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Chairlift Explores The Riskier Side Of Pop Music On ‘Moth’

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Photo: Chairlift press photo

The members of synth pop band Chairlift met while they were students at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

OpenAir caught up with the band -- now based in New York City -- last month prior to a headlining performance at the Gothic Theatre -- a venue where singer Caroline Polachek recalls seeing acts like P.J. Harvey and Modest Mouse as a college student.

"I feel like a lot of time has passed and also I feel like no time has passed," Polachek says of returning to Colorado. "It makes me really conscious of that gap between listener and performer that felt so big to me when I was young and going to those shows. It felt like an uncrossable line. It's sort of surreal to find ourselves now in that situation."

Since the band left Colorado and moved to New York, their music has soundtracked an iPod commercial and the duo co-wrote the song “No Angel” with Beyonce in 2013.

Photo: Chairlift at Gothic Theatre 2
Caroline Polachek of Chairlift

Drummer and bassist Patrick Wimberly says working with one of the world’s biggest pop stars was a huge moment for a band that started on a small indie label.

"There’s a certain credibility as a writer when somebody like Beyonce comes to you like: 'Hey, we like what you write! Can we write together?'" Wimberly says. "We could call home and tell Mom: 'Oh, now I’m a musician professionally!'"

Wimberly and Polachek used that momentum as they got to work on "Moth," their third Chairlift album.

Polachek describes the moth as an insect that’s vulnerable but isn’t afraid to blindly take risks. She found inspiration in that mentality.

"Risk was part of the unspoken mission statement of making this record," Polachek says. "Vocally speaking I wanted to write material that would really challenge me, both in the studio and onstage. Something that would actually require me to go to an extreme both physically and emotionally."

Photo: Chairlift at Gothic Theatre
Patrick Wimberly and Caroline Polachek of Chairlift perform at the Gothic Theatre on March 29, 2016.

The band took risks by improvising more material than on the first two Chairlift albums. Wimberly says the closing track, “No Such Thing As Illusion,” came together almost instantly as the band's session guitarist improvised a modular synthesizer beat.

"We just started looping that beat with the modular and then everyone started playing," Wimberly says. "I remember running around like a madman trying to plug everything in!"

The album’s lead single, “Ch-Ching,” also came together through experimentation. Wimberly played in a jazz ensemble during his time at CU-Boulder, and he invited an old bandmate to help him test out some equipment in his New York City home studio.

Those sessions actually ended up on the album.

"We recorded all the horn parts on a Sunday afternoon in maybe one or two hours," Wimberly says. "It was an experiment that went well. It became part of the palette and a sound we wanted to come back to as we wrote the record."

“Moth” is out now. Stream our Inside Track feature with Chairlift above and check out previous installments in the series.