A Sound That Resonates: Hot Chip's Pop Pursuit
Judging by the clouds in the sky and the leaves on the ground summer might finally be over. As usual, it’s been dominated by music – one off headline shows, huge set piece events, and a packed festival calendar. One band seems to have followed Clash everywhere the team has landed, however, with Hot Chip supplying some of our most euphoric, exuberant, and straightforward happiest memories of the festival.
Chatting on the phone to singer Alexis Taylor during a rare weekend back home with his family, it’s clear that the band agree. They thrive on that energy, with recent album ‘A Bath Full Of Ecstasy’ taking on this lush, transformative effect in the live arena.
“I do think we try and create that euphoric feeling for the crowd,” he says, “and we get something back from the crowd, of course. So when we see people really responding to it, and singing along to the chorus, and different moments of the song create this swell of response… it’s very exciting for us to see.”
“It’s been a lot of fun for us, and there’s also a depth to it,” he continues. “There’s things happening onstage that you see the crowd responding to which are not just about euphoria, there are other things going on too. Some of the words, the sounds were create… it’s nice to share with people. And nice that people are interested, and they’re there listening to it. I don’t take it for granted.”
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But then Hot Chip have never been ones to rest on their laurels. Alexis himself is famously prolific, someone who seems able to turn a studio project around in a week before immediately locking himself away in his writing room once more.
“It’s not choosing to be prolific,” he chuckles. “I think all of us who write songs in the band are quite driven to keep writing, and creating new material out of some kind of interest in what you can create. And that urge has been there for a long time.”
“I think there are a few artists that are very inspiring to me, like Prince or Will Oldham or Neil Young,” Alexis states. “Various people who have just kept on going, making new music all the time, and allowing their audiences to follow that trail of interesting music, and follow whatever their fascinations are musically. I’ve never really been able to stop, I suppose. I feel pretty lucky to be making music, and for people to be aware of it.”
‘A Bath Full Of Ecstasy’ is an album of subtle progression from one of Britain’s most distinctive pop machines. Indeed, it actually owes a debt of sorts to Katy Perry – Alexis Taylor and co-conspirator Joe Goddard were invited into the studio with the pop icon, and those ideas spurred on another chapter in Hot Chip’s novelistic history.
“It was really good!” he enthuses. “Really fun. She works really hard, she had a great sense of humour and was easy to get along with. We were quite impressed with her creating melody ideas and lyric ideas really quickly. She knew what she liked about what we were doing, and she knew what she was interested in pushing in a different direction.”
“And because she’s more much pop than we are – more experienced in making successful pop music – it was a rewarding experience for us, as much as it was that she asked us to be involved, and help make a record. Obviously we do things in a different way, we have our own experiences, but it was very exciting for us to work with somebody like that. I have a lot of respect for her.”
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Of course, this raises the topic of Hot Chip as a pop act. Despite flirting with the mainstream – ‘Ready For The Floor’ was a Top 10 hit, remember – they remain a defiantly left field experience, toying with pop more as a genre or an area of exploration that a chart-burning activity.
“I don’t have any preciousness about the word ‘pop’ or whatever,” he says. “I find it quite interesting. The other day I was talking to someone, and they said they don’t think of the band as being a ‘pop’ band as such, because it’s not really just that. And I was saying, of course it’s not ‘just that’ - I do listen to different eras of pop music and have done all my life, from underground music to things which maybe other people would find hard to listen to, but I’m quite open to a lot of different sounds”.
Direct while still being sonically ambitious, one of the real high water marks of their new record is the wonderful ‘Melody Of Love’, in which Alexis Taylor’s plaintive, almost frail, and impeccably English vocal emerges from the emotional whirlwind of a gospel choir.
“Joe found that sample,” he explains. “I hope that we managed to keep the spirit of it in there. I find those gospel records, and soul records like that… there’s a lot of passion in the performance of the vocalist.”
“At the same time there’s some connection about what we’re saying in the song, and what he’s singing about. It’s almost like we’ve written a song that takes that as a starting point and expands on the idea. That need for unity. It starts to go elsewhere, to touch on the troubled times we’re living in, and the difficulties that people face at moments of sadness in their life.”
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It’s a song rooted in the current political context – the rise of hard right nationalism and the chaos of Brexit – but one that remains defiantly personal. “I just don’t have a rule about those things,” he admits. “Recently I was feeling like it would be very easy to imagine myself saying something much more political in music, and finding it hard to not say something political. But when we were making that record, although we were finding it hard to ignore what was going on around us, it wasn’t something that I was wanting to comment on explicitly.”
“It wasn’t an act of choice to avoid it, it was just the things that were going through my head that I wanted to say in the song weren’t really about those things,” he continues. Alexis sighs, then says: “I don’t know... Sometimes I find that stuff so awful that I want to actually say something else in music that isn’t to do with that. I don’t want to fill my time and thoughts with it more than I have to. But at the same time, there are moments of thinking, all we can do is say something political. I flip between those two extremes, I suppose.”
Throughout our conversation Alexis Taylor betrays this very humble but very keenly felt dedication to music, a slow-burning passion that keeps him from allowing any kind of ego to enter into his lyricism – even as he broaches on vast subjects.
He comments: “I don’t feel like I have any right to get people to listen to what I’m saying. What I do feel I can say is something to do with the politics of love and relationships. Say something within a song.”
“I think if you’re making something where you feel lost in that musically, or feel passionate about what you’re saying, I think that comes across to people. At least, I hope it does.”
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Catch Hot Chip at the following shows:
16 Belfast Limelight
17 Dublin Olympia
18 Birmingham O2 Institute 1
21 Bristol O2 Academy
22 Nottingham Rock City
24 Norwich LCR
26 London Alexandra Palace
Photo Credit: Ronald Dick
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