Nigel Chapman

Interviewed by Carter Selinger.

Nigel Chapman sings, plays guitar, and writes songs for the burgeoning Halifax rock group Nap Eyes. The band’s critically acclaimed 2016 album Thought Rock Fish Scale was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize, and is “brimming with passion and protest” according to Pitchfork magazine. I was introduced to Nap Eyes about two years ago, and since then I’ve thought at length about Chapman’s lyrics. The significance of the images, and ideas in Chapman’s songs seemed in accordance with my own changing perception, and open to countless interpretations. Maybe Chapman’s work as a biochemist with gene theory has influenced the “adaptability” of his lyrics—though he’s hung up the lab coat now to focus on music. He simply can’t think about one thing one way, and in an age where people with hardened beliefs seem to get the loudest microphones, this perspective is refreshing. During our conversation about alcohol and drugs, art, existence, self-doubt, science, and spirituality, I found the strength of Chapman’s ideas and beliefs comes from a place of empathy and flexibility. His beliefs bend and contort around ideas to allow opposing viewpoints, and can lead him to two seemingly valid opinions that are almost irreconcilable. This thought process can make him laugh, and say, “It’s a paradox.” He is alive to contradictions, and therefore alive to both the great struggle, and “great value of human existence.”

A few days ago, I was listening to the song, “Click Clack” after a few friends had come to visit me for the weekend, and we had spent a great deal of our time drinking together. The lyrics “Sometimes drinking I feel so happy but then / I can’t remember why / I feel sad all over again / Sometimes drinking I / don’t know my best friend for my best friend,” felt especially poignant to me because of the terrible emotional and psychological hangover I was going through. To what extent do you think alcohol (and other substances) have helped or hurt your creative process?

It was really hard to tell because sometimes I used to think drinking and smoking weed were a way I could get into a head space where I could write. I almost didn’t have the confidence in myself to believe what was happening when I was creatively inspired could be achieved without altering my consciousness chemically. It’s like when you’re learning to swim, you think you still need flotation devices, and you don’t want to test yourself without them. For a few years, I sort of assumed smoking weed and drinking would be necessary for song writing. Even though I was usually only doing that in moderation, I think using those substances revealed an inhibition, and they can help you overcome your inhibitions. It’s the idea of thinking you need a crutch even when you don’t need one, but some people do need a crutch. There is real medical value in some of these things, but there needs to be balance. I don’t think I have a final conclusion about the value, or lack of value, of these substances in my practice; sometimes they seem to relax me and be conducive to work, and other times they drain me of energy, make me paranoid, and so inhibited that I don’t work. It’s almost like they enhance things when they’re going well, and exacerbate things when they’re not going well. I think these substances are interesting things, they have a unique phenomenal value in the world, they aren’t things you want to lean into completely, or treat with reckless abandon, or without thinking about how you’re using them.
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Jeffrey Innes

Interviewed by Kaylan Mackinnon

Jeffrey Innes is the lead singer and writer in Yukon Blonde, a Vancouver indie rock band. Since starting the group in 2008 he has gained an international following and acclaim for hits like “Saturday Night.” The band, originally from Kelowna, BC, are currently working on their fourth album. I was inspired to interview Jeffrey Innes because his songs tell such beautiful stories, and it is incredible knowing that Yukon Blonde belongs to our very own Canada. I talked to Jeff about his writing process, how it all got started for him, and

advice on how you can jumpstart your own writing career. 

Yukon Blonde is an internationally acclaimed band! You must be happy with the success you’ve had. Would you say there was a song the band and you wrote that put Yukon Blonde on the map?

I would say our song “Stairway” did pretty well for us, but both “Saturday Night” and “I Wanna Be Your Man” would be the two songs that helped get us out there much more that any others.

For readers who haven’t heard your music yet, please describe your sound and style in a few words.

This is always the hardest question for any songwriter. Either you compare yourself inaccurately to your influences and inspirations or, in my case, you feel you’re constantly changing and don’t want to pin yourself down. I mean, ok, I recognize that we’re an alternative indie pop/rock band with electronic or psychedelic tendencies and sometimes we’re pastiche. What does that even mean? I think it means we just sound however we want to whenever we want to. In the past, we’ve had guitars, drums, harmonies, cool bass lines and synths.

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Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

bio-photoInterviewed by Matthew Kok.

It was a big night for Emerson Poetry Project—Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib was performing. As a first-year student at Emerson college, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this big important writer, or what to expect from the night of poetry ahead, or what to expect from a poem.

He walked up to the mic, and for the rest of the night we were traveling. That’s how I ended up being pulled into Hanif’s work. He took the music in our lives, the images of them—a dorm bunk, the sky from an airplane seat—and proved their relationship, its intimacy. He brought us his own stories, and they became ours.

At the end of the night, Hanif walked to the middle of the crowd. As we huddled around him, intimate, shoulder-to-shoulder, his life opened itself up to us. Through his writing and slam poetry, Hanif’s life and influence has continued to open itself up to me. As Bobby Crawford, then-MC of the Emerson Poetry Project said about Hanif four years ago, “No one is doing it like him right now.”

Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s life began in Columbus, Ohio. You can read his poetry collection, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, from Button Poetry / Exploding Pinecone Press. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, other journals. His essays and music criticism has been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, and the New York Times. He has been nominated for the Pushcart prize, and his poem “Hestia” won the 2014 Capital University poetry prize. He is a Callaloo Creative Writing Fellow, an interviewer at Union Station Magazine, and a poetry editor at Muzzle Magazine. He is a member of the poetry collective Echo Hotel with poet/essayist Eve Ewing. Additionally, he is a columnist at MTV News, where he writes about music, and fights to get Room Raiders back on the air. He talked to me about exploring genre, branching out of slam, bridge-building, and survival strategies in dark times.

I think I remember you saying you got started writing a little bit later in life?

I started writing poems around 2012. I had been writing music criticism freelance for a while, since like 2009, and I kind of got a little tired of it and wanted to branch out into other things. Poetry was the natural leap for me because I was so interested in analyzing lyrics, picking through language on a larger, more artistic scale. So, poetry kind of afforded a really good opportunity to just expand on that.

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