Chapin Sisters release new EP; touring w She & Him

On May 18 L.A.’s Chapin Sisters release “Oh, Hear The Wind Blow” digitally
and on vinyl (being sold at their live shows). This EP was recorded live
in the studio and features three songs from their “Lake Bottom LP” and two
of the compositions that will appear their second full length release
“Two.” “Two” was recorded in rural New Jersey in the Summer of 2008 with
co-producers Jesse Lee (Gang Gang Dance) and Louie Stephens (Rooney), it
is being released this August.

In August of 2008, Abigail and Lily along with their co-producers
retreated to an old family farm in New Jersey where they put-together a
studio and recorded the new album. Starting with the plaintive acoustic
guitar picking and plangent three part-harmonies that the sisters are
already known they added resonant keyboards, layered percussion, ringing
electric guitars and even more warm, rich vocal lines. The songs on “Two”
are built upon contradiction. The Chapin Sisters’ lilting voices, lush
harmonizing, and lovely folk-influenced melodies are wedded to dark, wryly
sarcastic lyrical content — seemingly polar opposites. Their words are
sometimes cheeky, sometime utterly forlorn; they all express heartbreak,
love lost and disillusionment from different and unique angles, while
their singing expresses an exultant celebration of life.

In the 1920’s, their great-grandfather Kenneth Burke (at the time, the
editor of literary magazine The Dial) bought 120 acres of farmland in
rural New Jersey with a little stream that he dammed and named “Lake
Bottom.” The hugely expansive Burke-Chapin clan still owns the property
and the 10 funky buildings on it, and it has provided a summer and holiday
retreat for the family for the last 80 years.

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

When the family relocated to 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 Shape-note songs and 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. Abigail studied Art History
at Oberlin College then afterwards, designed costumes for Nickelodeon
while Lily worked for legendary documentarian Barbara Kopple after earning
a degree in English Literature from Wesleyan University.

All along, the sisters continued to sing whenever possible. A few times a
year, they would get together with their musical Chapin relatives: father
Tom, uncle Steve, grandfather Jim (the legendary jazz drummer and
teacher), cousin Jen and half sister Jessica Craven, taking part in the
World Hunger Year and Long Island Cares benefit concerts inaugurated by
their late uncle, singer-songwriter, humanitarian Harry Chapin 30 years
earlier and still continued to the present day. Singing Chapin classics
and protest songs, they honed their inherent harmony skills to pass muster
with the sharp musical ears of their family.

They became an actual group when Lily, Abigail and Jessica gathered in a
Los Angeles recording studio in the Spring of 2004 to cover some pop,
new-wave and gangsta-rap songs as a spoof at the instigation of brother
Jonathan Craven. The punchline was their beautiful voices and the natural
way they fell into stunning 3-part harmony. But once the trio began
rehearsing, the joke was over; the sisters realized that they had created
something powerful and unique that couldn’t 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, their premonition was confirmed. They began spending
their nights writing and arranging the songs that would become their debut
Lake Bottom LP.

Since 2004 the sisters have garnered devoted live followings in L.A., New
York and San Francisco. Since they first became a performing unit, The
Chapin Sisters have graced recordings by Vetiver, Lavender Diamond, Gary
Loures, Will Oldham and Marie Sioux, among many others. They have
performed live with DMC (Daryl McDaniels of Run DMC) – this past fall,
when touring with Harper Simon, they appeared on stage with Money Mark
(Beastie Boys), Russell Simmons (Blues Explosion) and Benmont Tench (The
Heartbreakers). Jessica Craven is currently on leave from the line-up
looking after a new baby. In the spring of 2010, Abigail and Lily set out
on tour with She and Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward) as members of their
band. They are also opening some of the shows.

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