Chairlift burst through the national scene last year when Apple used the Brooklyn trio’s slightly twisted, chirpy love song “Bruises” to launch the iPod Nano. None of us could get its refrain of “I tried to do handstands for you” out of our minds. The song’s-and band’s-ensuing popularity led to Columbia Records picking up its album, “Does You Inspire You” in April with two new tracks, including one produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor.
The group, who combines quirky pop with electro-synth grooves, has toured with the likes of The Killers; Peter, Bjorn & John and Yacht over the last few months. Coming off its appearance at Bonnaroo last weekend, Chairlift is headlining a trio of dates in Los Angeles starting tonight at three different venues. Hitfix caught up with lead singer Caroline Polacheck on Wednesday to discuss the L.A. gigs, Bugs Bunny band-aids, AIDS testing and David Lynch.
Q: You have three shows in L.A. It must be nice to get to do a small residency with three different venues and audiences.
A: I love that. I wish we could do that more often, especially when we’re touring in Europe. We’ll go to a whole country and just play one show and the next day take off to another country. I really wish we could stay, particularly in places like London and Paris, and play a whole week, like gallery shows, outdoor free show, a club night, bigger bills, bigger artists, I wish we could take advantage of being in the city like the shows in L.A.
Q: You toured with the Killers in May, and with Peter, Bjorn and John earlier in the year. What is the key to being a good support act?
A: Get your gear on and off stage quickly (laughs). Beyond the logistical things, I think our set by itself makes us a pretty good support band. As you may know from the record, we dabble in all sorts of different genres and moods on this record that we’re still touring now and it makes for a set that can be custom tailored to fit any kind of mood.
Q: Is how you get an audience ready for the Killers different from how you’d get them ready for Peter, Bjorn & John?
A: It’s not so much as how we see getting an audience ready , we just see an audience having arrived with a certain expectation, so we can either go against those expectations intentionally or work with them. I don’t see us as being an appetizer. It’s more like a collage. Peter, Bjorn and John are part of the collage; here’s the Chairlift part of the collage. At the end, you want folks to walk away with a combination for a nice, rounded evening.
Q: Your band has been based in Brooklyn since 2007. Is there something in the water in Brooklyn right now? There are so many great bands there.
A: Brooklyn is a hub; people move to Brooklyn because of what’s already in Brooklyn. It’s like how cities pop up like Seattle in the ’90s. …People talk about the Brooklyn scene as if there’s one scene or one sound, but that’s just it: there’s 10, 12, 20 different scenes living right on top of each other. I think it’s so interesting, there’s a whole underground noise scene, there’s an acoustic folk scene going on there, there’s a bunch of pop bands like us. There’s a whole revival, rock, post-punk thing going on there, it’s not just one sound or one scene.
Q: Which one interests you the most, when you’re home, other than your own?
A: Well, that question makes me a little bit sad because I haven’t been home in a while; we’ve been on the road straight for the past year…there’s an awesome little venue called Zebulon that isn’t ever packed, but the artists who play there are consistently interesting and it’s an awesome cross section of all the scenes going on there.
Q: Your songs tend to look at life a little differently, like “Planet Health,” which, in part, is about discarding people when they get old. How did that one come about?
A: That song is about my experience growing up in the American public school system…I remember getting AIDS tested at Univ. of Colorado as part of a sex class that we took… afterward, they put a Bugs Bunny band-aid on the puncture where they had drawn blood. They put me in a room with a counselor to wait for 20 minutes. To look down and see that Bugs Bunny sticker on that spot that I might never forget for the rest of my life, this really strange kind of the combination of pop culture and very serious medicine…It was so surreal and something that it actually not uncommon. The whole doctor’s office mannerism for kids, the public school health class, ’80s pop music in these anti-drug videos and the way in which pop feeds into the whole world of medicine and drugs is super surreal to me so I kind of pushed that as far as a could and made a three-dimensional world of all that I was taught in health class. For example, that the food pyramid is an actual place, a trainer is actually like a spiritual guru who guides you through life…
Q: That’s what’s so intriguing about your songs… you’re taking ideas and turning them on their head in a different way, such as with “Evident Utensil” and “Bruises.” It’s a very different way of looking at love and what we do for love.
A: [With “Bruises”], when people say “I’m crazy for you,” they’re actually right. They’ve done tests and National Geographic did a huge feature on it on love, that it actually does rewire the brains of some people, like the first six or nine months are similar to what’s happening in the brain of a schizophrenic, but after a certain period of time, the chemicals stop being produced because literally, the brain can’t handle it anymore. The chemicals are replaced by a different chemical set that foster long term attachment, but in the meantime there are these crazy chemicals that are literally making you crazy when you’re in love and people end up doing all kinds of self-deprecating things while under the influence of those chemicals. [“Bruises”] is very much about that stage of a relationship when people are literally crazy for each other.
Q: Has anyone come up to you and asked you to sign their bruise?
A: No, they haven’t, but a boyfriend did ask me to propose to his girlfriend for him before singing that song on stage while I was in Paris. She said yes.
Q: Are you working on the new album?
A: We actually have more than enough songs written for the next record already. Between now and January when we’re going to track, we’re undoubtedly going to write more. We’re going to have quite a cornucopia for the next record.
Q: What can people expect?
A: We’re going to continue to write pop songs, of course, but I think they’re going to be more consistently dark and angular on the next record.
Q: To me, you guys are really dark and people just don’t get it because there are cute little “la, la,la’s” thrown in.
A: Yeah, I think David Lynch is the best model of how fucked up “la, la, la’s” can be. I think it’s an awesome template for us from the start of how pop music can actually be the scariest soundtrack possible sometimes.