Photo: Mike Massaro
“We know how to make a Hot Chip record… but we don’t know how not to make a Hot Chip record, if you know what I mean.”
Very expensive, fine pastries. That’s what the best producers bring to the table, according to Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. “It seemed to go down well with the rest of the band,” he admits. And with that admission, I start to understand why the band opted to work with outside producers for the first time in their long career, specifically on their seventh album A Bath Full Of Ecstasy. It boasts all the shimmering hallmarks of a Hot Chip record, nine tracks of sublime kaleidoscopic pop, but it’s arguably the most immediate and leanest body of work they’ve recorded in some time.
The outsiders in question are Rodaidh McDonald (David Byrne, Sampha) and Philippe Zdar (Cassius, Phoenix), who, of course, brought more than just tasty baked goods to the process. While the latter lent a “great enthusiasm and energy to proceedings”, the former would push the band to craft better hooks and choruses for their arsenal of pop hits, leaving Alexis to reflect: “I think it was quite good having both producers involved as it gave us a new lease of life and got us out of some old habits.”
“It’s not a discursive process, taking apart the meanings and the ideas behind songs. It’s all understood. We all get where each other are coming from and don’t have to ask too many questions.”
“We know how to make a Hot Chip record, we’ve done it many many times before but we don’t know how not to make a Hot Chip record, if you know what I mean,” Al Doyle tells me. “So that was the idea with this: to recognise that, if we genuinely want to do something that’s a bit different, that requires a sense of letting go on our part, and it was quite freeing to do that. It’s a weird thing for a band that’s so deep into album seven to have never worked with a producer before. It’s quite nice to be able to do that at this stage of your career and to experience what that feels like.”
“Every time we felt like we were recoiling from what Rodaidh and Philippe were doing, we had to remember that was actually a positive. Feeling a little bit freaked out by that process is probably a good thing, so there was an element of trust. But it felt really good to come back to the room and hear something quite wild and be really excited by it ourselves because it made everything feel quite new and risky and dangerous. Letting go was very worthwhile in retrospect.”
Fifteen years since debut album Coming On Strong, it feels natural for Hot Chip to be seeking something fresh. One of very few bands in modern times to be embraced by indie discos, underground dance-floor dwellers and pop aficionados alike, A Bath Full Of Ecstasy is no radical departure. It simply refines in meticulous detail what the band have been doing so well for so long, and sends it stratospheric.
“We’re endlessly prolific people, it’s actually the ending process that’s a bit more difficult for us rather than the generation of ideas.”
Few artists craft singles as consistently bombastic as Hot Chip and the propulsive ‘Hungry Child’ continues that trend, but more understated tracks such as ‘Positive’ and the glitchy ‘Clear Blue Skies’ feel like the work of a band savouring a new beginning. It only clicks, Alexis feels, because of the band’s natural rapport.
“I think there’s always been a very intuitive approach to music-making, particularly between me and Joe [Goddard], but actually all of us. It’s not a discursive process, taking apart the meanings and the ideas behind songs. It’s all understood. We all get where each other are coming from and don’t have to ask too many questions. And also maybe some of the things one of us is singing about are not always the easiest subjects to talk openly about, that’s why they appear in song, I think. There’s a bit of respect and breathing space for people to say what they want to say, lyrically and musically.”
That sense of freedom amongst the band encouraged lengthy improvisation but also pushed the band to be “vicious with how many songs went on the record”. Al reveals: “We were doing huge, long jam sessions with a bunch of really interesting keyboards that Philippe had set up and generated a lot of material that way that then had to be sifted through and analysed, basically a grading of what was interesting or what could be discarded.
That’s something we’ve got better at over the years, trying to figure out what is useful and what is a bit indulgent when it comes to that process. It can end up being completely endless and all of us can happily do that for days on end, so it’s good to try and get something that is useful and bring something different to the music. Luckily, there’s never been a shortage of that. We’re endlessly prolific people, it’s actually the ending process that’s a bit more difficult for us rather than the generation of ideas.”
“Maybe we were quite excited to be making music together again because we’d had a bit of a longer break,” Alexis ponders. “Not everybody in the band does so much extra curricular activity so maybe there’s a desire to make the most of those times in the studio for some.”
“Operating in different circumstances results in much more interesting music, rather than just being rigid in your work. It allows Hot Chip to change.”
“I’m a bit of a sucker for making albums and touring them, even if it’s not always the most fruitful thing to do in terms of being successful. I just enjoy it as a process and enjoy making those records and being creative and doing something different from one record to the next and playing with different people on stage. I can’t really get enough of doing that and I feel like that’s what I’m meant to be doing with my time,” he admits, having released several solo records since 2014. “But that’s not what everyone does, so there’s a real sense of coming together and enjoying and making something really special and capturing that enthusiasm in the studio.”
“That freedom to go and do things outside the band, and also not just being allowed to do that but wanting to do that, I think is quite healthy. Operating in different circumstances results in much more interesting music rather than just being rigid in your work. It allows Hot Chip to change.” While a continued urge to connect with each other and explore new musical territory feels significant and welcome, one constant remains: nobody writes a killer hook quite like Hot Chip. A Bath Full Of Ecstasy proves that.
A Bath Full Of Ecstasy is released June 21st via Domino.
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See the video for ‘Melody of Love’ here: