Folk singing and songwriting duo the Chapin Sisters – comprised of actual sisters Abigail and Lily Chapin – are readying their first album of new material in five years, Today’s Not Yesterday. It promises to depict the pair coming full circle, both to their penchant for writing original songs and a return to their Hudson Valley home where they were raised. The sisters did not have an ordinary childhood, growing up in the shadow of their grandfather, the jazz drummer Jim Chapin, as well as their iconic uncle Harry Chapin, who was well-known for his storytelling ability in songs like “Cats in the Cradle.” Then, of course, there was their father, Tom Chapin, a three-time Grammy winning singer-songwriter. Thus their childhood was a steeped in the folk tradition of the Pete Seeger-influenced Hudson Valley.
When Abigail and Lily first decided to go into music full-time, they made the calculated choice to move as far west from the Hudson Valley as possible, to Los Angeles, where they brought their folk sensibilities to an alternative rock band with their half-sister Jessica Craven. Craven eventually dropped out of the band to spend more time with her newborn baby, leaving Abigail and Lily as a duo, appearing on the same bills with L.A. punk bands.
“Moving to L.A. was something we needed to do to establish our own identity,” Abigail told me in a recent interview. "It was really empowering. There was a completely separate musical community than the one we had grown up with. No one else we knew in L.A. was in a folk band. It felt subversive.”
That subversion led to Abigail and Lily working out two-part harmonies that would eventually lead to the release of their 2013 album, A Date with the Everly Brothers.
According to Abigail it was just the right artistic move for developing their vocal sound. “Recording the album was like a master class in harmony singing. We learned so much.”
If the Everly project was an advanced course in vocal blends, then Today’s Not Yesterday, which is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign, is applied lessons, as they pay homage to their former L.A. home. To record the album, they returned to the Echo Park district of Los Angeles and teamed up with their co-producer and bass player Dan Horne. According to Abigail, they went for a classic '70s rock feel in the mode of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours era.
"I can't imagine making it anywhere else besides L.A.,” she adds. “We were with our tribe. Jonathan's studio is in a beautiful house. We recorded to tape, using Jackson Browne's old tape machine. We did some overdubs, but mostly everything was recorded live. There was fruit on the trees; you could hang out on the rope swing outside. Everybody came by the studio. It was an idyllic time.”