We sat down with Chairlift and chatted about Australia and backstage raves. Here's an excerpt.
Street: We’re curious — what do you guys do 30 minutes before a show and 30 minutes after a show?
Caroline Polachek: Well, I’m always running late or behind, or backstage thinking “crap, what am I going to wear?” Patrick is usually extremely relaxed and playing hip–hop loudly in the dressing room. And we’re all drinking whiskey. We’re usually talking about the set list and I find that, before going on stage, doing dance warm–ups is more valuable than vocal warm–ups. I like thinking about hand and leg movements. Dancing a little bit in the green room makes me more mentally prepared. You’ll find me doing some really stupid, strange dance moves backstage. Then 30 minutes after the show, we’re usually hanging out with friends who have come to the show. And I love eating — as soon as we get off–stage, even if I’m not that hungry. When you go up on stage you give a lot of energy, so when I’m off, it’s like take take take and I’ll eat just about anything. So if someone put, like, a poisoned burrito in front of me after a show, I’d eat it without question. Actually, speaking of dancing, we’ve been having these mini–raves backstage — turning up the music, turning the lights off. It’s been getting intense.
Street: So you guys are in the middle of a tour right now?
CP: Yeah, we’re playing Dallas tonight — it’s our first time playing there. We usually just play Austin. But we’re doing a full lap of the country right now, which is really exciting. Actually, two days ago we were just on a plane flying out of Australia. We did three weeks of touring there -— and three weeks in Europe — so it was kind of surreal to come back here where our album had already been out for a little bit. It meant that not only were our shows filled out, but people were already singing our songs at us. Loudly. And we were getting really emotional on stage, but it was a really nice feeling.
Street: Three weeks in Australia -— can you talk a little about what that was like?
CP: We were down there for a festival tour — basically they get a couple bands together and they just tour all over Australia. We don’t have anything like that in the U.S. to that extent — we did it a couple of years ago and it was really fun. We did a show in New Zealand and it was like 109 degrees or something. It was so hot that Patrick and I just wore tape over our nipples onstage. We got a little more organized this time, especially in the wardrobe department. It was really amazing though — it was the first set of shows we had done after the album came out and luckily, our record was getting played a lot on the radio in Australia. So people who had never seen us before knew all the words to a bunch of our songs. It was an awesome atmosphere: festival crowd, palm trees and everyone was singing along. And the Australian crowds get a little more rowdy than American ones do. So that was really fun. Another great thing about going on tour there was making friends with so many American bands. We were down there with bands we were already friends with, like Washed Out, but we really got to bond with some others, like Girls.
Street: Something, your most recent album, has gotten some major critical acclaim. How do you guys feel about that?
CP: Well, I think that people are getting it. It’s interesting to see how different a lot of the reviews are. A lot of people say it’s a really emotional break–up record, other people are saying it’s a very happy poppy record, and other people are saying it’s more experimental than our first record while other people are saying it’s more commercial. So I really get a kick out of checking out all the different points of view. I mean, Patrick and I honestly have very split personalities — we’re both a little schizo and ADD — so it does seem fitting to us for there to be so many different responses to [the album] but I’m glad that people are really enjoying it. I think it’s a record that requires people to have it for a while, you know, I think it’s not all on the surface. And maybe that’s not a good thing. But I think it benefits having been lived with.
Street: Can you talk a little about the different characters on different songs on Something?
CP: Well, by the time we’re done with a song, especially by the time we’re mixing, the character in the world of each song is very set. I remember having very vivid visual experiences while mixing the album and seeing different narratives being carried out in each song that I didn’t even think of while writing them. But as far as starting the songs, some songs do start with a character and a world that’s envisioned and some, like for example, “Amanaemonesia,” started with a bass line. And then the melodies came in and then from that we slowly started seeing the characters. Whereas with “Met Before,” it came with a scenario that struck me on the sidewalk outside the studio one day. Our studio is near a really busy subway stop and… just the experience of getting out of the subway stop and catching the eye of someone that you remember meeting. I met my boyfriend, at a Chairlift show actually, and remember seeing him in the crowd and thinking that I knew him from somewhere. Turns out I saw him playing on stage three weeks before. So it got translated pretty directly in the song. But on “Sidewalk Safari,” we had the idea of this kind of middle–aged woman, maybe she has Botox, and she’s brutal, maybe she has a slight British accent. She came together as a character very naturally. And, you know, I think having a sense of humor is very important. We get to step outside ourselves and become these caricatures of people we’re not, and it’s really fun.
Street: You guys are totally having a ball in the music video for “Met Before.” On a logistical level, though, how did you manage to make a “choose your own adventure” music video?
CP: Well, it took seven days of shooting, and we couldn’t really re–shoot anything. Which was kind of difficult for me, because I’m kind of a control freak. It was actually really amazing, though — we have some friends who are getting their PhDs at a school and they let us use all their genetic equipment. We were, like, walking on air. All the gear we were using was real. It struck us really precisely on what we were doing — like using laser–powered stuff. We got to let out our inner science nerds.
Street: We had read that you guys had came up with a lot of these songs while sitting around in the daytime, drinking coffee. What’s the drink of choice?
CP: Patrick and I were addicted to this thing called “dirty chai” when we were making the record. It’s like two or three shots of espresso in chai tea.
Street: So you guys are going to be at Lollapalooza at July. What’s in the cards down the road?
CP: Well, there’s a couple more music videos in the works, and I’ve just started a collaboration with someone really exciting. I can’t say anything else — French. I’ll leave it at that. We’re going to Europe over the summer and we’ll be back playing in the States after. Patrick and I are working on some new songs so we’ll have some new stuff to play when we get back.
Street: One last thing — word association. What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think, toaster?