Near the end of 2008 one of the best albums of the year dropped and although it didn’t make any of our writers top 10 list, it did consistently come up 11th or 10b, we all loved it that much. That album, Does You Inspire You, is by the band Chairlift haling from Brooklyn-slash-Colorado. If you don’t recognize the name, then you would at least recognize their song “Bruises” as it was used in a North American iPod campaign for months on end. The band wrapped up a North America tour a few months back opening for Sebastien Tellier, but are scheduled to do a few more stops, including festivals. While on their busy schedule I was able to catch up with the beautiful Caroline Polachek, lead vocalist in the group.
Killahbeez: Hi Caroline, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Let’s start with the band name, Chairlift, why and what’s the significance / meaning behind it?
Caroline Polachek: A chairlift is a long slow panoramic trip over changing terrain.
KB: Interesting. How did Aaron, Patrick and yourself all meet and eventually make the move to Brooklyn?
CP: I sang in Patrick’s band for a while in 2005 after seeing them open for Cat Power my first day of college in Boulder. (The) Band broke up, and Aaron and I met and swapped demos in the back row of our economics recitation. I started singing backup on the folk songs he was preparing for a recording session at Elliot Smith’s studio in LA, but by the time we got there, we ‘d become a collaboration more than a solo project- we dubbed it Chairlift. Moved to NY shortly after since I transferred to art school there, and ran into Patrick randomly in the street, who came to our show and eagerly asked to join. Adding drums really changed our sound. We’ve been an equal trio ever since.
KB: Wow, that’s a pretty cool story.
KB: With such a great scene continually growing and transforming in Brooklyn and in New York City in general, how has that move influence the bands sound and songs?
CP: There’s a lot of young energy, a lot of entrepreneurship, and a lot of opportunities, but no ‘sound’. The scene is by nature eclectic and experimental, but our particular niche shares a love of pop. We were lucky to have a supportive crew of bands like Yeasayer, MGMT, Grizzly Bear, Boy Crisis, Elizabeth Harper, Violens, Lights, Telepathe etc that were also making their own version of pop music. I don’t think this influenced the songs, but more the vibe and the live setting.
KB: With the whole Chairlift album, Does You Inspire You, I definitely get the sense of being taken on a journey, the music, your voice, it all puts me into this hypnotic state. Was that something intentional on the bands’ part?
CP: One hundred percent.
KB: The band has a distinct ‘80s sound to it, but refreshed and updated. Was that era an influence on the band members?
CP: We weren’t listening to much 80s music- all those sounds came into play because we liked the way they reminded us of the radio, our childhoods, or bad tv.
KB: The bands first video, “Planet Health” was directed by you, is directing music videos something that you want to explore more of down to road?
CP: Yes! I art-directed and wrote the treatment for our “Evident Utensil” video, and have since directed, shot, and edited a video for the closing song on our record, “Ceiling Wax”. I’m doing videos for Violens and Elizabeth Harper at the moment, and am working on the treatments for “Planet Health” and “Bruises”. I love video, and am psyched that art school paid off somehow. Thanks mom!
KB: On the note of music videos, the latest one “Evident Utensils” is seriously trippy. At first I thought my computer was bugging out then I thought I WAS bugging out. What’s the whole concept / story behind the video and why did the band decide to use the data moshing special effect?
CP: Using data moshing was the brilliant Idea of director/international man of mystery Ray Tintori and producer/terrorist Bob Weisz, who we worked with really closely. The grounding concept of the video is a play between the naive eagerness and violent masochism. I was living in the apartment filled with paintings of bondage and torture instruments, so I suppose the imagery got into my bloodstream a bit, and I wanted to go out to the woods with my friends and whip the shit out of each other. Aaron baptized / waterboarded everyone in the river at the end.
KB: Earlier this year you collaborated with Flosstradamus for the record “Big Bills”, which sounds AMAZING. How did that partnership come about? Are there more collaborations for yourself down the road? I find your voice quite entrancing. Hahaha.
CP: Haha, cool. I love collaborating. (Hi Brian Eno :))The Flosstradamus collaboration came together when they approached me out of the blue and invited me to sing on the one-off dance single they were to do for Greenlabel sound. With the exception of our friends HOLY GHOST!, I’d never worked with any dance-scene people, so I was into it. They sent me three 30-second clips to choose from as the starting point, and then two weeks later we met in the studio in LA to do the session with my friend Aaron Espinoza (Earlimart). I played the bass lines, synths, wrote all vocal parts, and added a verse and a bridge. It was two long days of work, but we’re all psyched about it.
KB: Wow, thats insane. The results definitely show as well. Have you always known that singing something that you always wanted to pursue?
CP: Yes, whether that meant in the shower or on stage.
KB: Going back to the band, are there any upcoming collaborations or remixes that fans can look forward to?
CP: Right now I’ve got collaborations in the works with an epic forthcoming pet project of Yeasayer’s, a full-length with Jorge Elbrecht (Violens), backup vox on Sebastian Blanck (former Black Dice), HOLY GHOST!, Acrylics, Boy Crisis, and a remix for Telepathe.
KB: Wow. Definitely a busy schedule ahead. In addition to this, the band has a hectic touring schedule essentially for the first half of the year. What else is on the plate for Chairlift and yourself? Thoughts of a second album being planned?
CP: Videos! New cool website, summer festivals, weird merch. We’ve already got 8 songs contending for the next record, can’t wait to get going on them and weaving them into our live show. As is, our record Does You Inspire You that came out last September is being re released in late April, remastered with two new songs that were intended for the original release but didn’t get arranged in time. I love them- they’re my favorites of the record, and I love watching people’s reactions to hearing these yet unheard chairlift songs.
KB: Very cool. Looking forward to hearing those at your concert. Thanks again for doing the interview. Is there anything you want to say to readers or something you want fans to take away from the album?
CP: It’s the official film soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t officially exist.
KB: Officially the coolest answer ever!
For more info on Chairlift check out their MySpace page at www.myspace.com/chairlift.