Chairlift Gallery & Interview

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Brooklyn trio Chairlift operate in the same musical and experimental playground as MGMT and Yeasayer but their mash of sounds is unmistakably their own. Clash talks to the three-piece about haunted houses, garbage and that iPod ad.

“I think our dream is to be the first band to play a concert on Mars,” states Aaron of Brooklyn-based trio Chairlift. “The problem is Patrick won’t go, he’s afraid of space.” Drummer Patrick confirms that any intergalactic gigs would have to be sans-percussion, “I’m afraid of heights and space so I’m going to stay on planet Earth my entire life.”

Though this may sound like an appropriately ‘kooky’ comment from a band that produced the so-sweet-you’ll-get-a-toothache iPod ad track ‘Bruises’ (“I tried to do handstands for you…”) you would be mistaken to judge them by their cover. Debut album, ‘Does You Inspire You’, is an appetising mix of the childlike and the spacey, with an underlying creepiness mixed in. Vocalist and synth-player Caroline’s honeyed vocals fluctuate between hushed naivety and impassioned wails. Some tracks feature space-rock synths, computer game beeps and beats that click and tick. Others have country melodies or thumping bass, all of which melt into an intriguing sound that’s hard to pin down, but at the same time strikingly recognisable.

The band members too are a mixture of timidity and enthusiasm with an undertone of mischief. Both Caroline and Aaron have fresh marker pen chains and initials emblazoned up their arms. Aaron is also sporting a faded design that states ‘Totally True’, the instant answer to the inevitable question: ‘Is it true you used to write music for haunted houses?’

In the band’s early days, Caroline and Aaron’s practice sessions would descend into the realm of the strange and unusual, which inspired plans for a haunted house tour. “We came up with everything,” says Aaron, “except we didn’t actually do it.” These early sessions slipped into their debut, but Caroline cites the source of their underlying creepy vibe as “a juxtaposition between things that are supposed to be comforting but aren’t and things that are very normal.”

Modern life is also part of the mix of influences. ‘Earwig Town’ is a skin crawling exploration of surveillance and the ‘your-call-may-be-recorded’ aspect of everyday life, while ‘Garbage’ is a reflection on the reuse and recycle mantra of the band’s home state, Colorado. Despite their move to Brooklyn, human waste is still an inspiring notion. “The idea of all our garbage sitting in a landfill longer than we’ll even be alive was actually kind of a beautiful idea to me,” says Caroline, “like the real tombstone we leave behind, it’s beautiful in that kind of normal/creepy way that I like.”

‘Bruises’ may have elicited a surge of interest in the band, with some fans attending gigs only for that song, but Chairlift find that reaction humorous and Aaron has even compiled a screenshot collection of online comments referring to it. “Thirteen-year-old girls write, ‘I only like ‘Bruises’ and the rest of the album is like eeeewwwwww’ - I think that’s my favourite one.” Surprised at how much the commercial has worn off, Patrick says he’s happy with how quickly people have gotten into the band’s repertoire as a whole, though. “I thought we’d have a long battle trying to become more than the band that was on the iPod commercial.”

With their popularity on the rise, Chairlift’s thoughts turn to a new album. Tracks are composed and at the ready, and the band is excited about taking on a production role. They’re even thinking about recording in the desert. Before that though, they have a heavy touring schedule to complete. Mars may not be on the tour yet, but Caroline is still looking skywards. “Mars would be fun, but I think I’d rather play a show on the Moon so you can look at Earth. I think we’d have more of a draw there anyway.”

Photography by Pavla Kopecna
Words by Stevie Keen
Styling by Lily Lam
Stylist’s assistant: Sinnie Chong
Hair by Bianca Tuovi
Make-up by Abi Johnsonn
With thanks to Recession Studios, www.recessionstudio.com

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