Synth-pop group's guitarist reveals what to expect from their long awaited seventh album and headline slot at Glasgow's new Playground Festival
Approaching their third decade, Hot Chip have become something of an institution. With their unique blend of synthpop, disco, house, R&B, hip hop, and everything in-between, they have consistently managed to balance critical acclaim with chart-bothering bangers. As they gear up to release their seventh studio album, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, guitarist Owen Clarke insists there's no great tale to tell around the long wait between releases.
'We all need some headspace,' Clarke says, 'spending time with family, living your life, that is how you recharge and add to the well.' In the four years since their last album Why Make Sense?, the group have focused on separate projects, with Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor each releasing solo albums and Al Doyle resuming his role with a resurrected LCD Soundsystem. The Hot Chip flag has continued to fly however, with DJ sets and 'Megamix' shows (a blend of live performance and DJ set) keeping the members active, in communication, and considering music. 'We are always thinking "maybe this is or is not a Hot Chip thing"' Clarke explains, 'so when we come back together we can bring those ideas to the table.'
They worked with two producers on the new album, Rodaidh McDonald and Philipe Zdar (one half of French duo Cassius), marking the first time the group has overtly worked with outside help. 'It may not be a huge news story – "band works with producer" – but for us, seven albums in, it is actually a little challenge,' says Clarke, detailing how working with outside help forced them to look at the music differently. Zdar's influence, in particular, can be found on the latest album, with the lightness of his 'French touch' style adding another layer to the group's sound.
The album is described as 'a celebration of joy that recognises the struggle it can take to get to that point of happiness,' something that Clarke admits the band has always been enamoured with. 'It's a theme that runs through dance music … the lyrics come from a position of emotional struggle but then the music can be unexpectedly uplifting.' One of the tracks on the new album, 'Positive', speaks directly to a character plagued with illness, loneliness and sadness. These themes are juxtaposed against euphoric music and a blissful chorus that offers a light in the darkness.
Hot Chip's studio output is not immediately replicable in a live setting. For their shows, they balloon to a seven-piece and essentially relearn their music. Tinkering with their back catalogue, they add subtle newness to arrangements. 'When we come back to the recordings it's like "oh that's how that is",' explains Clarke. 'It's a nice way of keeping it alive. We could knuckle down and learn them exactly as they are on the record, but that is not why people go to gigs, and that is not the reason we do gigs; we do them to create a new experience.'
Since their early days, Hot Chip have been a dependably great live act, and have injected life into festivals everywhere. 'Festivals are a big part of what we do, we have been doing them for a while and we realise now that we know how it works.' They will headline the final night of the inaugural Playground Festival in Glasgow in August, playing after a hefty line-up of electro-pop from Django Django, Little Dragon and Maribou State.
Clarke recognises that getting a festival set right is not a given, and a band has to work for it, something that Hot Chip are sure to do in Glasgow. 'There is an energy that coalesces, and when it goes well, it is a great thing to capture, to be part of this big moment.'
Playground Festival, Rouken Glen Park, Glasgow, Fri 2–Sun 4 Aug. A Bath Full of Ecstasy is out Fri 21 Jun on Domino.
A wildly infectious, synth-pop dream– There's something odd about Hot Chip. Some fracture between conception and actuality that makes them all the more intriguing. Banging live show. This is a 14+ event (under 16s must be accompanied by an adult).