Ahead of their headline performance at Metropolis Festival in the RDS this November, Totally Dublin caught a few quick words with Alexis Taylor, lead vocalist and keyboardist of Hot Chip, whose excellent sixth album Why Make Sense? was released this summer.
How much of your music is written with live performance in mind specifically? Is there any kind of reverse engineering going on to reproduce things you’ve created in the studio, or do you make the music basically as you would set up live?
We tend to make the music in the studio without a full live set-up. We see the studio as a place to make records and live as something else altogether – and part of the challenge of both disciplines is to make each feel as good as the other, i.e. making a record have live energy or a live show have the attention to detail and balance of a record.
Were there any specific limitations or parameters, beyond just time, that influenced the creation of Why Make Sense? Like, for example, specific equipment?
Most of it was made with some gear we hadn’t used before – specific synths, a Disklavier piano, a dulcitone, a tractor which we hit, etc. And it was all within a room we could set up in and overdub onto simultaneously rather than one at a time. The time constraints meant the lyrics were often written there and then in the studio or structures were made to suit a live take of certain tracks. I think we tracked pretty quickly on top of various demos we had made and a few tracks were just jammed out in the studio.
How did the decision to start covering Dancing In The Dark and All My Friends as a medley come about? Is that a festival-only move? And is there a sense that you’re long enough in the game to get away with dropping absolute banger cover versions into your set?
I was being interviewed about the lyrics from Need You Now and the lines about ‘tired of being myself’ reminded me of Dancing in The Dark’s line about being ‘tired and bored of myself’, as well as Al Green’s ‘I’m so tired of being alone, I’m so tied up on my own’ *[from Green’s Tired of Being Alone]* and it struck me – as a song I have always loved – that it could work as a Hot Chip cover.
We had kind of been in search of the perfect fit cover to end the set, and for me a song like that means as much to me and is small-scale and personal, and it is also a universal and well-known anthemic song. Nebraska, specifically, and a few Born In The USA tracks are some of my favourite pieces of music and I had been quite deep into rediscovering them the months leading up to us rehearsing, so it was enjoyable to try to put our own spin on them. I wanted it to sound like Suicide and remain on one droning note for the long instrumental sections. Once Al [Doyle] added in the D chord on the bass he realised we could easily incorporate the LCD Soundsystem song, so that was where that came from. It is kind of indicative of how Hot Chip works really. I tend to have an idea but not want to enforce it, so if others don’t really hear the Suicide/Spacemen 3 side of what I was getting it, it can then morph into something else rather than one of us just saying, ‘Oh no, it has to be more like this or that’. The two songs seem like happy bedfellows to me really.
Finally, what records have been blowing your mind this year?
The Roches’ self-titled LP, Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love, Joe’s Thinking’ About twelve-inch release on Text Records, the live version of Spacemen 3’s Suicide; John Martyn’s Grace and Danger and Jamie Lidell’s single Believe in Me on Soundcloud.
Hot Chip play the Main Hall on Saturday 7 November at the Metropolis Festival in the RDS.
Words: Ian Lamont