Interview: Hot Chip
This year I edited Time Out London's 2012 Festival Guide and we put one of my favourite bands, Hot Chip, on the cover. I interviewed them about their forthcoming (and ruddy excellent) new album 'In Our Heads' and sleeping through festival performances. Here's the original version on Time Out but you can read the extended version after the jump.
In a highlight of the festival season, Hot Chip return to Lovebox as headliners in June. The band talks to Kate Hutchinson about bringing some heat to the east
When it comes to festivals, few homegrown acts spark the same feverish excitement as Hot Chip. The London electronic quirk-pop quintet’s live shows are laser-blazing assaults that trigger pogoing like wildfire, all frantic, percussion-driven jams, surprise cover versions and guest musicians, seamlessly building, like a properly immersive DJ set should do, towards a gloriously euphoric climax.
In other words, perfect festival fodder.
So imagine our elation when Lovebox, the one time of year when east London’s disco DJ deviants scoop up their record bags and march into Victoria Park, announced the band as their Friday night headliners. It’s a mere drunken roly-poly or five from our front doors! We can dress up silly, dance hard and go home to our own beds at the end of the night!
Hot Chip’s first headline London gig in two years, at Heaven on June 13, will be a launchpad for their new rather excellent fifth studio album, ‘In Our Heads’. They play Lovebox two days later, neatly reflecting their place both in the capital’s rave basements and the world’s mega-stadiums.
You would be, however, forgiven for wondering whether Hot Chip were going to make another album at all. During this unofficial two-year hiatus, Hot Chip’s multi-instrumentalist Al Doyle, who played with LCD Soundsystem for their farewell tour in 2010, started New Build with the band’s drum machine maestro Felix Martin. Meanwhile, frontman Alexis Taylor formed jazz improv superband About Group and producer/vocalist Joe Goddard toured around the world as one-half of dance duo The 2 Bears dance, as well as releasing a successful solo single, ‘Gabriel’, at the tail-end of last year. And on top of that, they’ve been DJing across the world’s most iconic clubs, from Cocoon to Space via Ministry of Sound.
Consequently, while 2010’s ‘One Life Stand’ was concerned with growing up and settling down as the band matured into their thirties, ‘In Our Heads’ is a return to the dancefloor. It continues to swirl together sisterly strands of electronic and hip hop music together – disco, garage, house, new beat and R&B – but it does so with slicker, more sophisticated production. The album’s smouldering taster track ‘Flutes’ is a case in point: a truly epic house anthem that is as bittersweet as it is banging.
Time Out caught up with Alexis and Joe on the rooftop of East End arts hub Netil House to talk about their new album and why they owe the Lovebox crowd something special this year…
Where would we find you at a festival?
Joe ‘It depends on the festival. If it’s cool, with good bands on, then I’ll be watching them. But if it’s your run-of-the-mill bollocks, then I’ll be in the cargo container that they give you for a dressing room, picking over the bad selection of crisps and melted chocolates on the camping table, drinking warm beers to the constant thud of a kick drum rattling the walls. Owen [Clarke, Hot Chip multi-instrumentalist] particularly hates that sound.’
Do you still get into the festival spirit?
Alexis ‘I get into it more than a lot of people, in that Hot Chip play about 40 festivals a year! We’re pretty dedicated to checking them out.’
Was it a relief to see Hot Chip come back together and get into the studio?
Joe ‘We all had a great time doing our own thing, but coming back felt comfortable. We’re all reasonably mature about making music together now – it’s not like everyone in the band is fighting to play bass on a song – so we can focus on making each one as good as possible. Alexis and I have been writing music together since we were 15: we work very intuitively. We don’t need to feel around in the dark to try and find out what it is the other one wants to do. There are tracks on this record that are the best we’ve ever done, and in terms of producing I’m only just starting to feel like I know what I’m doing.’
Did you write 'In Our Heads' with the festival season in mind?
Alexis ‘Actually, we made it relatively quickly, at the end of last summer, and we were working in a windowless room away from sunshine. So we weren’t channeling that deliberately, but it’s nice if it can accidentally reflect something to do with the summer, and hopefully it will work at festivals. We did a bunch of interviews in the States where they were saying it was such a great spring record, so maybe we’re making music for all four seasons.’
It's certainly a more house-music-focused album than your previous releases…
Joe ‘I guess coming from The 2 Bears back to Hot Chip influenced the dancier sound somewhat. I was only just discovering house music when we started the band. Our first record is much more in line with R&B and hip hop, but the influence of different kinds of house and garage became stronger for all of us over the years. We’re still living in London and buying tons of new vinyl and getting excited by the new things going on. We haven’t made enough money to be living in a country house and not be keeping an ear to the ground.’
Has all of the DJing you've been doing had an effect on the new album?
Alexis ‘Even after making the record, I feel like I have been DJing a lot more than ever before, so it can’t have helped but have an effect. It helps you to think about the DJs you’d like to remix your tracks and the different contexts in which the song will work. It also helped to put ‘Flutes’ out that way. It isn’t something we thought of as a single – it’s over seven minutes long – but as a club track, which came out before the album. It got lots of positive feedback, so that told us that what we’re doing is working.’
What’s been your most memorable festival so far?
Alexis ‘I suppose it was our first performance at Lovebox [in 2006], at which Joe and Owen both overslept and didn’t turn up. In Joe’s case, he only woke up after we’d finished playing. And in Owen’s case, he turned up for the last song, walked on stage and joined in as if he’d been there the whole time.’
What must you have been thinking?
Alexis ‘I think, “What must they have been drinking?” is more the question.’
Do you have anything to say for yourself, Joe?
Joe ‘It was incredibly bad. And it was the first time we’d played Lovebox! The night before we put on an amazing party [with Joe’s label, Greco-Roman] until six in the morning. We had wrestlers in a ring and Alexis and I put on masks and did this crazy half DJ, half live set of new songs. Then afterwards everyone, including Owen, came back to my house to carry on. It got to the point where we were like: “Have you ever smelled Play-Doh as an adult? Because, let me tell you, it smells amazing!” Anyway, I went to bed much too late and I woke up at five in the afternoon, an hour after Hot Chip had been on stage. Needless to say, that was the last time I’ve ever done that.’
What did you do in the end?
Alexis ‘We had to perform as a three-piece. Al had to learn and programme everything that Joe plays about 30 seconds before going on stage, and we had to get Stephen Cracknell from The Memory Band to play cowbell and keyboard with us. Funnily enough, we discovered afterwards that the volume knob had been turned down, so he had really only been miming. One of the best things, though, was the people who came up to Joe and told him what a great show it was. So I suppose we got away with it…’
Will you make up for it this year?
Alexis ‘Yes, we’re going to have seven people on stage, rather than five – or even three! – and that’s going to make all the difference. We have a new drummer, Sarah Jones, and Grovesnor, who’s been in the touring band [on drums, guitar, synth] for a while. I love playing Lovebox because it feels friendly and familiar: we’re from London and we’re playing in London. People we know come down and you can go to a nearby pub when it’s finished.’
Joe ‘The Lovebox performance is particularly exciting because it’s at the beginning of our tour, and our new show will be fresh. We started the rehearsals recently and we’re aiming for it to be bigger and better than ever before. We always try to design the live show so that it moves like a DJ set: some covers and segueing from a song from the new record into a track from two albums ago. And, like Alexis says, we’ve added some new people, so there’ll be more of us getting sweaty.’
‘In Our Heads’ is released on June 11 on Domino. Buy it now from Amazon.