Back at the start of March, in a world that felt completely different, I had the chance to catch Halifax indie-rock heroes Nap Eyes at the Toronto stop of a tour with fellow Canadian wordsmith Destroyer. Before the pandemic forced them to cancel their upcoming series of dates, Nap Eyes had linked up with perpetual road dog and hilarious Twitter personality Ryley Walker, who would fill in for their guitarist Brad Loughead, then in the midst of an Egyptian tour with Homeshake. I had the chance to interview both Nap Eyes frontman Nigel Chapman and Walker for an article in Exclaim!, but sadly the guitarist’s quotes were cut for space. When I connected with Walker over the phone a few weeks before he joined the Haligonians, he was in the middle of a day off in Ghent, Belgium, chilling in his hotel room and eating “crappy food.” I enjoyed our conversation so much that I’ve decided to publish it here in full. If you’re looking for a soundtrack to accompany your reading, I would humbly suggest Nap Eyes’ brilliant fourth album Snapshot of a Beginner, followed by anything from the bolded names in the paragraph above.
Jesse Locke: How did you first connect with Nap Eyes?
Ryley Walker: It was six or seven years ago maybe. I heard their first record through Chris at Paradise of Bachelors, but I’m struggling to remember when I first met them. That’s probably because we had so much fun getting blasted. We’ve always stayed in touch and I’ve become close pals with all of them. I love them dearly.
I know you’re a big fan, so can you tell me a bit about why you like their music or Nigel’s lyrics?
Nigel has a great perspective from the voice of the characters in his songs. It’s psychedelic paranoia in suburban reality. Everything he describes in a quiet Canadian life is like an outsider drawing. He paints such beautiful pictures of street scenes. I don’t think he’s attempting to ask the big questions but they come out really naturally through simple observations. The band dances around that like a bleak ecosystem surrounding what Nigel is singing, and it works so well together.
The new album includes a song about The Legend of Zelda and how he finds beauty even in something like that.
I’m always inspired by people who get off on boredom. I love artists who create from the big scene or whatever’s going on in the world, but also think boring shit is fascinating. There’s so much to talk about when you’re talking about just staring at a wall, and that’s what Nigel does best. Walls are really scary and he’s looked at a lot of them.
Does it feel like big shoes to fill to play Brad’s guitar solos?
Brad’s got the only pair of shoes made for Nap Eyes. I’m just hanging out wearing my own bootleg ones. He’s a good friend, and I’m really inspired by his playing. Cian Nugent filled in with them once, and he told me he had to put his back into those songs because Brad brings so much energy. I’m honoured to be playing his parts. There are a lot of body sounds in the guitar. He flails around a lot and you can hear that. I’m much less limber than he, but I’ll try my best.
Seamus from Nap Eyes comes from a Christian rock background, which I know you do as well. Do you think that might be part of why you connect with them as people?
We’ve talked about that a lot. I come from a big time Christian rock background, and there’s so much shame associated with it for me personally. After I was 15 it felt so embarrassing to admit that, but now I just wear it as something proudly on my sleeve. I’m not Christian or religious by any means, so that was something I tried to block out. I think Seamus did too but now we rap back and forth about the powers that be and the bands involved in it. It’s a thing I tried to suppress and black out in my mind, but now it’s all I listen to. I can’t stop listening to shitty Christian ska. It seems so ignorant of the real world, even more than real ska. I like how their sets have all of these punny songs but then have one Christian song to tie it all up. There will be a bunch of kids skanking in banana costumes who raise their hands in that evangelical praise way. I think Christian ska made the world better for some people who found a centre in it. That’s pretty fascinating.
Can you recommend any Christian ska albums people should check out?
The ultimate one is Five Iron Frenzy’s Our Newest Album Ever! That’s probably the pinnacle. It’s like the first Velvet Underground album. Every Christian who heard it started a Christian ska band. They tried to have some sort of crossover but I probably saw them 20 times at Christian music festivals. I have an Apple Music account, but I don’t use it to listen to new indie band or classic Sun Ra albums or whatever. I literally just use it to listen to Jars of Clay, D.C. Talk, and the Newsboys. I pay $9.95 a month for these albums I never thought I’d be able to hear again. D.C. Talk’s final studio album Supernatural from 1998 is honestly kind of psychedelic. I don’t know if I’m getting closer to God, but I might be learning some of the answers.
Nerds have gotten a really bad rap in the last few years, but I think Nigel is a good nerd who goes super deep into things but is also a lovely, happy person. Do you think they’re bringing a good name back to nerds?
I think Nigel is a very sexy, smart man. If that’s what a nerd is, we all need to be nerds. In all honesty, they’re all humble and loving, and any nerdiness they have is contagious. Their morale together is wonderful because they’re all old friends. I’m honestly looking forward to hang out with those guys for eight hours in the van.