Recorded in the dreamy hills of Echo Park, California, Today’s Not Yesterday, is the Chapin Sisters’ first album of original material in five years, and the follow-up to their 2013 collection of Everly Brothers covers, A Date with the Everly Brothers, which debuted at #2 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart, #2 on Amazon’s Folk Best Seller chart, #14 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon.
Produced by the Chapin Sisters along with producer/engineer/bass player Dan Horne (Conor Oberst, Allah Las, Jonathan Wilson) and drummer Jesse Lee (Cass McCombs, Gang, Gang Dance) the self-released Today’s Not Yesterday, which was recorded at Jonathan Wilson’s Five Star studio, has a classic 70’s-rock feel, that at times recalls a Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac. The Chapin Sisters’ lush harmonies are backed here by Horne and Lee’s first-rate rhythm section and stand-out performances by Luke Paquin (Hot Hot Heat) and Omar Velasco (A Fine Frenzy, Conor Oberst) on guitars and Lee Pardini (Jonathan Wilson) and Bobby Rodriquez (the Tyde) on piano, Rhodes and keys.
These 12 new songs, written mostly in New York, are as much about their past, and the eight years they spent living in Los Angeles as they are about their present lives on the east coast; they explore break-ups, leaving California, accepting change, reinventing oneself and returning home to the things that matter most.
Raised in New York’s Hudson Valley, the Chapin Sisters moved to Los Angeles straight out of college. During an impromptu recording session with their brother’s friend, they, along with their third sister Jessica, decided to start a band. Another friend passed their demo (produced by Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz and the Tantrums) onto KCRW DJ Anne Litt and almost instantly their dark, moody cover of Britney Spears’s Toxic became one of the most requested songs at the station.
L.A. provided them with the opportunity to explore their musical identity independent of their family’s folk legacy. As third generation musicians: their grandfather was the late jazz drummer Jim Chapin (who authored the definitive drumming text book Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer), their uncle the late folk icon/humanitarian Harry Chapin, and their father is 3 time Grammy Award winning Tom Chapin, the two started singing professionally on their father’s children’s albums, at ages 6 and 8, and at annual benefits for their uncle’s organization, WHY Hunger.
Their haunted, sometimes ironic, vocals combined with their ethereal looks made them a favorite for media outlets such as Rolling Stone, Nylon, Spin, Paper, The New York Times T Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter and The Washington Post. They recorded 3 albums, as back-up singers they’ve appeared on such TV shows at Jimmy Kimmel Live, Ellen, The Late Show With David Letterman, Conan, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and they toured the country multiple times on their own and twice with the band She & Him.
Three years ago the Chapin Sisters decided to move back to New York. Romantic relationships were ending, new ones were beginning (they have both since gotten married) and it felt like it was time.
Quickly embraced by folk music community there, they found themselves newly inspired by activism. In Sept 2014, along with Cass McCombs, they ran the music block for the 400,000 person-strong People’s Climate March in New York, and that same year they performed every day at the five day long Seeger Fest, including the Central Park Summer Stage show and the much publicized Lincoln Center event.
Today’s Not Yesterday delivers what we have come to expect from the Chapin Sisters, enchanting harmonies and lyrics that are infused with as much hope as they are longing. They might have moved back east and surrounded themselves with impassioned activists and thoughtful folk icons, but this album captures an infectious Southern California vibe that leaves us wanting more.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Abigail Chapin to discuss the record.
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
We’ve been working on some of the songs for as long as five years, since our last album of original material came out, but most of the songs were written in the last couple years.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
I think “The World is All” was the trickiest- it has a vocal breakdown in the middle that we had worked out on guitar, but when we got in the studio we realized it really wasn’t working. Once our piano player Lee got involved with the arranging he added a piano solo there under the vocal part, and totally made the song work. The piano part is almost like a Bach Invention. It’s something that we would never have been able to craft, much less play, on our own, which is why it can be so inspiring to work with other musicians.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Our core recording band was the Lily and myself, with producer/bass player/ Dan Horne (who later added pedal steel as well), drummer/co-producer Jesse Lee, and two keyboard players, Lee Pardini and Bobby Rodriguez. We recorded the songs live in the studio, with the five of us playing at once (only one keyboardist at a time). Later we added overdubs, with Luke Paquin (Hot Hot Heat) and Omar Velasco contributing electric guitar, and Dan playing pedal steel. Our sister and former band-member Jessica Craven sang on the last track on the album “We Will Not Stop,” and it was a real pleasure to sing with her again.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Dan Horne produced the record, with co-production by us, and Jesse Lee. Having the rhythm section producing the record with us made the songs much groovier than they had been when they were written on acoustic guitar.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
The songs were written over the span of five years, years which held a lot of changes for us- we moved back from LA to New York, our hometown, and both got married. The theme of leaving California permeates the record- even though we went back there to record it. For us, leaving California, our adopted home of the last few years, symbolizes growing up, leaving a kind of dreamlike reality that informed who we are as musicians, but also didn’t prove to be exactly where we needed to be.
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