Self-Portrait: Nigel Chapman of Nap Eyes | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, July 12th, 2020  

Self-Portrait: Nigel Chapman of Nap Eyes

Still Learning

Mar 24, 2020 Photography by Nigel Chapman
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For our recurring Self-Portrait feature we ask a musician to take a self-portrait photo (or paint/draw a self-portrait) and write a list of personal things about themselves, things that their fans might not already know about them. This Self-Portrait is by Nigel Chapman, frontman of Nap Eyes.

Nap Eyes are releasing a new album, Snapshot of a Beginner, this Friday via Jagjaguwar/Royal Mountain in partnership with Paradise of Bachelors. Jonathan Low (Big Red Machine, The National) and James Elkington (Steve Gunn, Joan Shelley) produced Snapshot of a Beginner, which was recorded at The National’s Upstate New York Long Pond Studio. The album’s first single, “Mark Zuckerberg,” tackles the founder of Facebook and all of the album’s songs stem from Chapman’s “20-minute voice-and-guitar free-writing sessions.” The Canadian band also features drummer Seamus Dalton, bassist Josh Salter, and guitarist Brad Loughead.

Read on as Chapman writes about his teenage years, books (both in print and of the audio variety), two overlooked bands, and how he’s still learning.

1. I come from a Nova Scotian family with a dual-thread of tendencies: procrastinator imperfectionism, and a hyper-conscientious contingency-mindedness about the strong likelihood of negative outcomes. In order to cope with the dual-pull of these opposite tendencies, my siblings and I have become pretty skilled in the art of internalized, self-directed sarcasm. This undermines the confidence a bit, but at least this way you never feel like you deserve to be working in your chosen vocational field. Hmm on second thought the approach may still need some work. . . ;)

2. As a teenager learning to play guitar I did not understand very much about the physical/postural/motor components of deliberate practice and the development of good instrumental technique. I more or less just hammered away at the thing—but with feeling! Learning to play the Green Day song “Platypus (I Hate You)” at a speed slow enough so that I could strum the chords properly would have taken more patience and perspective than my 15-year old brain could have handled. The result of this has been that much of my adult life can be described as a series of dumbfounded realizations about how heavy-handed and overcomplicated my approach to all manner of activities has been. Counter-intuitively, in this connection: realizing you’ve been a total idiot for decades can actually be one of the most exhilarating, inspiring experiences you can have. Suddenly you see why it’s been so difficult to make progress all this time, and are therefore on the verge of great strides of improvement, due to the imminent reworking, consolidation, and strengthening of your fundamentals.

3. Audiobooks and spoken-word media (podcasts, lecture series, etc.) have been a life-changing media format for me. For anyone out there who feels they would like to read more than they do, but can’t seem to find the time, it may be that they are underestimating the power of audiobook media. If you listen to audiobooks you can move around while you listen, practice body movement and awareness, clean your house, go for a walk, drive your car, etc. I used to listen to books while doing routine tasks at the lab, like passaging cell cultures. Sometimes it’s just as nice to lie down in the evening with the lights off, and observe your body sensations along with the audiobook. Something else you may notice, over time as you listen to more spoken word media, is that you might start to appreciate silence more, i.e. those times when there’s no sound/light media playing at all.

4. I believe that learning is one of life’s most fulfilling activities, even when it appears impractical on the surface. It also seems that if you keep learning in different fields—even those that seemed completely unrelated at first—eventually you’ll start to find analogy connections between them. Whether you’re younger or older, it’s always worth it to learn a little bit more about anything that you’re interested in. Of course, you may have to prioritize one or a few activities consistently. Speaking in terms of “wells” of knowledge: in order to go deep enough to draw water from any one of the wells (rather than digging 20x one-foot-deep wells), you’ll have to commit to long-term learning. But once you reach the water source in one, it seems likely you will start seeing connections that help you better understand who you yourself are, and appreciate principles from whatever different fields of learning inspire you in life. 

5. In the past few years I’ve discovered a few books that have since become favorites, especially in the popular science genre. The books by Robert Sapolsky, especially Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (2017) and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers (1994) are excellent. Also Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (2010) and The Gene: An Intimate History (2016) are incredible, well told stories. Also amazing, and directly life-changing in many ways, are the books by Toronto-based medical doctor Norman Doidge: The Brain’s Way of Healing (2015) and The Brain That Changes Itself (2007). Doidge’s books contain really vivid, moving accounts of the brain’s inherent neuroplasticity, reporting on the varied and remarkable ways the brain’s structure and function can be modified over time, by our behaviors and other environmental factors. The recent acceptance and development of the theory of neuroplasticity in modern neuroscience represents a profound paradigm shift, with consequences that are highly relevant for all people today, both scientists and non-scientists alike. Especially for example, in the domains of chronic pain, mental health conditions, addiction, traumatic brain injury recovery, stroke recovery, working with and through learning disabilities, etc. (the list goes on), there is a great deal to learn and be inspired by in both of these books. In my own case, it’s no exaggeration to describe them as life-changing.

6. Although I find myself talking more about non-music media these days, hearing great songs is still one of the things I love the most. Let me mention two lesser known bands here, who may still be “under the radar” to most readers. First, those albums by the band Beulah from the ’90s and early ’00s are really excellent. Especially When Your Heartstrings Break and The Coast Is Never Clear are well worth a listen. Another artist I’ll recommend here is the excellent Kiwi Jr.—a Toronto-based band whose first LP Football Money was just released this January 2020 on Mint Records. It is rare to hear such great songs—many insightful and memorable lyrics here, in song expressions that in my opinion can probably help people integrate some of the more frustrating and rewarding experiences of modern isolated/interconnected city living, and perhaps even help renew their determination with respect to whatever goals they may be pursuing.

www.napeyes.com

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