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Brad Loughead of Nap Eyes talks us through his favorite guitar solos

The Canadian rock band’s lead guitarist shares a shredding starter pack.

March 27, 2020
Brad Loughead of Nap Eyes talks us through his favorite guitar solos Alex Blouin & Jodi Heartz  

With a cotton-mouthed charm and subtle sonic ambition, Nap Eyes are one of Canada's most formidable indie rock bands. But the Halifax-based four-piece, formed in 2007, aren't complacent veterans; their fourth album Snapshot of a Beginner is out today, and more than ever, Nap Eyes sound comfortable exploring what makes them unique.

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Snapshot is a collection of hard-taught lessons, deep emotions, and goofing around all pondered upon while sinking into the deepest, plushest sofa cushion. It comes with an added polish to the recording, which couldn't have come at a better time: frontman Nigel Chapman has long garnered comparisons to Lou Reed, but his voice never had that smirking quality, and that's clear on the new album. When Chapman sings, you hear his voice searching for the most authentic transmission of the emotion possible, whether it's self-doubt ("Mystery Calling"), ironic conspiracy theory ("Mark Zuckerberg"), or a surprisingly touching retelling of the mythos behind the Zelda games ("Dark Link"). A wider range of instruments than previous projects like synths and steel pedal guitars add a touch of Eno-indebted folk ("When I Struck Out On My Own"), and help the group to personalize the mundane and transcend the trappings of slacker rock.

Part of what makes Nap Eyes special is the guitar solos, handled by Brad Loughead. I was fortunate enough to see the band open for Destroyer at the beginning of the month, and Loughead's remarkable fretwork — psychedelic, impetuous, and caterwauling all at once — elevated the band's live presence considerably. Over email, Loughead named the guitar solos that have inspired him the most throughout his career.

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Neil Young, "On The Beach"

Neil has so many great ones but for me, nothing touches the syrupy off the cuff perfection of the "On the Beach" solo, my favourite guitar solo ever. The melodies are beautifully melon collie and the playing so full of emotion yet chilled out and controlled. My favorite part is the bend down at 3:03 to that maj7 where it sounds like he switches to the neck pickup for the warmer tone... it gets me every time. I've yet to try the "honey slides" thing... maybe next Nap Eyes recording session.

Robert Fripp – “Evening Star”

What can I say? Fripp is a genius sent from some alien heaven. He has this way of throwing in a “wrong”-sounding note, sticking on it, then relieving it in the most beautiful way. He pretty much only plays guitar solos. His tone is highly coveted and I have yet to rip off his sound correctly, but trust I plan to keep trying! The person I’ve heard get the closest is James Elkington (who produced and played a bunch of stuff on Snapshot of a Beginner). And speaking of Jim...

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James Elkington – “Late Jim’s Lament”

His solo here is probably the best acoustic guitar solo I’ve ever heard. He’s an endlessly inspiring musician/person and I’m honored to have him as a mentor. You can also catch him ripping it up live in the Jeff Tweedy band... speaking of Tweedy...

Wilco – “Hell Is Chrome” / “At Least That’s What You Said”

The only thing to do as a teenager in the little town where I grew up was drive around, get stoned, and listen to music. That suited me just fine. A Ghost is Born always reminds me of endless snowy drives with pals in my white 1992 Honda Accord. I always felt Tweedy didn’t get the love he deserved for this record and especially for his guitar playing. The solo in “At Least That’s What You Said” is absolutely furious and inspired my playing quite a bit. Then there’s “Hell is Chrome.” This song is perfect in every way, I love the lyrics so much, and that solo. Goddamn. So much feeling, so few notes, so much space. It’s beautiful and agonizing at the same time. Not to mention that delicious fuzz tone.

Jimi Hendrix – “Machine Gun”

How can I not include Jimi? This is like the most cliché list ever ugh haha. This is a live recording and showcases exactly why he deserves the massive acclaim he gets. It’s at once unhinged and controlled. Absolutely wild and sensual. Duh, he’s the best.

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Yo La Tengo – “Little Honda” / “Blue Line Swinger”

If it isn’t already blatantly obvious I’ll just go ahead and say Ira Kaplan is the guitar player whose style I rip off the most! Couldn’t pick just one so I went with two different varieties. The solo in "Little Honda" isn’t really a guitar solo, it’s just one drone-y chord never changing and I love that so much. Taught me a lot can be done with a little, sometimes one note is better than 10. "Blue Line Swinger" has the classic noisy as hell, off the rails, feedback style that I employ frequently. It’s just too fun!

Heart – "Crazy On You (Intro)"

Not exactly a “guitar solo” but it IS a ripping solo guitar part so I’m gonna count it. The last phrase before the main rhythm part is the first thing I play every time I pick up an acoustic guitar. Heart are my dad’s favourite band so I learned this one pretty early on and definitely do not play it correctly.

Green Day – "When I Come Around"

Super catchy, simple, non flashy solo. I’ve loved this song since I was 8 years old so I had to include it. It’s how I learned what palm muting is.

Brad Loughead of Nap Eyes talks us through his favorite guitar solos