IN CONCERT: Don’t Sleep On Nap Eyes

Opening for Destroyer at Brooklyn Bowl, the band gets to the point of the groove amidst Coronavirus fears

Nap Eyes’ Nigel Chapman on stage at Brooklyn Bowl 3/7/20 (Photo: Justin D. Joffe)

Nap Eyes frontman Nigel Chapman sings with unabashed introspection, his lyrics chock full of intimate inner monologues that sound especially naked when delivered onstage.

The Novia Scotia band opened for Destroyer on March 7 at Brooklyn Steel, perfectly complementing the headliner and fellow Canuck’s knack for framing big, existential questions as catchy, head-swaying groovers, while showing off a more dynamic indie psych sound readymade for bigger rooms. 

Nap Eyes’ new album, Snapshot of a Beginner (out March 27), kicks off with single “So Tired,” as Chapman addresses himself in the third person, confessing his fears of other people controlling his life and setting him on a path without his control. If the band’s ability to keep over a thousand jaded hipsters entranced on a Saturday night just hours after New York declared a State of Emergency around the Coronavirus is any indication, Chapman has nothing to worry about.


VIDEO: Nap Eyes “Mark Zuckerberg”

Consider Nap Eyes’ other new single “Mark Zuckerberg,” the one moment on Snapshot when Chapman looks out on the world and not inward. “Is Mark Zuckerberg a ghost?” He asks rhetorically. “Maybe, maybe.” The whimsical, sing-songy lilt in Chapman’s voice makes this jab at one of the wealthiest men in the world sound childlike and pure, an energy he radiates with atypically humble and gracious moments of onstage banter, exuding an energy of gratitude rarely seen onstage that makes sense when one considers that these guys hail from Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

The other new Snapshot songs played that night also make clear that Nap Eyes are not only in complete control of their direction, but have    figured out a way to deepen their sonic dynamism without sacrificing the profundity of their songwriting. While we missed James Elkington’s gorgeous organ, synth and pedal steel that adorn the studio recordings, Brooklyn’s own Ryley Walker’s hypnotic psychedelic lead guitar work filled in these tones perfectly onstage. Asked on Twitter if Walker’s inclusion made Nap Eyes a jam band now, the band replied instantly—”It isn’t even a question.”

Nap Eyes on stage at Brooklyn Bowl 3/7/20 (Photo: Justin D. Joffe)

Onstage, these new dynamic highs don’t dilute the resonance of Nap Eyes’ vibe, instead intensifying their dedication to sounding unordained. “I don’t want to be hidden in a shroud,” Chaplan sings on “Real Thoughts.” “I don’t want to be hidden from those around me/ And I don’t want to hear some bullshit/ Don’t want to hear some fake news/ Don’t want to hear some other shit/Miss the point of the groove/When it doesn’t fit.”

Chapman often gets compared to the late Lou Reed, largely because of how droll and laconic Chapman’s voice can sound. But listen closely to his words and you’ll realize this is a surface comparison—while Reed’s writing was often ambivalent and removed, Chapman is all about making himself present. You can hear it in new tune “Mystery Calling,” which embraces the unknown and questions whether songwriting and playing in a band should even qualify as ‘work.’ It’s why “Primordial Soup” seeks to understand the creation of man through all different spiritual (and non-spiritual) perspectives on how we got here. It’s why Nap Eyes can play classic N64 video game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and come up with a song that explores the nature of morality through Link’s trials in The Water Temple (“Dark Link.”)

Just as Destroyer has done with his last decade of post-Kaputt, synth-heavy albums, Nap Eyes are fast becoming masters at crafting songs that make space for their big ideas to live. If that’s not the point of a groove, then I don’t know what is. 


VIDEO: Nap Eyes “Mystery Calling”



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Justin Joffe

Justin Joffe writes about music, art, technology, and other cultural treasures. Reach him on Twitter @joffaloff.

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