With a cleaner palette and a closer attention to detail, ‘Snapshot of a Beginner’ has evolved socially without sacrificing the Nap Eyes sound.
Stream: ‘Snapshot of a Beginner‘ – Nap Eyes
I think people don’t realize what music can actually achieve for them—it’s the keys you put into your brain.
You don’t have to listen to Nap Eyes’ fourth LP for long to realize that Snapshot of a Beginner isn’t just a great record — it is a manifesto on how to live. Equal parts optimism and positivity, it’s a 45 minute exploration of how to be a better person.
“Snapshot of a Beginner is pointing at an approach to life that I’ve been trying to adopt and realizing is really important as it relates to every aspect of life: Having an attitude oriented towards self-development and basically becoming a stronger, wiser, kinder, healthier person—obviously little-by-little, no rush, and to the best of your abilities—but not setting yourself up against another person’s standard,” says lead singer Nigel Chapman.
Talking to Chapman, you realize that Snapshot of a Beginner charts his own personal journey along this obstacle-ridden path.
While quick to point out he’s no expert on the matter, he happily dispenses any advice he’s collected along the spiritual hike.
This pondering of the cosmos is not a new thing for the band — or for Chapman himself. “There’s something deep and mysterious, a great mystery at hand at all times. We’re on a planet spinning around in this one billion star galaxy in this vast ocean of existence which has so many real aspects that we now know that are so wonderful and mysterious that it is important to remember that stuff,” says Chapman. “For me the intellectual stuff starts as a scaffold that I can climb up onto and take a view of the universe from but then I need to turn off my intellectual discrimination mind and change to more of a receptive mind for the spiritual stuff.”
This is captured best in “Primordial Soup”, a song that not only references Carl Sagan’s show Cosmos, but also merges science with a damn catchy melody. Opening with steady drums, it settles into a steady rhythm—accentuated with a hypnotic lead riff—which combine with Chapman’s voice to guide you soulfully to a full blooded ending. The relentless drums and the psychedelic repetitions offers you 3 and a half minutes of escapism.
Oh, days in the primordial soup
They’re stirred a billion billions in the molecules
And now and then a few would stick together
But they break apart so easily too
Till one dawn they came along
The molecule different from every other one
Could copy itself, the first replicator
Became an alma mater of all life to come
That’s your evolution
A quick trip through Thought Rock Fish Scale and I’m Bad Now supports this theme, yet Snapshot of a Beginner feels like a new direction for the band. With a cleaner sound, the whole record seems to possess a sharper focus. Layering of instruments and a closer attention to detail combine to showcase a band finding their feet. “I feel like it is a clean break for us in many ways, it feels like a really different record,” Chapman says. “I don’t really understand the way that the modern music industry works, I don’t really understand what is going to be valued or get through to people to shake them out of their complacency, but we knew we wanted to do something different to at least give ourselves a chance to appeal to people on a sonic quality basis,” says Chapman.
This penchant for lo-fi sound that was a trademark of their (excellent) earlier records led the band to worry they were isolating listeners, hence the sonic shift. It was an easy way to welcome more fans without sacrificing the key elements of their sound. To a long-time listener it’s a striking contrast, but one that suits the band as Chapman’s engaging vocals and the easy flowing, jangly guitars still maintain the raw sensibility you expect from a Nap Eyes record. Simply put, Nap Eyes hasn’t gone pop, but it is sounding a little sparklier these days.
But no matter if Snapshot Of A Beginner is your introduction or you’ve been there since the debut Whine of the Mystic, Nap Eyes are a band that people should know. Their catchy, enticing lyrics and infectious melodies should be in everyone’s ears. Chapman addresses this with trademark optimism: “You just hope that if you play true, have good values and a sincere attitude and you just keep working and trying to create good things then hopefully even if the winds of style and fanfare weren’t with you at that moment, because your enterprise was true eventually something kicks in.”
But this optimism isn’t only for his own success. Chapman hopes audience members — new and old — can take his positive vibes into their daily lives. “Art if it can help people not only while they’re experiencing the art but also outside of that half an hour of listening, if some of the themes stick with them and encourage them to take a balanced or patient approach to their lives as well, that would be great.”
Is Mark Zuckerberg a ghost?
Where are his hands?
And why don’t you ever see them public?
And what does he do with all that sand?
He collects sand right? I think I read that somewhere.
The process to synthesize these ideas into a manageable four minute song is far from simple however. “I have a pretty easy time formulating it into a fifteen minute song,” Chapman laughs. “The curse of my working style is that I make these long recordings of improvised material—just let whatever is going to come forth be born onto the tape recorder. I just have to make a lot of material and then work through it and try to find the pieces that can become full songs one day. That’s my least favorite part, but it’s very necessary.”
This Kerouac-like approach to songwriting allows Chapman to take us on a poetic journey through his mind; from the pains of adult life on the reassuring millennial anthem ‘When I Struck Out On My Own” to the fear of being trapped by circumstance on upbeat psych-rocker “If You Were In Prison.”
When asked to pick a favorite song, Chapman hesitates before picking. “Dark Link is special to me. I can’t say it’s the best but it’s lyrically very important and meaningful to me.” A Zelda-themed tale you could spend many joyful hours trying to decipher, it’s a poetic depiction of good vs. evil.
In the Forest Temple, Ganondorf was there
But he wasn’t real, he was a false projection
His steed came snorting through the desolate wind
And in case I forget this, maybe I should mention
He seemed lonely, only on the lonely side
But the dark’s the sin side
that could break our hearts, my child
For Link never had thought about his selfish pride
‘Cause it separates him from the
ones who might have loved him
His cursed eyes narrowed
against the rising tide of oblivion
Ganondorf’s cursed eyes narrowed
against the rising tide of oblivion
It’s hard to define the Nap Eyes sound.
A culmination of influences pulled from every corner of the genre-wheel and world, even Chapman struggles to put a definite name to it: “It is unfortunately a nebulous thing but I do think there are some common factors: The songwriting style, the way the songwriting is emphasized, and it does have to do with the way that the singer is singing.” An art-fanatic in all it’s forms — “I’m someone who is interested in synthesizing idea threads, aesthetic values and scientific principles” — Chapman pulls music apart to identify common factors that he enjoys across all the genres he listens to.
I’m someone who is interested in synthesizing idea threads, aesthetic values and scientific principles.
This leads to an influence list that is varied, from Billie Joe Armstrong to Belle and Sebastian to Neil Young to Kendrick Lamar.
Most interestingly is the influence of Indian classical folk artists such as Ravi Shankar and Shahid Parvez. While quick to point out that he’s not “anything close to a proficient, amateur listener”, Chapman admits his admiration for ragas. “I love listening to it, the purpose of the music is almost different to a lyrical song. It’s quite meditative even though it’s active and beautiful.” As for its impact on Nap Eyes — it’s not so much musical as spiritual. “It’s more the way it affects my being. It affects my attention span, it gets me to a slower vibration.”
“I think people don’t realize what music can actually achieve for them, they don’t realize how deep an operation music can perform on your psyche. I don’t mean it to sound scary — it won’t do anything you don’t want it to do — but it’s the keys you put into your brain,” Chapman says.
He pauses thoughtfully on this point, before adding, “They should realize that music has great power, and even Nap Eyes’ music could do something for them that they don’t even realize is possible.”
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📸 © 2020
Snapshot of a Beginner
an album by Nap Eyes