Thursday, December 24, 2009


If you’ve ever considered purchasing an iPod nano-chromatic, chances are you’ve heard 'Bruises', Brooklyn-based trio Chairlift’s ubiquitous choral-pop ditty about placing strawberries on a loved one’s wounds and the star of its very own Apple commercial. But if all you've heard is 'Bruises', you might have the wrong impression; you might think that the band is somehow a band caught up in the preciousness of its own delicate hooks and looping vocals. You'd be missing the rest of Chairlift's album, Does You Inspire You, a portal into the band’s imaginative psyche - where sonic shapes float under a haze of reverb and sanguine synth lines dance over decadent lyrical harmonies – as well as their myriad of musical and fashion collaborations. Last week I spoke to Chairlift’s vocalist Caroline Polacheck, ahead of their Australian tour in January, about:

iPod appeal
“We thought that ’Bruises’ being picked for the iPod commercial was great. Our music made it into the hands of people who would have never, ever found our myspace or album otherwise. It put songs like ‘Planet Health’ into the hands of 13 year old girls and ‘Territory’ into the hands 50 year old virgins undergoing open heart surgery. I like any publicity that takes us out of that very picky, very elitist scene.”

Writing soundtracks to haunted houses

“When Aaron and I started Chairlift we were experimenting with electronic loops and ambient soundscapes that were really murky. We made a series of recordings that were intended to be soundtracks for haunted houses. We were really obsessed with making music that would be scary in a film, but not in a way that jumped out at you like squishing guts or screaming, more music that would make you tense or set up an environment for really slow, terrifying things to happen.”

A collective energy in Brooklyn

“Ever since moving to Brooklyn I’ve been into the idea of light pop, surreal pop, as opposed to militant lo-fi. When I was living in Colorado I was listening to music that was way harder, like noise music or metal. Working and playing alongside bands like Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer, Mgmt, Black Dice, Boy Crisis, Telepathe has been really inspiring. They’re a bunch of people that we really connect with and have formed a school with. We all exchange notes and ideas, but we all have our own sound. We're all growing up and evolving together.”

Churches as recording studios

"When we signed to Columbia Records we were asked if we wanted to reissue Does You Inspire You. We went into the studio with Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear. And by studio, I mean church - we camped out in a church in Brooklyn for two days and two nights and recorded ‘Dixie Gyspy’, which is one of two extra tracks on the re-release. There is a supernatural and mysterious element to the song so it’s kind of fitting that it was recorded where it was."

Birth control and a sci-fi world
“A lot of my lyrics fixate on birth control and the pharmaceutical, like in ‘Planet Health’ there’s a bit that goes ‘Our intercourse was well protected/we made love each others eyes/I'm feeling great tonight.’ It’s a topic that is on the one hand extremely hotly tuned because of all the abortion stuff that is talked about in politics, but it’s also something that has been normalized and sanitized. Something that is as spiritual as reproduction and making babies being seen as objective scares the hell out of me. And not in a way that I’m not pro-choice. It’s more that I feel that we’re living in a world that is very sci-fi.”

The sadomasochist, MTV award nominated video for ‘Evident Utenstil’

“Getting nominated for an MTV award was kind of an honour but also a joke. Like, cool, we’re up there with Rhianna and Lady Gaga. I didn’t feel like we belonged there. The song ‘Evident Utensil’ is about the struggle it takes to put a plan into action. So, when it came to the video, we thought, let’s set up this torture garden in the middle of the woods where people have to go through this obstacle course of torture stuff to get their stuff made. It ended up being this really fun romp – a mix between innocent glee and the really weird sadomasochistic. In the end they mostly used footage of us lip-synching, close ups of us lying down in the grass singing. But if you look closely you will see people getting whipped and hung and dragged through ditches. “

Living with an 80s dominatrix and New York fashion

“That sadomasochistic side came from a couple of things. I’ve been living with this artist who used to be a dominatrix in the 80s and her work is feminist sadomasochistic punk paintings. My room is full of whips and chains. I think it’s also kind of a joke about New York too, because right now in fashion it’s totally laughable how punk and bondage have become normal. You’ll see a woman walking her dog, holding her Starbucks cup, and she’s wearing spikes all over her body. Like, really? There are no dungeons in Manhattan as far as I know. “

Modelling wares from the Marc by Marc Jacobs Fall 2009 collection

“I’ve always been a fan of Marc Jacobs, so when we were approached by Saks Fifth Avenue to model clothes from his Fall 2009 collection in a series of video advertisements we jumped at the opportunity. You know, Marc Jacobs sound tracked his Fall 2008 runway show with Sonic Youth, so he is a man of good taste and we were flattered when we found out he was a fan of our music. Music and fashion intersect in a lot of ways. And I got to keep the clothes. Sweet deal.”

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