"DARK CREEDENCE," the opening track and lead single from Nap Eyes' debut, Whine of the Mystic, begins with a pounding floor tom. A bass joins, thumping along on root notes only. The guitars chime, and eventually they'll screech, but the chords never change.
Volumes and velocities ebb and flow while singer Nigel Chapman stays even-keeled. Never howling, his dense, literary lyrics are tunefully enunciated. But if his voice is totally under control, he's singing about spiraling out of it: "Just get my drinking under control and I will live again." The song, riddled with paradox, is Nap Eyes in a bottle—equal parts caveman and Shakespeare.
The unfussy production makes "Dark Creedence" all the more intimate and tactile. Like all of the group's work, it was recorded live, without overdubs—yes, that includes vocals.
As Chapman told Noisey last month, "The dynamics make sense because you hear how loud everyone is playing. When we get quiet we have the ability to reach [out] to each other, and the rhythm gets played in a certain way and we feed off of each other." They're pocket players—they listen to each other and flourish with meaning, rather than simply bashing away. Yet the musicians in Nap Eyes are also concise, and hardly ever withholding.
As I'm speaking to Chapman, the Halifax, Nova Scotia, band is two days into a tour that includes a number of firsts, including visits to SXSW and California, and a brand-new Instagram account.
"It was definitely recommended to us by the guys at our label and our people who are doing press," Chapman says of the social media site, chuckling. "It's pretty funny seeing that. I guess sharing images helps people connect?"
But Chapman is neither rube (he has a day job as a research scientist) nor Luddite (under his solo moniker the Mighty Northumberland, he wrote a staggeringly good ode to a Zelda video game, "Dark Link"). "We want to see if the press that's been happening on the internet has an effect in real life," he adds.
The tour is ostensibly centered on Thought Rock Fish Scale, an eight-song album that came out in February but was recorded in four days in May of 2014. Once Nap Eyes reached out to labels, the interested Paradise of Bachelors sought to re-release Whine of the Mystic, which pushed Thought Rock Fish Scale even further back.
"I'm still happy to be playing these songs," Chapman says. "We have a few new songs and I'm excited to make another record sometime."
Agreeable in conversation, Chapman's temperament seems almost stereotypically Canadian. "There are folks who pretend to be nice," he says of his countrymen. "Not that [the band] is pretending, but I think that is a very Canadian quality—certainly politeness, over-apologetic-ness, that kind of thing."
But Nap Eyes enables Chapman to speak freely. "I would feel shy to make a critical remark or have a negative opinion or something in a social situation," he says. "But you can kind of explore those sides of yourself in music. I think that's why you hear some of the darker and lighter sides in combination in our band.
"It's a lucky thing," Chapman says of finding not only this conduit for expression, but also his bandmates. "It's so lucky because if left own to my own devices, it would be really hard for me to express myself. I need my friends a lot to give me the safe space to express that stuff and kind of help me realize the vision."