all these things that I do when I'm here. I love the solitary, hermit-style aesthetic of flourishing even if no one ever sees it. I like that idea quite a lot, but I'm too worldly and also need to give back and provide value to people. In addition, I need to make a living. So these things I do in my solitary life are justified by the fact that I go out on tour with my friends and do this work together. We meet people and try to help each other and stuff, so that's helpful for me to remember that. I'm such a shy introvert in many ways that I have to make a pretty resolute adaptation to tour, but I think it's that way for all of us.

Analogue: How ready are these new songs for the live setting?

Nigel: They feel pretty ready. There's always some room to figur out the groove and how it feels in the present moment, but over the years we've honed it. I've especially learned from the others how to make our parts into a kind of particular version of the way the groove is supposed to be—not deviating too much. That being said, Brad will take really different solos every night, and I'll feel different in delivering the lines. But I try not to alter the melodies or timing very much at all. That's a technical answer.

Analogue: What else is coming up for you guys?

Nigel: We finish in Columbus, Ohio, I think, on April 6 and then we go to England and the Netherlands and there's a few shows here and there, maybe in Germany. Then we come home in May and a short tour and then a festival in Wales.

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