Chairlift - Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly on “Moth,” Vulnerability, and Crying in Public | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Chairlift - Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly on “Moth,” Vulnerability, and Crying in Public

To the Flame

Mar 30, 2016 Web Exclusive Photography by Tim Barber Bookmark and Share

Inside a 6,600 square foot complex in Brooklyn that once headquartered pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly are waiting for the delivery of their dinner. Recently arriving back home in New York City after performing a select number of shows in Los Angeles, New Haven, and Boston, the pair have decamped for an evening of “bread sodas”aka beerand burritos in the room that has successfully served as their very own self-made studio. “We started our lease three years ago today,” explains Polachek, jokingly adding, “It was the only room available to us that had the beautiful combination of a carpet and window.”

Between 2013 and 2015, it was here that the established synth-pop duo recorded their third full-length album, Moth (which is out now via Columbia). The follow-up to the band’s 2012 LP Something, the new record features the pair at their most emotionally unfiltered, uncomplicated, and directat least from Polachek’s perspective. This particular attitude most likely stems from the fact that the album is the band’s first self-produced effort. “In the past we’d demo songs out on our own and then brought those demos to producers,” say Polachek. “And while we often left a lot of the original demo tracks in, at the end of the day someone was sort of shepherding us along the process of wrapping up the recordings. So this time around we were doing it ourselves. Patrick was really pushing himself to learn a lot about engineering and learn a lot about different analog production techniques and I was really pushing myself as a vocalist to sing with more velocity than I ever had before, and write lyrics that were more vulnerable and exposing than anything I’d ever done before.”

One of Polachek’s most frequent sources for the album’s greater intimacy was her relationship with fellow New York artist Ian Drennan. After several years of dating, the two tied the knot late last year. Says Polachek, “I was very much falling in love during the time that a lot of these songs were writtenthat feeling of being out of control and even pointing out the arrogance of thinking you’re in control, and then love scoots out from under you and pulls the rug out.” Polachek’s thematic exploration of romance also extended to her own experiences living in a city with 8 million other people. In the case of the band’s ballad single “Crying in Public,” for example, Polachek confesses, “I cry in public more often than I’d like to admit. I often cry in public just listening to music, especially when I’m on the subway. There’s something about how vulnerable one is on the subway. You’re in a box, underground with a lot of strangers, and you don’t get to decide when you’re going to arrive. For me that’s a very distinct New York moment. I’m much more careful and introspective and emotional way more than I am when I’m at home or when I’m at a party or something like that. But I cry quite often listening to music because I feel like something about that state makes me more open to whatever I’m listening to. One thing about this song in particular is that it’s not about crying because you’re sad. It’s more the feeling of crying because you’re awakened by something. You realize you’ve been an idiot or an asshole and you’ve had your head in the sand and you get awakened to how beautiful something is or how much someone loves you and you realize how grateful you are. And so it’s crying effectively because of gratitude and beauty instead of being sad.”

While Polachek ventured both inward and outward for the record’s lyrical content, it was always within the walls of what Wimberly describes as their “humble little pill factory studio” that the longtime friends and collaborators worked and experimented on the idiosyncratic fancifulness of the album’s pop compositions. “We found improvisation in the studio to be really enjoyable,” says Polachek. “I think when things feel calculated it feels less miraculous. When you show up and you don’t have any predetermined idea when you walk in the studio and then you walk out six hours later with this thing you couldn’t have thought up if you tried. I don’t know, it’s very exciting.”

“There was one week early on in the process where we set out to write five or six songs in one week,” adds Wimberly. “The idea was that we were just going to come in with totally blank slates and create something from scratch. The next week we came into the studio and we listened back and we were like, ‘This is about half the record.’”

Flitting about its icy synth textures and warm undercurrent of bass and horns, like the album’s titular namesake around a source of light in absolute darkness, Moth is the work of a band completing a type of metamorphosis in their still-young career. “This record we sort of learned how to navigate and learned what we want,” says Polachek. “[We] feel more comfortable in ourselves and are finally able to approach things with confidence. I think you can hear it throughout.”

It should be said however, that for all the changes happening in their lives, Polachek and Wimberly are still trying to figure what exactly they’re transforming into. “Grown ups?” Polachek jokes. “Not me,” chimes in Wimberly. “Never, never.”


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December 2nd 2017

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