For their third record, Nap Eyes maintain their cleverly calculated nonchalance for their most innovative and attractive work to date.
I'm Bad Now, your third record on Paradise of Bachelors, is out next week. Are there silver linings within all three releases? Is there some conceptual trilogy identity existing within your catalog as it stands now?
I think that all of these albums reflect different thematic content, and also a changing level of maturity in the writing and musicianship. This can of course cut both ways, and at the time I might have felt more excited about the inspired moments that came and went on the earlier albums; that being said I believe our craft and ability to create balanced, coherent work has improved. Aside from this, each album treats different subject matter, and probably at the same time shares some unifying themes with the others, since these tend to recur naturally in various forms.
You and the band don't live in the same place or really anywhere close to each other; a twelve-hour drive separating you from your bandmates. Was this spacial separation in any way helpful for the songwriting of I'm Bad Now? Were there challenges or losses in translation? Is the instrumentation seen as a separate entity alive apart from the lyrics when you're preparing a record?
I would say there is almost always a spacial/temporal separation between writing and recording (unless the composition is recorded when it is played for the first time) — and as such there are always unique contributions of the separation, and also always challenges or losses in translation. It can be frustrating trying to pin down songs, which begin as spontaneous creations, and to nudge and hammer them into a deliberate form can be painful/stressful. But, like exercise, the strenuous effort can lead to beneficial effects.
I have found it helpful to have a separate personal practice where I can create at my own pace as abstractly as I feel, and have a shared practice where I must to some extent defer to my band, allowing the ideas/forms they value to be realized in the work. The lyrics are often, but not always, written at the same time as the basic chords and singing melody, with Seamus, Josh, and Brad composing their own parts when we begin to work on a song together.
Thought Rock Fish Scale was released in 2016 on Paradise of Bachelors, a label we're quite fond of. What things did you learn from your first two releases that you used to better your third effort? How have your recording or writing influences changed over the course of the band's history?
I think we were happy to have the opportunity to record in a formal studio setting, and to have Howard (Bilerman) and Mike’s help and expertise in capturing the recordings. Otherwise, I feel that more intuitive and gradual learning and improvements in our technique played a role, as they will of their own accord (although technique can of course also be practiced consciously/deliberately, and perhaps one would benefit from making this a priority).
Your second record was included on the long list for the Polaris Music Prize, a huge honor, obviously. Did this level of success come as a surprise or were you exceptionally confident in the songwriting on the record? (Bieber and Drake were also on the list for some pop-culture perspective of the Polaris nomination)
Definitely came as a surprise, from the point of view of that record’s humble home-recorded origins. But we were grateful insofar as it’s encouraging affirmation about the prospect of pursuing music/songwriting, at least as one kind of work in life.
You're based in Nova Scotia. What parts about living there most heavily impact your creativity?
It is hard to separate into the abstract particular aspects of living here, and make causal inferences about how they affect creativity. However in a broad sense, I do feel very glad to live in a place like NS. There is a nice combination of aloof metropolitanism and curiousness-about-what-everyone-you-know-is-up-to friendliness, to put it in a tongue-in-cheek way.
You toured the last record through Europe and late last year opened for some of the dates on the Fleet Foxes tour. Do you notice different regions of the world receiving your music better/worse than other places? How was the experience playing for Fleet Foxes crowds? How did playing the big stages impact your abilities as a performer?
Yes, we played some shows opening for Fleet Foxes and also for Alvvays, in September and October. These were nice experiences. I think we’ve had good and bad shows in various cities in NA and Europe, but I couldn’t speak too much about the effect of region, because there usually other more immediate variables involved. That being said, different places in the world have different vibes, so it is cool to get a glimpse of these from a performer’s perspective.
I think playing for a big crowd can be nice, especially if they are happy to be where they are, so it is nice to play before a band whose fans like them (although this can backfire now and then). As a performer I still don’t feel particularly confident, to the extent that I’m consciously aware that I am performing — however sometimes this mental angle of self-consciousness is not so prominent, and this can feel pretty good and connected.
I'm Bad Now seems to be your most honest and experiential work. Was it time, patience, or understanding that lead to this freedom to unveil deeper reflections or were you inspired in some other way to be more transparent and candid with your songwriting?
That is nice to hear, thank you. If true I am not sure what would have done it — definitely time — and my self-interested bias leads me to hope patience and understanding are improving, given the extent I have observed these to be lacking in many instances in the past.