In 2008, whispers first broke out about Brooklyn-based electronic pop duo Chairlift. Since then, the band that made music for haunted houses have toured with James Blake; performed a surrealist dance in London’s hip Boiler Room and band-member Patrick Wimberly recently produced Das Racist’s album Relax. Singer Caroline Polachek spoke to Rachel Preece about their new record Something and what 2012 holds for the band. Interview by Rachel Preece.
In 2011 you toured with James Blake in the US – how was it?
It was fantastic – James and his band are so nice and fun to hang out with, and his fans are very attentive – more attentive than we’re used to, actually. People would come up to us after the show and ask us questions about the music that were very detailed; you could tell they were really listening and curious.
Your new record, Something, is out on 24 January. Talk us through the vibe.
We wanted it to be a “yellower” record- more about sunlight and consciousness, but not in a ‘happy’ way; more like the feeling of being in an airplane before takeoff and the light from the landing strip is too brightly shining through the window into your eyes; it’s optimistic and exciting, but bleak. A bit isolating and strange, but kind of eternal. We wanted the record to have longer, sharper teeth, and wider eyes. We wanted the sounds to be more specific of a palette, so this record would have more of its own signature “sound” than our first one, which was a bit all-over-the-map. What we didn’t intend, but happened unconsciously, was that all the songs ended up being about very personal and introverted subjects – all of these songs are kind of monologues, something that would play inside someone’s head in different kinds of moments. If our last record was more about the Chairlift version of our ‘outside world’ (with songs like “Earwig Town”, “Planet Health”, and “Garbage”), this one is about the Chairlift version of our inside world (with songs like “Ghost Tonight”, “Turning”, “Cool As A Fire”, and “Amanaemonesia”.)
How was it working with producer Dan Carey? What influences did he bring to your record?
Dan brought a playfulness of texture- he loves taking sounds and making them have three-dimensional characters. We got very ‘synesthetic’ about how we wanted the synthesizers to sound, and the roles we wanted each one to play in the song. For example, in “Sidewalk Safari”, the main chorus synth was meant to sound like a yellow snake, whereas the background one like a warm, hollow shell, that envelops the rest of the song. Dan always had very spontaneous, brilliant ideas about how to do stuff like that. It really felt like he was our big brother, or a third member of Chairlift by the time we’d finished the record with him.
In autumn 2011 you played at über-cool Boiler Room in London, and performed your surrealist dance for Amanaemonesia for the audience. How did it go down?
I’d previously promised myself that I’d not repeat the Amanaemonesia dance (to keep it unique to the music video), but Boiler room is a show for DJs, and since we’re not DJs, we wanted to be as out-of-format as possible, so couldn’t resist performing the dance without the audience knowing about it in advance. I expected that everybody would hate it, but mostly I think people were confused and freaked out, in a way that they eventually realized was fun. I remember that right as the music began and the dance started; I realized that I was actually fully embodying the song; there was no acting, like there was in the music video. I really felt like an alien in that room, and it was 100% real. I literally was an ambassador of the song.
How has Brooklyn inspired your work?
Brooklyn is like a college campus – you have video facilities, theatres, a giant network of classmates – there are a lot of resources very close at hand here. It serves us in a very practical way, much more than artistically. Living in NY is a constant reminder of how small and unimportant you are, and how hard it is possible to work. However hard you work in one day, some young architect is walking past you on the street and they’ve worked ten times more than you that day. The city is a good reminder that there is never a safety net, and never a ceiling.
You’re playing Laneway at the end of January; do reactions to your music differ depending on where you are in the world?
Definitely – some of our favourite crowds are Paris, London, and the American South. Australia particularly is very in tune with Chairlift these days, I think they get our sense of humour and dream-pacing. So we’re anticipating those shows to be pretty crazy this year.
Check out Chairlift on tour here.
Something will be released via Sony Music on January 24th.