Even Better Than The First Scotland – Nap Eyes live

Nap Eyes / Haley Heynderickx / Order of the Toad – The Hug and Pint, Glasgow – Thursday 10th May 2018

I first came across Nap Eyes nearly 3 years ago when the ‘influences’ quoted on a listening post at Rough Trade tempted me into listening to the start of their debut album. That album was ‘Whine of the Mystics’ and it took just one song –  ‘Dark Creedence’-  to get me hooked.

I subsequently described the LP thusly:

“It’s rare to find a record on which the highlights are so diverse but ‘Whine of the Mystics’ qualifies for that unusual honour.”

I also predicted that they were the sort of band with influences like the Go-Betweens and the Clean who would readily find an audience in Scotland

Yet when they made their Scottish debut at the Hug and Pint in 2016 in support of their second album, an unfortunate clash of shows meant that I was unable to go.

After that near miss I wasn’t certain that I’d ever get to see Nap Eyes live. (They come from Nova Scotia after all.) But, when the date in support of the excellent new LP ‘I’m Bad’ coincided nicely with a Friday off and another reason to head through to Glasgow, I was in. The fact that support came from hotly tipped Haley Heynderickx was a bonus.

First up, opening act, Order of the Toad, were a new name to me. Despite the accents, it seems they’re based in Glasgow and associated with the likes of Spinning Coin and Vital Idles, both of whom I’ve seen and enjoyed in the last 12 months or so.

Yet I’m not quite sure what I made of OotT. I liked the songs better when the bass player sang – when the guitarist sang, they sounded a bit too much like a gothic take on 70s English folk. But then he did only sing a couple.

Overall though, I found them a wee bit hard to pin down. I liked them well enough, particularly on the song midway through the set which contained some sprightly guitars, but think I’d need to see them again to properly get them.

Haley H has been picking up a lot of attention in the first part of the year following on from the release of her debut LP ‘I Need to Start a Garden’, with even the likes of Uncut getting behind the American singer-songwriter.

By the time she took to the stage the Hug and Pint was close to full and there were clearly a number of people there specifically to see her.

In what could have been a risky move, she started with her sing-a-long single ‘Oom Sha La La’. But even her introduction to the song seemed to win everyone over straight away and that was borne out by the audience participation during the song.

From then on the audience was entranced by her entire performance to the extent that, when invited to do so, many started talking to a stranger next to them – and immediately ceased doing so again when Haley announced she’d completed her tuning!

The songs were drawn from both her new LP and previous EP with maybe even the odd unrecorded tune thrown in. But whilst these songs feel almost spectral at times on record, in person they felt much warmer. There’s a dreamy quality to her music live which worked particularly well with her wonderful voice.

In some ways she reminded me of Kristin Hersh a little bit, both musically at times but particularly through her assured stage presence which managed to be both calming and off beat at the same time.

By the end I think everyone was convinced that the next time she plays Glasgow, she’ll be playing in her own right … and in a far bigger venue.

Disappointingly the crowd reduced slightly for Nap Eyes but, if they noticed, it didn’t bother them. On the contrary, they looked genuinely surprised to get a good reception throughout.

With the show running late, the band set off in an unhurried but efficient manner. ‘Judgement’ and ‘Every Time the Feeling’ set a high standard from the off although given that most of the songs came from ‘I’m Bad’ that was hardly a surprise.

Thereafter they unerringly nailed the mood of the new album with the older songs slipping in seamlessly. There’s definitely a slacker vibe about Nap Eyes live, due both to Nigel’s voice and much of the set being mid-paced, yet the songs remained intensely melodic.

So much of the energy came from the guitars. Apparently playing with a substitute guitarist, these were a little more flamboyant than on record but that only enhanced the general vibe. The only song that really lifted the tempo was (from the lyrics, I think) their cover of the Feelies’ ‘It’s Only Life’, although the pace did seem higher than on their session version of the song.

They finished with a curfew busting ‘No Fear of Hellfire’, sadly, but hardly unexpectedly, the only song on offer from the debut. It’s more than seven minutes long on the record but this version must have lasted nearer ten with the band locked in a groove for the last few minutes of the set. With the clock past 11 o’clock at its conclusion there was no prospect of an encore.

Complaints? Well, none other than it was a bit disappointing that a band with three albums behind them were only able to play for 45 minutes (plus a few). I could quite easily have filled another half hour with songs they didn’t play such as ‘Dark Creedence’, ‘No Man Should Care’, ‘Boats Appear’ and ‘Delirium and Persecution Paranoia’ .

But even in their allotted time, the band met all the expectations built up over the last couple of years and I’ve spent a good chunk of the last 10 days listening to all the records. Hopefully they’ll be back before too long – with more time to play!

Nap Eyes setlist

1.       Judgement
2.       Every Time The Feeling
3.       Dull Me Line
4.       Stargazer
5.       You Like To Joke Around
6.       Mixer
7.       It’s Only Life (?)
8.       Roses
9.       I’m Bad
10.   No Fear of Hellfire