Boston doesn’t immediately call forward verdant imagery, but Chaparrals’s The Slowly Session channels the natural world into chilling, simple songs.
The Slowly Session has an extra touch of the natural in that the band recorded it in one take, no re-dos allowed – “old school,” as they put it. Any EP is expected to have a bare-bones feel to it, but as the successor to the beachy Elpis, this places Chaparrals a step back from where they’ve established themselves.
Slowly was recorded with the band surrounding one microphone in an old theater in Weymouth, MA. It was entirely spontaneous stemming from a passing suggestion made by their recording engineer. The band was enthralled by the idea. The microphone they used came with technology that allowed them to manipulate the sound balance post production, essentially relocating each instrument. This unique recording experience offered both rewards and challenges to the band, which claimed one of the most important was that “it forced [them] to truly listen to each other when [they] play — the difference of playing at the same time and ‘playing together’.” And while it acted as a bonding experience for the band, the session provided some much needed education as well.
“Traditional recording tends to focus on perfection of performance and sound. With traditional recording you can comp, edit, and manipulate the tracks to no end until you reach what you deem perfection. If anything, I think we missed having that level of control over the final product. But that was very much part of the exercise — letting go of control and trying to capture the purest essence of the songs, while also capturing a mood and an evocative performance, imperfections and all,” the band told Sound Of Boston over email.
Imperfections aside, the tracks on The Slowly Session are certainly evocative. “The Man In The Moon” showcases Erich Wiernasz’s vocals, with gently plucked, hardly audible guitar supporting them. The rest of the band chimes in about halfway through, but where on other songs they might do so in a jumpy, sudden manner, on “The Man In The Moon” they do so seamlessly. This adds to the proclaimed “jam” atmosphere, seeming as though they simply couldn’t wait another minute to join in.
Chaparrals finds the purity of these songs to be endearing. “There is something very honest about these recordings; beyond it being a learning experience and good exercise in musicianship, what we appreciate most is how we were able to capture that honesty,” they said.
The band elects “Slowly” as the prime example of this, and it holds up as one of the more whimsical, clearly underproduced tracks. “Slowly” also inspires a sleepy, lethargic mood – something the band attributes to the influence of the climate they play in.
The songs on Slowly were recorded on a rainy summer Sunday afternoon. “It probably caused us to play in a more subdued and languid manner than we might have had it been sunny and humid,” the band said. Their connection to nature is clearly evident in their name too. With a name signifying the kinds of thorny shrub-like plants native to southern regions of the world, the band also attributes some of the name’s meaning to its roots in Americana and the imagery that accompanies it. Outside genre barriers, Chaparrals described their sound in response to Sound Of Boston’s signature question, as “smart, sincere, and melodic songwriting that is complemented by intelligent and thoughtful musicianship”. And two of the five band members have actually seen a chaparral. “Very prickly, thorny, and rough,” they said. “The actual chaparrals, not the band members.”
Chaparrals plans to release an EP in September under the supervision of Jerry MacDonald, the same man who oversaw The Slowly Session. Check out the EP for some cozy, yet chilling sounds, and stay tuned for more music. Until then, imagine trees towering over the top of Fenway, sit back, relax, and don’t touch an actual chaparral.