In The Studio: Chairlift: “I had a sound in my head that was different to anything we had done before”

As the duo prepare to release their third full-length, they speak to DIY about finding a new space, feeling experimental and drawing from real life.

From working with Beyoncé to finding the space for their own studio in an already-crammed city, the past few years have been pretty busy for Chairlift. Now, however, they’ve cleared their diaries and are finally gearing up to release a new record, ‘Moth’.

Introduced by the funky brilliance of first single ‘Ch-Ching’, the duo’s third full-length finds them exploring a whole new world of sounds. Following on from their previous efforts ‘Does This Inspire You’ and ‘Something’, the band found themselves in their own space, ready to follow their own rules. Inspired by imagery, films and a new urge to be entirely honest within their lyrics, the band’s Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly offer up an insight into just some of the inspirations behind their newest offering.

How exactly did things begin when making ‘Moth’? What was your starting point?

Patrick Wimberly: Well, the first thing was we knew that we wanted to find a space that we could work in; originally, it was just for a couple of months but then, by the time we found a really nice place, we ended up working for much longer. The space was going to be the centre of the project. We wanted to be very explorative in our own world with instruments and gear. We were really digging to find new those sounds.

Caroline Polachek: I had a sound in my head that I really wanted to get out, that was different to anything we had done before: it was like, juicy and emotional and highflying. At first, we started by looking at images and pictures that sort of reminded us of that kind of sound.

In terms of the sound of ‘Ch-Ching’, it does seem to have a very visual feel to it. Was that something that continued throughout the process?

Caroline: We actually had a DVD player in the studio and there was one movie in particular that we watched about 500 times on silent, and it may or may not have sub-consciously effected [the album]. It’s probably not anywhere near as good with the sound on, as it is with the sound off! It’s called Zardoz.

Patrick: It was Sean Connery’s big follow-up to his James Bond movies. It’s a sci-fi film and it was not well received, but we love it!

How long do you reckon it took for you to actually find a space to work in?

Patrick: It actually took a while. It’s tough to find a good space where you can be loud all of the time. We called around a bunch of places and as soon as you mention that you want to build a studio, your prospective landlord will quickly hang up the phone on you. Then, we found this building that used to be a factory in Brooklyn and wrote an email to the managers of the building and said, ‘Hey, we’re a band called Chairlift and we want to make a record in your large building which seems pretty empty. Do you think we could find some room?’ We could get set up really fast, and just start making the sounds. It took about a month, but now we’ve been in there two and a half years.

It’s been almost four years since you released ‘Something’, but obviously you’ve both had your own separate projects. How long do you think you spent working on ‘Moth’, or did your other work just end up overlapping and blending together with the album process?

Chairlift: "I had a sound in my head that was different to anything we had done before"

Caroline: It’s hard to say because we were always working on it, even while we were working on other things. Even while I was doing my solo project Ramona Lisa, and Patrick was off producing other bands, Chairlift was still a constant. Because we were working on our own and not with a producer, we were really working at our own pace and experimenting a lot along the way, scrapping things and starting over. There was a song on the record that we completely rebuilt from scratch - including full vocal takes and edits - until we were really happy with it. It was such an organic thing.

Patrick: We would maybe have a week to work on the record, then take a week or two off to work on other things. All of these things that you do, you learn something whenever you take on a new project. Every project comes with a special learning experience. So, we’d come back with a fresh head.

Caroline: Plus, I mean, we’ve never been a band to make records quickly, for better or for worse! People don’t realise how long our first album took us to make because there wasn’t really a benchmark. We took about the same time writing our second record, although the writing process for that, we wrote about forty songs, but for every song we wrote for this new album, we knew it was gonna be on there. It was strange because the writing [for ‘Moth’] felt so directed and so intentional, it was the production that was the more experimental side of things for us.

When it came to the lyrics, did you have any definite ideas of what you wanted to explore?

Caroline: Definitely. I feel like, having worked on Ramona Lisa; all the songs were essentially love songs, and that was a bit of a challenge for me at the time because Chairlift had done sort-of love songs before but nothing quite as deeply personal. I got in a habit of doing that and wanted to keep doing it for Chairlift, even more directly. I wanted to keep that same sort of honesty and directness; with the veils removed. I really pushed myself to be as vulnerable and honest in the lyrics as I could, and only really pulled from real life. The only song that’s not based upon real life is ‘Romeo’, and that’s based on a Greek myth. We did that because when we started the beat, we realised the song should be about running, but I didn’t have any good stories about running. I thought, ‘Well, all the best stories are in Greek mythology anyway’. A quick Google search turned up the most amazing story, but I’ll let you guys look for that on your own.

So yeah, aside from ‘Romeo’, everything else comes from real life. I mean, it was a wild couple of years for both us; both Patrick and I recently got married and the process of us starting this record, and reforming our idea of home after touring for so long was very emotional. A lot came from those feelings.

Taken from the November issue of DIY. Order a copy below.

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Chairlift’s new album ‘Moth’ gets released in January 2016 via Columbia.


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