Inspiration, stylings and getting bored - Hot Chip interview
Back with an album packed with real instruments, hymns to male friendship and informed by increasingly grown-up personal lives, Hot Chip are maturing into a proper band.
Rumour has it that the mighty Hot Chip have gone a bit soft. They’ve never been strangers to a warm and fuzzy lyric – in fact, wearing their hearts on their sleeves has always been a perfect foil for their super-infectious, danceable beats. For their latest album though, the follow up to Made in The Dark, they’ve wandered into officially soppy territory. Hot Chip’s website promised a few months back that One Life Stand, would ‘warm the cockles of your soul’, and a look at the tracklist reveals two mentions of the word ‘love’ and another song called ‘Slush’.
‘We didn’t sit down and have a band meeting, and say we wanted to write an album about love’, explains Joe Goddard, one of the original twosome which began Hot Chip over ten years ago. ‘But with hindsight, those kinds of things have definitely been affecting us. We’re feeling quite settled and happy, and it’s coming through on the songs we’re writing.’
The boys are a pretty loved-up bunch these days, and have come a long way from the uber-geekery and playfulness of their dizzyingly good 2006 breakthrough, The Warning. It was there that they first introduced us to the itchy playground funk of ‘Boy From School’ and a certain little monkey with a miniature cymbal on ‘Over and Over’.
Outsize spec-loving frontman, Alexis Taylor recently became a dad. He wrote a few of the songs on One Life Stand while holding his newborn daughter, Prudence, in one hand, and playing piano with the other. Goddard, his musical partner since school, got married just over a year ago, and wasn’t surprised when his newfound domestic bliss started spilling over into the songwriting.
‘We wanted to be quite clear and direct about what we wanted it [the album] to say, says Goddard. ‘Sometimes our lyrics can be quite obtuse, and people often ask us what they’re about. We wanted to be really explicit this time – these are songs about love and our relationships.’
So, while ‘Alley Cats’ sings about a person who ‘needs attention, loses patience, seeks affection’, ‘Brothers’ leaves the listener in no doubt about the importance these boys place on friendship. Coupley caring-sharing moments give way to tender buddy-love with lines like, ‘I would give my life for my brothers’, or ‘I can play X-Box with my brothers/ I will drink my fill with my brothers’.
But while it’s heartening to hear such contented souls sharing all this joy in their lives, it begs one very important question – is it any good? Or to quote one straight-talking New York music blog, ‘Can you even grind to Hot Chip or is it on some sidehug shit?' When the new album got played in List Towers the other day, it passed the ‘shoulder test’ with flying colours. After a few songs, shoulders were involuntarily twitching and rolling to the sounds of 90s chart house, 80s Prince and 70s soul. By the time we reached the single and album title track, ‘One Life Stand’, although hands were still typing on keyboards, heads were nodding like woodpeckers, and torsos were chair-dancing without realising.
Although it delivers catchy hooks and wonky noises as expected (Steel drums, helium vocals and 2 Unlimited rhythms? Check, check, check.), Goddard said they tried moving away from their trademark synths and electronica, towards a more classic sound.
‘I think it sounds like an older record, something from the 70s. There are more real instruments this time; pianos, bass guitar, drums. There are still synths, but they’re more subtle, in the background.
‘I guess the last album was trying to be more futuristic, more crazy, 21st century, synthy and weird. This one’s going back to basics.’
Among the genres inspiring the band as they recorded the album, Goddard says most can be traced to that top-right corner of North America – and the sounds of Detroit and Chicago. ‘There’s a real musical lineage in those cities,’ says Goddard. ‘It covers soul music, jazz, Motown, deeper dance like Theo Parrish and Carl Craig, into more technoey stuff. ‘ Returning the compliment, Carl Craig has already remixed tracks from One Life Stand, as has Glasgow’s Drums of Death.
As a group, Goddard says all five members bring different musical tastes to the table. For his part though, he can’t get enough of 90s hip hop. ‘If I could pick my dream collaboration, I’d love to work with older rappers like Kool Keith or Q-Tip, that would be so cool.’
For the live shows this fortnight, Goddard isn’t quite sure what crowds should expect.
‘There’s always a tension in our band – between those who want to go the whole hog and dress up and have every part of our performance all worked out, and the others who want to wear what they normally wear. We’ve never been able to really agree.’
So what side is he on?
‘I kind of veer. I love bands like Nirvana and Pavement, who just come on in ripped jeans and a t-shirt and play. They’re not too styled and just let the music speak. But at the same time I loved Bjork’s live show, and all the costumes and amazing face paints. Devo had an incredible artistic package too – we’re trying to think of ways of becoming more like that. It lets you be creative, and it can be a lot of fun.’
‘I think like anyone, we get bored sometimes. It’s always good to keep trying out different things.’
One Life Stand, the single, and album, are out now on Parlophone Records. Hot Chip play O2 Academy, Glasgow on Fri 12 Feb and HMV Picture House, Edinburgh on Sat 13 Feb. www.hotchip.co.uk