Hot Chip: Escapism is the opposite of what we should be doing

On the eve of their seventh album, the best British pop act of their generation talk about two decades of music-making

A quiet Friday afternoon by Londons Regents Canal. Two dads who have known each other since they were 11 theyre now 39 are having lunch without the kids. One is a smiling, broad-shouldered bear in a pink T-shirt. The other is smaller and bespectacled, hiding under a baseball cap. They look slightly hipsterish, but blend into the background seamlessly. A huge yellow bag and rucksack under the table contain their rather different outfits for later that day.


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Five hours later, Alexis Taylor is in front of thousands at the All Points East festival in Victoria Park, Hackney, his cap removed to reveal rainbow-coloured hair, a DayGlo lifejacket with holes around the nipples swaddling his body. Joe Goddard, meanwhile, is rocking back and forth behind a bank of synthesisers, wearing a colourful jacket with a pattern by artist Jeremy Deller (also unfolded from the dad bags). Joining them are the rest of their crazily dressed band: guitarist Al Doyle in a linen tunic and trousers like a latterday apostle, brightly clothed multi-instrumentalist Owen Clarke, and synthesiser player Felix Martin smiling under his mop of madcap curls. Rob Smoughton (bass, congas, silvery beard, straw boater) and Leo Taylor (drums, lime-green top with pagan symbols) complete the live line-up.

Behold Hot Chip, the greatest British group of their generation. They look like cartoon characters, and for their devoted fanbase, thats where their appeal begins. The bands music and image suggests a poppier, ravier version of Talking Heads. Gloriously ordinary weirdos, essentially, projecting their most extravagant selves on stage and video. Their fashion is the 21st-century equivalent of the Pet Shop Boys Japanese jackets and Boy caps, and they have an art-school archness that is easy to appreciate, as their songs are never too serious, their live sets infused with humour.

Their best songs, from 2006s Boy from School to 2010s One Life Stand to their stunning new single, Melody of Love, undercut playfulness with a heart-tugging melancholy. Taylors voice a high, pure peal in the tradition of Paul Heaton, Neil Tennant and Belle and Sebastians Stuart Murdoch is the heart, while Goddards electronic wizardry provides their guts and pulse.

Al Doyle, Alexis Taylor and Felix Martin of Hot Chip at All Points East festival, Victoria Park, east London. Photograph: Burak ng/Redferns

Hot Chip are a strange modern success story: theyve become festival headliners while only ever having three top 40 hits. Since 2006s The Warning, their breakthrough second album, tracks such as Over and Over (with its earwormy refrain: like a monkey with a miniature cymbal) have become ingrained in our pop consciousness, boosted by regular TV and soundtrack deals. Hot Chips reputation as a brilliant live band has also helped, their music uniting old ravers and young (their top billing slot at 2015s Green Man was glorious; this year they headline Glastonburys Park stage and the electronic Bluedot festival).

And they only get better. On 21 June, they will release their best, most commercial album yet: the provocatively titled A Bath Full of Ecstasy. The summer solstice release date is no coincidence: the typographic design and psychedelic colours of the cover art by Jeremy Deller and graphic designer Fraser Muggeridge (adapted into the bands stagewear by Cardiff designer Demi Amber) suggests pagan rituals and the early days of rave. Its all a long way from the south London schoolyard where Taylor and Goddard first met in 1991…

The first pop culture we bonded over? Honestly? Football and WWF wrestling!

Joe Goddard is great company: funny, interested, polite. Taylor is much quieter, but curiosity and warmth bubble through his conversation. The boys met at the now famous pop comp, Putneys Elliott school, whose other notable alumni include Burial, the xx and Four Tets Kieran Hebden, one of their early mentors (Goddard once got Hebdens university email disabled after sending him enormous sound files). The friends first musical bonding moment was Beastie Boys, whom they watched on The Word (they were incredibly charismatic and silly and fantastical, and thats what we wanted to be). Later, they got into alternative American singer-songwriters such as Smogs Bill Callahan, Jim ORourke and Will Oldham, who remains a big influence on Taylor. Hes so interesting and contrary, a great lyricist, and so prolific. Its funny: the music industry these days almost trains people to offer less stuff. I like challenging that.


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Watch the video for Hot Chips Melody of Love.

Their interest in pop culture was helped by their parents being arty, curious types. Taylors father was a university English professor, his Greek mum a psychoanalyst (they divorced when he was young). Goddards father was a film editor in Soho, which fascinated Joe, and Hot Chips adventurous videos, such as the recent eight-minute short film for Hungry Child in which a couple get possessed by the song, suggest a continuing interest. Goddards parents would throw open their basement to their sons friends, including Clarke, on weekends, and after playing football on nearby fields, theyd convene to learn songs, play guitars and use really rubbish, rudimentary computer programs to take loops off CDs.

Then, in 1999, the pair went to university Taylor to Cambridge to study English, Goddard to Oxford to study history but their resolve to make music together set in. Everything was changing quite quickly at that point, Taylor says. Joe was getting into house and UK garage, I was listening constantly to Destinys Child, but we still travelled to be together often and started trying to do our own weird take on the music that we liked.

Hot Chips first EP, Mexico, was released in 2001, outselling Eric Claptons new release in Cambridges Parrot Records on the day it came out, Taylor says, proudly. Another EP, Sanfrandisco, followed in October 2002, after the friends had graduated. By this point, Goddard was a marketing assistant at Island Records (I worked on the first Keane album!), and soon after heard the EP playing in the office of A&R Stephen Bass, who also ran indie label Moshi Moshi. In 2004, Bass released their first album, Coming on Strong.

By the time of its follow-up, The Warning, Hot Chip had signed to EMI and were everywhere: popping up on TV background tracks, getting a Mercury nomination and being sent on huge tours. We were a sales priority! Not that that lasted, says Goddard. We went on this semi-amazing, semi-crazy trip across Spain and Portugal, being shipped from festival to festival in this coach in boiling heat but the air conditioning was broken. We were all, Yeah, were the new music business thing, guys!

2008s Ready for the Floor remains their only Top 10 single (No 6). I loved that moment, Taylor says. Does he mind not having had any more? Itd be nice, but its not that Im studying the charts, desperate to get in. He laughs. Its hard to talk about this without sounding ancient and miserable but the best pop, in my mind, is imaginative, immediate and accessible but also challenging. I hate the amount of bland pop music around now. In our early days, Timbaland and Neptunes were producing big hits in really interesting ways. Theres hardly anybody doing that now.

The band (l-r) Doyle, Felix Martin, Taylor, Goddard and Owen Clarke at the 2006 Mercury Music prize ceremony. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/Shutterstock

After EMI collapsed in 2012, Hot Chip left the majors to sign to Domino, a label where Taylor had worked in his university holidays, doing admin. They let us be who we want to be, and do what we want to do, he says. This has included them doing lots of extracurricular music in the last decade: Taylors jazz improv four-piece, About Group, and his and Goddards solo albums have come out on the label too. Taylor was also one of the first signatories on the letter to save Radio 3s experimental programme Late Junction earlier this year. An institution like that having platforms for interesting, diverse music is really important, he continues, whether its Late Junction, Later With Jools Holland, or the Maida Vale sessions. It underlines that creativity is worth paying attention to.

The spirit of collaboration with others has changed them, they say and its the same for Al Doyle, who joined LCD Soundsystem live in 2007, before co-writing seven tracks on their 2017 album, American Dream (Als in James Murphys classy world now, Goddard smiles).

Taylors 2017 Listen With(out) Piano project also saw him giving songs over completely to other people to finish, among them Green Gartside and Royal Truxs Jennifer Herrema. When Hot Chip came back together, he knew a similar approach would enliven them. So instead of producing themselves, as they always did, they got in Philippe Zdar, of French dance duo Cassius, who went wild on the psychedelic effects (Hes got a bottle of acid in his fridge, actually, Goddard says). Xx producer Rodaidh McDonald was harsher. He pushed them to rewrite lyrics and edit song ideas drastically. We signed up for it, though, so thats OK, Taylor says. And its thanks to him that Melody of Love is a big pop single rather than a 12-minute instrumental.

He loved that idea of connecting to people, he says. Live is equally meaningful for the band. Its important to me that we come to life on stage: being upbeat, not too subtle, and I love to see peoples reactions if thats possible, adds Taylor.

Watch the video for Hot Chips Hungry Child.

But other things have changed Hot Chips approach to making music in recent years. One was having kids, which they did relatively young (Taylor was married in his early 20s and his daughter, Prudence, is 10; Goddards daughter, Edie, is eight, his son, Albert, seven). Parenthood teaches you a lot about your ego, says Goddard. Having a sense of self-importance is crucial if youre in a band that your ideas are important and need to be sung to people. Having kids battles that, makes you focus, and also makes time much more precious, which is a really wonderful thing. You cant have this wonderful spontaneous lifestyle of just being able to read the newspaper in a cafe for three hours on a Saturday morning any more. Instead, youre rocking your daughter because she will cry if shes put down, and youre thinking of the bassline and the beat youre going to work on. And when you do it, you make it special.

But tragic events have affected them too, several around the release of 2015s Why Make Sense?. Schoolfriend and longtime collaborator Vincent Sipprell, a violinist, killed himself in January 2015; Taylor has said that the loss deeply influenced that record.

Then, on 18 November, the band were due to play in Paris. Five days before, 90 people were killed at the Bataclan. The band had played there previously; they knew people directly affected by friends dying. We really didnt want to do our gig if it seemed like the wrong message, Goddard says. But they played, and Al Doyle read a statement at the start of the gig that he had written in French. He said that its incredible how just playing a show becomes a political act after something like that happens. People thanked us for helping them to be able to be together as a group of people, enjoying something that they wanted to enjoy. He sits quietly for a moment. You could see from the stage people who were dancing but also in tears. It was an incredibly moving experience, to be honest.

With that in mind, A Bath Full of Ecstasy feels like a record for our terrifying times. It takes the communal spirit of house and splices it with the DNA of pop: music as a conduit of hope. The bands image in 2019 all sugary pastels and pure joy is wrapped up in that feeling. Weve moved to a photo studio next door by this point, where the Observer pictures are done and dusted in half an hour, Taylor and Goddard changing in and out of their candy boilersuits like pros.

I wrote the [new] songs for people to bathe in, or be lost in an active way, Taylor explains, as we order an Uber afterwards. To have a deep listening experience with it, without any distractions, if they can. Both have railed before about how they dislike mindless escapism in pop. And escapism is the opposite of what we should be doing in our lives, for political and ecological reasons.

They find the world around them frightening: Goddard regularly retweets anti-Trump and climate change messages. But Taylor would never write direct protest songs. Rather than just saying, Oh, theres Brexit and theres Trump in power, instead well write songs like Positive, which is about looking for positivity asking people to support those around them suffering from mental health problems or facing difficulty with poverty or homelessness. Im thinking in songs instead, to try and figure out an answer. Mindful escapism, perhaps?

In a way, A Bath Full of Ecstasy began life as a Katy Perry project. She had asked for Taylor and Goddards services while making her 2017 album, Witness, and they spent four days in Air Studios together. It was incredibly exciting, says Goddard, giddily. I loved writing for somebody else. She was great, very funny and easygoing, unlike the people around her. Theyd text: Katys coming in 20 minutes, Katys walking through the door, Katys standing in front of you. One of these songs, Into Me You See, made it on to Perrys album; two others, Spell and Echo, have been reworked by Hot Chip for theirs.

Gloriously ordinary weirdos: Joe Goddard (left) and Alexis Taylor. Photograph: Ellis Parrinder/The Observer

Then came their own sessions and that eyebrow-raising title. Surely its not a midlife crisis drug-taking record? Goddard admits that hes been microdosing on mushrooms a bit, which is a bit zeitgeisty. Taylor revealed earlier this year in a Q interview that he has never taken ecstasy. But that wasnt meant to be a forceful thing. It wasnt an anti-drugs message. I mean, I havent taken it. He looks at Goddard. But everybody else in the band has. They both laugh.

The title came from a line from a song they wrote early on, and it was just the most evocative and interesting and fun that endured, and just a bit of a break from too serious a title. And I didnt think its a problem to have a title that could be fun or playful or light-hearted in some ways. Ecstasy is just a nice thing to be talking about these days, isnt it? He stops. I mean, the actual feeling of ecstasy.

And trying to present a kind of positivity in this world also feels like a valid contribution, Goddard says. Its a worthwhile thing to do.

Its now 3.15pm and were standing outside a corner shop. Our Uber keeps getting cancelled. We hail a black cab in a hurry, piling in with the boys costume bags on our knees (this doesnt happen to Katy Perry, I suggest). Goddard talks about the last time Hot Chip played Victoria Park in 2007. He had been DJing after a gig the previous night, finally falling asleep at 9am. He woke up at 5pm, just as the band were coming off stage. (Clarke had been with him too, although he made the last 20 minutes of the gig.) I can still remember the dread, Goddard shudders. Things are slightly different these days. Now hes planning family camping trips across Europe around the bands summer festivals.

A few hours later, were backstage ahead of the gig. Primal Scream, Little Simz and Kate Tempest are Hot Chips neighbours. Among them is Hot Chip percussionist Rob Smoughton, who talks about the time Elton John invited all of Hot Chip backstage at a festival in California in 2015. He was so knowledgeable about the band he knew everything! and was so bloody nice.

Then comes Owen Clarke, recoiling when I mention Goddards missed gig recollections (oh God), Felix Martin and the cheerful Al Doyle, who confirms his position as the classiest band member (Goddards description) by telling me about a party he went to at former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridgers house and by making me a G&T from their rider. An hour later, hes dressed in that tunic and wide trousers, joining his strange parade of bandmates to raise hell on the All Points East stage.


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The opening notes of Huarache Lights shimmer, and were off. The set is fantastic, old and young singing along like total converts. Taylor drags a Leffe bottle over his guitar strings and bursts into laughter during Ready for the Floor when a refreshed teenager wearing a silver bumbag shouts its chorus line back to him (Youre my number one guy).

And then comes something absurd and completely brilliant: Hot Chip cover Beastie Boys Sabotage. Taylor shouts into two microphones, Goddard nearly rocks himself off the stage, everyone else going berserk. Twenty-seven years of friendship distilled into six minutes of euphoria and the spirit of a teenage basement transported to the open air. Hot Chip make us bathe in that feeling. And its worthwhile.

A Bath Full of Ecstasy is released by Domino on 21 June

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific

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