In an era of instant gratification, being a Chairlift fan requires a fair amount of patience. It took the duo four years to follow-up their 2008 debut, Does You Inspire You, and now Moth is arriving another neat quadrennium on from Something. Reflecting on the gestation period, down the line from Brooklyn, frontwoman Caroline Polachek explains, “We take our time but we need a lot of time,” adding with a half-laugh, “We’re always optimistic that it’s not gonna take us as long as it will, but we’re perfectionists.”
In fairness, Polachek and her creative partner Patrick Wimberly have hardly been idle in the intervening years. Alongside Polachek’s solo album as Ramona Lisa, there have been collaborations with Blood Orange and SBTRKT, instrumental scores and, most famously, production work for Beyoncé. Then there was the small matter of converting a unit in a former pharmaceutical factory into a working studio, before work on Moth could commence.
“We started treating the walls with audio panelling in February 2013, and the first songs came shortly thereafter,” Polachek recalls. “The studio really became a cocoon for us. The path that we walked every morning to get to the studio – the sidewalks, the subways – they would mentally set the scene for working every day, and it gave us a lot of energy.”
“When we arrived in the studio, it suddenly felt so quiet and intimate and far away from all that… It really did feel like this internal organ of New York City, in which we could reflect on the outside. And I think having built our studio and these productions from the ground up, really made us want to make everything perfect.”
WE REALLY WANTED TO HONE IN ON THE JOY AND FREEDOM THAT OUR FAVOURITE SONGS CAN GIVE US
Even by their own high standards, Moth is a remarkable achievement; an innovative, soulful electro-pop record that bristles with kinetic energy. It has huge potential for crossover success, which is doubly impressive considering that esoteric reference points included A. R. Rahman’s Bollywood soundtracks and mid-80s Japanese fusion music, and that it was written with Sean Connery’s 70s sci-fi flick ‘Zardoz’ playing on a silent loop in the background. There’s a newfound directness to their songwriting too, and the duo’s decision to swap the hazy reverb that enveloped much of Something for crisp, clean production allows their skilful arrangements to shine.
“We really wanted to hone in on the joy and freedom that some of our favourite songs can give us,” Polachek explains. “And, lyrically, to make ourselves more vulnerable; to bring our actual lives to the table, as opposed to having fun with abstraction.”
Like its predecessor, it’s an album with love and relationships at its heart. However, Polachek emphasises the distinction between the “passive- aggressive” energy of Something and the unguarded emotion driving Moth, which was written while she was falling in love with her now-husband. Listening, the record seems to trace the trajectory of a love affair, from flirtation and lust (‘Romeo’ / ’Ch-Ching’) to intimacy and contentment (‘Ottawa to Osaka’ / ‘No Such Thing’). Though Polachek concedes that, in hindsight, the interpretation “really is accurate” she insists it’s coincidental, and that the sequencing of the record was centred around “the sonics and the energy of it”.
Though the majority of Moth was self-produced, they did seek external help from Quadron’s Robin Hannibal in the final stages, for ‘Ch-Ching’, ‘Moth To The Flame’ and ‘Show U Off’. “Sometimes it just takes someone to say, ‘Look: there’s a reason why the traditional move is the right one’,” Polachek laughs. “It’s because it works.” And yet, it’s this very unconventionality – of both song structure and melody – that continues to keep Chairlift fans enthralled.
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