“We’re the best band in the world at enjoying tacos…”
Chairlift’s Patrick is buoyed by his own confidence: “We challenge any band to combat us in a taco-eating contest.” At first, this might seem exactly the sort of comment one would expect from the drummer/bassist of a band that produces charming, kooky soundtracks for iPod commercials (yes, that “I try to do handstands for you” tune, otherwise known as ‘Bruises’, is theirs), but there is more to the Brooklyn trio than just brief throwaway whimsy.
Much like Feist, whose ‘1,2,3,4’ soundtracked a previous campaign, the Apple experience served only to grab the collective attention. By comparison, the remainder of the debut album – ‘Does You Inspire You’ - is a darker, mightier body of work, especially when manifested into their emphatic live performance. This is haunting stuff. Chairlift are quite creepy. Even the way they each speak conveys a sense of foreboding: Patrick drawls like an incoherent alien; Aaron - guitarist/songwriter - sits almost silently; and Caroline - provider of synths and vocals - jumps around in a wildly musing state.
This disparity of moods is evident in the work they produce and their wide-ranging reference points hop between genres. From the epic Asian-bent ‘Planet Earth’ to the slow synth dream of ‘Somewhere Around Here’ to the alluring horror power chords of ‘Territory’ to the swirling rock-and-thunk electronica of ‘Make Your Mind Up’, Chairlift’s miscellany is simplistic and textured.
“People get confused by how many different genres we play with, but to us it’s all part of the same movie,” says Caroline. Using Quentin Tarantino’s Asian/cowboy flavour as an example, she adds: “By combining all these different things, the world that they all coexist in is our sound. It’s not that we’re juggling between different ones, it’s actually cross pollination.”
Chairlift often refer to their own ‘world’; one which, according to Patrick, “You can’t sit on but you could definitely crawl inside.” This hollow dystopian world has a conscience and deals with our planet’s destructions on several tracks. For Caroline, “Music is very physical. Like a building environment. It’s not flat when it comes out of the speakers. It’s a way of seeing the world from the point of view of the song.”
Even the band’s name, which was originally intended for a band Caroline and Patrick previously played in, is significant to viewing this ‘world’. “A chairlift is a journey over a beautiful, slowly-changing terrain,” Caroline reflects. “It’s a slow panoramic view and our music is like that, it takes you through different places.”
One could argue that here they are describing a movie soundtrack and it’s no secret Chairlift are great fans of Twin Peaks, Donnie Darko and a slew of ‘80s cinematic releases. However, the association with their sound is very much a coincidence. They claim to have only started listening to the era’s output once their album was complete: “The ‘80s pillaged us,” states Caroline.
Her slick vocal technique certainly benefits the fantasy element. She crosses the solidity of Feist with the peculiarity of Kate Bush and Regina Spektor, thus registering a high quotient of eeriness. The overall result is a world that borders with the likes of Ladyhawke, The Knife, PJ Harvey and Bat For Lashes.
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Chairlift’s ‘Does You Inspire You’ album is out now on Kanine Records. ‘Bruises’ was released as a single in September and peaked at number 50 in the UK. Expect both releases to do considerably better in 2009 when Chairlift are touted as one of the year’s brightest musical hopes. The buzz starts here…
Words by Christian Rose-Day