Lily Chapin
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Lily Chapin

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“[The Chapin Sisters] debut LP, “Lake Bottom” (Plain Recordings), is delicate and charming, packed with frank lyrics, carefully plucked guitars and stunning three-part harmonies.” - New York Times



The Chapin Sisters recently released their debut album, but the three siblings -- all nieces of late singer/songwriter Harry Chapin (of "Cat's in the Cradle" fame) -- have been singing separately and together since they were kids: Jessica, 40, cut class to record commercial jingles, while Abigail, 28, and Lily, 26, pulled children's choir duty on records by the Olsen twins, among others.

"I ran into Mary-Kate at a New Year's Eve party a few years ago," Abigail says, grabbing a bite with her sisters before a show at the Echo in Los Angeles. "I told her I sang on Brother for Sale, 50¢, and she was like, 'Uh…cool…thanks.' "

Others in Los Angeles (where the trio moved from New York—Jessica in 2001, Abigail and Lily in 2004) have received them more warmly: During the Chapins' first year in town, their sparse acoustic cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic" became a surprise hit at influential Santa Monica radio station KCRW. "It's unique," says Nic Harcourt, host of the station's Morning Becomes Eclectic, "and whenever you put something unique on the radio, people respond."

The sisters also perform gorgeous close-harmony renditions of Madonna's "Borderline" and Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me." But for Lake Bottom LP (Plain Recordings) -- the title refers to a family farm in New Jersey -- the Chapins wanted to showcase original material, which they started writing when they realized that "doing a show with five covers would pretty much get us nowhere," admits Jessica.

Adds Lily, "We didn't wanna be stuck singing those songs forever."

On "Let Me Go" and "Wash Away," the sisters bring spooky freak-folk atmosphere to old-timey string-band arrangements -- think The Virgin Suicides set in rural Appalachia. And though the ladies enjoy performing in flowing vintage gowns and playing up the music's cinematic qualities, they also say the songs act as an affordable form of therapy. Jessica, for one, wrote the lyrics to "Kill Me Now" about her recent divorce.

"There's something paradoxically healing about taking the darkest shit inside of you," she says, "and putting it into this really pretty package."

Mikael Wood/Spin June - Spin


“Like (Chan) Marshall, they haunt the interstices of folk, pop, and blues, and play seductive games with the knife-edge of heartache. Their soft harmonies and dark sidelong lyrics fit perfectly into a new folk aesthetic that is more twisted than freaky… There’s a toughness about these songs that rings very true to the blues tradition, even if the words and stories have a modern feel to them. These are girls who don’t love you, they hate your girlfriend, they don’t even like the moon, but they can be hurt, and badly, too. Just don’t expect them to sit around moping about it. More likely they’ll write a song and set their rage into swooning harmonies and achingly pretty folk melodies. Then you’ll be sorry.”- Jennifer Kelly - popmatters.com


There’s a sinister tenderness to this L.A. trio’s sad, soft, gorgeous folk. Comprised of Abigail and Lily Chapin (daughters of children’s music notable Tom, nieces of 70’s legend Harry) and Jessica Craven (daughter of horror director Wes, stepdaughter of Tom), the Chapin Sisters use eerie harmonies to great effect in their meditations on love lost and losing. Their full length debut opens with all three singing in unison:
“My baby hates me, and it’s nobody’s fault but mine.” That track, “Let me Go,” sets the album’s mood and tone – think suicidal. There’s “Kill me Now,” for instance, a tidily cheerless number on which they implore,“Don’t’ want to live sad and lonely, no no/ So go get a rock and stone me.” Depressing sure, but cathartic in a neurasthenic sort of way, too – there’s something enjoyable about the way the sisters spread their misery. Standouts include “Can’t We Please,” an appeal to an ex-boyfriend for mercy (“My demons they dance/ on the bones of our romance”); “Don’t Love You,” in which they inform a potential suitor that, despite how they might act, they’re not really interested in love, they’re probably just drunk; and “Girlfriend,” where they repeatedly explain to a crush how they “don’t like your girlfriend.” The stories marry well to their elegant balladry, and the sisters’ neo-Victorian sensibilities add up to a lingering, almost ghostly result. This is after-dark music that’s meant to creep out you. And it does. - Paper Magazine


Abigail Chapin doesn't want anyone to get the wrong idea. "We're not depressive kinds of people," she says of the Chapin Sisters' "Lake Bottom LP." The trio's debut album, coming out Tuesday, has song titles like "Don't Love You," "Drop Me," "I Hate the Moon" and "Kill Me Now" (which rhymes "lonely" with "stone me" -- in the Shirley Jackson sense). "There's a lot of happiness around," Chapin says. "But, I don't know, I find it hard to write happy songs. I think the melodies that I'm drawn to are minor keys; it's what I like." The tales of love burnout, pleas for forgiveness, dismissed paramours and such are etched upon a spare backdrop of acoustic guitar and brazenly forward three-part harmonies. The soft-pedaled darkness doesn't come out of nowhere: Abigail and her sister Lily (above, from left) are daughters of singer-songwriter Tom Chapin, and half-sister (above, right) Jessica Craven's dad is fright-master Wes. An audacious remake of Britney Spears' "Toxic" first landed them notice, but the songs on "Lake Bottom" are theirs. "One of us brings a song to the table, we work on it together extensively, and then the harmony writing, guitar parts. It takes months." But when they hit the stage: "With the three of us, it's almost like a physical high," says Abigail, "just the harmony in the singing -- there's something really amazing about it." Live: The Chapin Sisters play every Monday in March at the Echo. - LA TIMES



“The Chapin Sisters harmonize with such lush and entrancingly beautiful three-part harmonies that it’s easy to overlook their dark side. The local trio first came to attention in 2005 with their somberly icy version of “Toxic,” discovering the bittersweet melody that lurked underneath Britney Spears’ pop hit, and they similarly turned Madonna’s fluffy “Borderline” into a banjo-plucked, achingly lonely country ballad. The Chapins are just as captivating with their own memorable original songs on their debut full-length CD, Lake Bottom LP, on Plain Recordings (which follows two earlier EPs). The waves of sumptuous harmonies that sweep through “Kill Me Now” belie the song’s sad lyrics, and those febrile voices twine together soothingly and hauntingly on Abigail Chapin’s “I Hate the Moon.” Lily Chapin is more down to earth on the homespun charms of “Wash Away,” while Jessica Craven’s spare, acoustic-guitar-driven “Don’t Love You” floats away with an airy melody. It’s a family affair: The title Lake Bottom LP celebrates the Chapins’ familial connections — their uncle was the late Harry Chapin, Lily’s and Abigail’s father is the singer Tom Chapin, and their half-sister Jessica is the daughter of horror-film maestro Wes Craven.” -Falling James - LA WEEKLY


Neither postured nor precious, The Chapin Sisters are a triple-siren seduction of stunning folk harmonies, royal-lineage storytelling, and unapologetic femininity.
For the past five weeks these indie folkster voodoo angels have taken up Monday night residency at The Echo, bringing us music from a focused, far off, deep place that sounds both collectively natural and wholly inimitable.
Abigail, Lily and Jessica opened the final Echo show on Monday night, sans fanfare, with a mournful and eerie “Sea Shanty,” accompanied only by a measured, hypnotic, foot clicking. The result, as you might imagine, was paranormal. I’m fairly certain at least one person turned into a frog.
The packed room stood for about an hour, fully entranced by the unflinching, neo-prairie princesses. And it wasn’t “girlpower” that had them hooked. What these ladies are peddling is something much more commanding, far more subtle and a great deal more significant.
Their live reconstruction of “Let Me Go,” the first track off their March 18 release Lake Bottom Lp (Plain Recordings / Manimal), was an unexpected confessional; sounding almost prayer-like in its assertions. Painfully pretty, it’s hard to tell whether the lyrics are meant sarcastically (which would make them evil geniuses), or honestly (which would make them evil geniuses). Either way it’s a song that lingers; surprisingly catchy and effortlessly haunting.
“Shady River” was another stand out number with a melody that edged towards cheery, but steered suspiciously into a batch of dark clouds every time it felt followed. With their drummer on tour, the ladies took up tambourine duty on many of the songs, and also called upon some violin mavens to help fill in the sound.
At one point, the stage held five gorgeous and gifted women who appeared to be transmitting a complex message about peaceful solidarity through floral dresses and wedge sandals via an inaudible, mystery frequency. The whatever waves soothed the attending ladies and utterly disarmed the men folk.
They ended the set in a perfect-fit collaboration with the rootsy, Americana outfit, I See Hawks In L.A. The Lily-penned “Palm Tree,” was an absolute model of dusty, alt folk pop, while the cover of Crystal Gayle’s “Why Have You Left The One You Left Me For” was taught a lesson in country rock.
As elegant, leggy, branches of the folk family tree, The Chapin Sisters are fulfilling their destiny, poised with hellbent harmonies and majestic moodiness. Pretty, powerful and innate, the second coming is a trio. -Lisa Brenner - LA.com


The one virtue LA trio the Chapin Sisters shares with classic sister
acts of old becomes apparent when they sing together: that shiver of
spotless, familial unity that makes every syllable woundingly
poignant. - Flavorpill


Meet Abigail and Lily Chapin, and Jessica Craven, daughters of kid folkie Tom Chapin (making them nieces to the late Harry Chapin) and in Jessica’s case, horror maestro Wes Craven. Knowing their paternity gets you close to understanding their murky, ominous folk rock, where their harmonies hold you rapt and, in some cases, make you uneasy. A simple breakup song like “Let Me Go,” from their self-titled debut LP (Plain Recordings), conjures the three sirens from O Brother, Where Art Thou?—alluring, yet potentially dangerous if you don’t free them as requested. And even Britney Spears’ ostensibly vapid “Toxic” (from a prior EP) becomes something altogether different in their hands—an ethereal but visceral lament that ends with an ominous question mark. Gives a whole new meaning to “so good it’s scary.”

On Marrying Trad-Folk Harmonies and Indie Rock Moodiness

“It’s just naturally what we’ve fallen into,” says Abigail. “We grew up singing together so much that… if we were in the car listening to music, we all automatically sang harmony.” Since they were drawn to moody music—such as Delta blues, a favorite in their high school days—“it sort of naturally came together.”

The Chapin Sisters Equation: How Folk, Horror and Pop Princesses Equal Musical Ambrosia

“Horror movies and folk singers are definitely two very different parts of pop culture,” says Abby, “and I guess pop princesses, also. And I think we definitely come from a world that includes both of those things. It influences how earnest we are. Folk music is very earnest and horror movies are very cynical. And I think we’re all of those things.”

What the Folk?

Jessica says the cynicism and disappointment in their songs is why they’re not as popular at the folk festivals as one might think, or they might’ve hoped. “The music at folk festivals today is still very positive and like, ‘Fly with me, up to the…’ Our music has no content like that at all, so we have to cut our set in half; there are certain songs we have to excise because they’re just not acceptable in that circuit. We joke that we’d record ‘death folk’ if that was a genre.”

Toxic: Not So Poisonous?

“‘Toxic’ was one of the first songs that we really recorded together,” Abby says. “[The idea to cover it] came up as a joke. It was on the radio and it was so ubiquitous… And I think as we started working out harmonies, that realization struck us as much as it does anyone else. It really is a good song, and who knew?” Randy Harward/Harp March/April - Harp Magazine


Rolling out with the otherworldly beauty of antique folk and simmering '70s folk-rock, The Chapin Sisters' debut full-length are like Maddy Prior singing honey harmonies with Linda Ronstadt and Shannon McNally with the added delicious synchronicity of sibling resonance. Lake Bottom (released March 18 on Plain Recordings) is a melancholy haul, sad music that makes you grin a little.

Happy records don't begin by saying, "My baby hates me and it's nobody's fault but mine/ He says he'd leave me but he's sure is taking his time." A few cuts later on "Kill Me Now" they proclaim, "You've ruined my life/ Don't defend it/ Just go get a knife and please end it." What's cool about the Chapins is how they take such funereal material and make it glow and tumble in ways that keep Lake Bottom from being a folksy Bauhaus. This is endlessly lovely and all three ladies - Abigail, Lily and Jessica - have a complexity and ingenuous prettiness to their singing that's nigh irresistible. The trio has contributed vocals to recordings by Vetiver, Lavender Diamond, Gary Louris and others, and it isn't hard to see where their presence gives a significant lift to any recording. Here, in their own setting, things are spare and exposed, immediate as a campfire hootenanny if said hoot took place on the ivy covered steps of a country castle.

Producers Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Vetiver) and Mike Daly (Whiskeytown, Grace Potter) keeps things clean and roomy. The ladies' voices soar with some nice ceiling and the largely acoustic instrumentation hits with bright clarity in these tales of dancing demons and hateful moons. Well sung, well played and well written, Lake Bottom is a lovely, engaging first salvo from these very talented sisters. - Jambase.com


Discography

"Lake Bottom LP", the band's full length debut, was recorded in Los Angeles in the summer of 2007 with producers Thom Monahan (Lilies, Devendra Bandhart, Vetiver) and Mike Daly (Whiskeytown, Grace Potter), and was released by Plain Recordings in March of 2008.

"The Chapin Sisters" self titled EP was released on Lake Bottom Records in 2005

"Toxic" the chapin sisters cover of Britney Spears' Toxic brought them a number one requested song 5 weeks running at LA's KCRW.

Their first recordings, cover songs from their first sessions as well as original numbers recorded in a friend’s garage were self-released on 7-song EP that was a CD Baby top seller in 2006. In the winter of 2007, they put out a 12” vinyl-only, picture disc EP split with their friends The Winter Flowers. “Let Me Go,” the opening cut on that EP was so popular on KCRW and KXLU that it’s been included on their full length debut well.

"Through the Wilderness: A Tribute to Madonna" the CS contributed a cover of "Borderline" to this compilation (other artists of note include Ariel Pink, Lavender Diamond, The Tyde).

Photos

Bio


The Three sisterss got together in a Los Angeles recording studio in the Spring of 2004 to cover some pop, new-wave songs on a lark, but once the the three sisters began rehearsing the joke soon was over; the trio realized that they could create something special that should not be treated lightly. When that weekend’s recording of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” landed them in heavy rotation on Los Angeles’ influential KCRW, then indie radio stations across the country, instincts were confirmed. Over the next few years, they spent evenings writing and arranging the songs that would become Lake Bottom LP.

Even with a cursory listen to the album or a live performance, it’s immediately, abundantly clear that these women have been singing harmony together their entire lives.
Growing up in a household in Brooklyn where music was the family business, these three spent endless car rides working out canons and 3-part choral pieces to pass the time. They couldn’t help but pick up a grounding in traditional American roots music and folk-rock from Abigail and Lily’s father, 3-time Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Tom Chapin.

Raised in New York’s Hudson Valley, Lily and Abigail attended a Waldorf school whose arts-based education added training in orchestral music and the complicated harmonies of old English folk ballads to what they’d picked up from their father. Through elementary and high school they sang on over a dozen albums including a number of Tom’s as well as the first two Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen albums. After they went away to college it appeared that this childhood adventure might have reached its conclusion.

Since they officially became a band, The Chapin Sisters have been sought out by fellow musicians to lend their enchanting vocal presence to recordings by Vetiver, Ann Magnusen, Lavender Diamond, The Jayhawks’ Gary Louris, Rooney, and others. Live in concert they have sung back-ups for Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC.