English electronic barons Hot Chip recently released their stunning seventh album, A Bath Full Of Ecstasy (read our review here). We put a few queries to the fellas, and received more blessed tidbits than we could have hoped for.
The album celebrates euphoria but it’s laced with some sadness too. Why do you think joy and melancholy work so well in dance music?
It’s a simple juxtaposition that works. You can try it the other way. But then you make country music.
Opener Melody of Love begins (and ends) with piano by itself, which always comes across as a very uplifting thing. Why do you think simple, unaccompanied piano chords evoke that feeling? Is it a disco thing?
A drop to piano and vocals offer a counterpoint to fullness and provides a focus through relief. It’s both ‘the trick’ and ‘the truth’ of a song which is fun. I suppose the listener and the performer are locked in a contract of intimacy with a promise of deliverance. Yeah, it’s a disco thing.
Spell contains the repeated lyrics “Like a spell you are under” (recalling “The spell of repetition really is on you”, from your 2006 hit Over and Over). What do you think it is about repetition that’s so mesmerising to our wee human minds?
Repetition is a powerful thing in Pop, Dance and music generally. I suppose it’s something to latch onto amongst the chaos, the repeating patterns forming the grand majesty of nature and knowing that the repetitious boom of the human heartbeat is the only sound to accompany us all through life. Partly that and partly us trying to grind out a living through brainwashing you into [buying] our records.
You recently posted a little insta clip of Al (Doyle, multi-instrumentalist) looking not-too-godawful on the piano accordion. Are there any sampled instruments you incorporated into this album which were newly discovered/unusual for you? (Read: Is there a piano accordion somewhere in here which has been digitally smooshed beyond all recognition?)
Al can play anything. Felix [Martin, drum machines and more] says he’s good at puppetry too, but I’ve not seen it. Al went to circus school but he packed it in to go and work for British Gas. I digress. We tend to keep the weird sounds and instruments unsmooshed. They tend to be the jingly end of the sounds, percussion often. We did use a tractor on the last album. Hard to get a jingle out of that. The only things we digitally smoosh are the huge, huge samples we don’t want to get sued for.
Also on the subject of that clip: Has anyone ever told Joe (Goddard, vocals and more) he’s got the same squidgy laugh as Ricky Gervais?
Joe’s got a contagious squeal on him. Do not tickle him.
Hot Chip vocals are always a little vulnerable and cracked and real, which lets the light in. Do you deliberately stick to mainly manipulating instruments/rhythms only, to keep the human element?
The vulnerability of the human voice is a unique thing. We will often hold on to first or last takes if they capture a fragility or relaxed sound. That said, we love stacking up the backing vocals or boshing a load of Vocoder on things. On this record Alexis [Taylor, vocals, multi-instrumentalist] became rather smitten with a little black vocal FX box from Roland. Phillipe Zdar had a big old proper job Vocoder. So those machines had to duke it out a fair bit. Roddaigh McDonald was big into Little Alterboy plugin so there’s a lot going on, but a clear vocal with a lil’ something always wins through.
Did those building, duelling auxiliary percussion bits in the brilliant No God happen as a spontaneous in-studio party or was it much more planned?
As with most parties, No God involved a three hour explosion of percussion followed by two days of tidying and recovery. At one point Phillipe Zdar was playing his Grammy with a drumstick. Seemed fun at the time, but you gotta snap it to the grid and that takes time and focus, especially with a hangover.
You’re coming up to 20 years together, next year. What do you notice most about the differences in the way you write together now compared to way back then?
The writing is much the same but now we’ve got to check our posture when doing it.
A Bath Full Of Ecstasy is out June 21 via Domino.
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