Chairlift Interview

Alex English | 25 September 2012

Caroline Polachek of Chairlift on music, learning to write from Disney songs and why good ideas are like getting your period.

What are you up to at the moment?

I’m at home in the kitchen. We’ve been touring for the last six months, which has been amazing. By far the best touring experience we’ve ever had.

Why is that?

I think the album for one. The songs are really really fun to play live and the crowds have been really responsive and really amazing. I think we’re just kind of sharpening our vision. We’re touring this album with a five-piece band so it’s much louder than anything we’ve ever done on the first record. It has been amazing, like no one’s gotten sick or depressed, we’ve had some really insane experiences and been to some gorgeous places.

Did you get to explore while you were on the road?

It’s usually play and move on but even so, we were able to get a little taste. It’s funny; it’s not really the people that give me the sense of place as much as the architecture. When we drive in and drive out, just seeing the architecture gives me more of a sense of what its like to live in a place and be in a place than meeting people. People are usually pretty great and pretty friendly no matter where we go.

What were the inspirations behind your latest album?

I know that sounds kind of cheesy, but we kind of just had these energies that we were really excited to capture. A lot of them were kind of hard to chase down. I think ‘Wrong Opinion’ was probably the hardest to chase down. We wanted a song that felt kind of like coasting, like you’re in a car and some kind of 90s, champagne-coloured convertible, maybe like Carmen Sandiego driving through the desert. Whereas ‘Amanaemonesia’ we had manic energy, almost like a Dr Seuss, pharmaceutical commercial meets cheerleader energy we wanted the whole thing to have. ‘Frigid Spring’ we wanted to have like a pastoral, coming down off a mushroom trip type of energy. I don’t know, there wasn’t one particular narrative that formed the whole record, it was just different feelings that we wanted to capture.

This is your first album as a duo – did it change the way you had to think about the dynamics of Chairlift?

The nice thing about working with Patrick in particular is that I think we really complement each other’s process, like when one starts losing focus the other steps in and kind of takes the reins. We both have a very different skill set that complements one another as well, so that was good. We have very brother and sister rapport, sometimes we joke that we’re lab partners because it kind of feels like that. It’s not even family, it’s like we’re lab partners trying to discover some molecules or something.

What is your song writing process?

Usually it begins with me having an idea for lyrics or a melody, and then we record it and loop it and then decide what needs to come next. But you know, every song is totally different. For example, I’ve noticed that when we write lyrics first, the whole thing tends to come together quickly because the lyric usually carries so much of the production with it. ‘Ghost Tonight’ was written lyrics first, you know, all the sound came with the visual. We wanted it to feel like this ‘70s jazz club with this girl skulking around and everything about the story just came out of the lyrics. But for example, with ‘Amanaemonesia’, I wrote that bass line in the shower and I recorded it on my phone and then we recorded all these parts and it came together with different sections and different chord changes and beats and we had this whole thing composed without lyrics. It was driving us crazy, we actually wrote six completely different sets of lyrics before we were happy with it.

You’re both geminis – do you believe in astrology?

Yes. I don’t know if it makes us more compatible but we certainly joke that it makes us a four-piece band instead of a two-piece.

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