Monday, October 15, 2007

Interview: Maps

Maps has come a long way.

The man behind the moniker is James Chapman, who painstakingly assembled the tracks on his debut full length We Can Create on a 16-track recorder within the confines of his bedroom.

“I really love just creating stuff on my own; I get a real buzz out of creating something from scratch. I see it as a kind of puzzle that you just put together,” says Chapman.

Things accelerated rapidly. Mute Records reacted positively to demos, and Chapman eventually worked with producer Valgeir Sigurðsson to flesh out the tracks. The pair finished in Reykjavik, Iceland, an ethereal environment far removed from Chapman’s native Northampton, a town he describes as best known for its shoes.

We Can Create wraps Chapman’s romanticism in an electronic sheen. Keyboard peaks and vocalization allude to Chapman’s labelmates M83, and his abstract approach is consistent with Chapman’s fondness for experimental pop groups such as Animal Collective and Deerhunter.

Maps also fits snugly into the ongoing shoegaze revival; “Elouise” recalls Slowdive’s “Alison” in both title and sound, while “Liquid Sugar” has been cited as a “lost track from Loveless,” a resounding compliment. The album is impressively grandiose without sacrificing personality, and the unassuming Chapman brings restrained, suitably dreamy singing amidst synthesized swirls.

We Can Create was recently nominated for the Mercury Prize, and Chapman performed “It Will Find You” at the awards ceremony. “It was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my entire life,” says Chapman, but he wasn’t alone. Not content with merely replicating his music via laptop, Chapman performs live with a full band, adding both visual spectacle and instrumental depth to his songs.

It’s a dramatic step from bedroom producer to rock band frontman, but Chapman has grown into the role without sacrificing any of his introverted creativity. Maps recently toured the United States, making stops along both coasts, and Chapman recounts his experiences with candid clarity, describing the terror of New York drivers and the aimlessly wandering throughout Los Angeles.

For Maps, the journey doesn’t end.


Thanks to Stephanie from Mute and James for making the interview possible. You can stream Map’s set on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic. You can grab an mp3 of “Elouise” over at the KEXP Blog. You can read stories from the same interview at The Sky Report and the CMJ Blog, and if someone tracks down the fourth piece, feel free to share it.

Maps is currently back home touring the UK.

MySpace: Maps
Official Site: Maps

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