Interview: Hot Chip
Hot Chip may sing about wanting a one life stand, but residents of the Bay Area were privy to a one night stand last week when the British five-piece made a stop in Oakland on its way down to Coachella.
Fans that saw Hot Chip perform at the Fox Theater can attest to the enthusiasm of the group and the energy which radiated throughout the sold out crowd.
Al Doyle, who is known for his involvement with LCD Soundsystem and is a go-to guy in the band (he plays more than a handful of instruments), said that the current tour has been a learning experience because the band has been off the road for a while.
“[We’ve had to] dust ourselves down a bit and remember how to put the show on in an exciting way,” he said.
The group will play a handful of shows over the next week in major U.S. cities before continuing back to Europe. From there on out, its schedule consists exclusively of festivals.
“We’re actually doing a lot of festivals in the summer,” Doyle explained. “A lot of [members] have families and don’t want to spend too much time away from home.”
The touring schedule not only accommodates the members in that respect, but it also means that every show has a little bit more thought put into it. When the band plays fewer shows with more downtime between the dates, it’s less about having to perform and more about wanting to perform. Simply put, the energy each night is unique and real. Unfortunately, for the die-hard fans that aren’t located along the tour stops, it can be frustrating that Hot Chip plays so few shows.
“I do appreciate that people are only getting upset because they want to be seeing us playing,” Doyle said.
The band’s most recent album, “One Life Stand,” is its fourth full-length since the group’s inception a decade ago, and was released in February.
Doyle said Hot Chip recorded the album over a period of eight weeks during April and May of last year. He describes the concept and message of the album as a bit more “compact” compared to the three albums prior.
“One Life Stand” also features real piano, bass guitar and other instruments that haven’t been used very much on previous recordings. There are a few guest musician spots as well, including Charles Hayward, drummer of English rock band This Heat, who was also the live drummer for the “Made in the Dark” tour.
“There [are] a lot of songs on there that just feel [like] very good and complete pop songs,” he said.
This is in response to a lot of the comments and sometimes-criticism from fans that feel the album is more toned-down and slowed, a departure from what has become understood as the Hot Chip “sound.”
“People have a strange opinion,” Doyle said. “It was never intended to be that low-key [and contains] what we feel are quite danceable…songs.”
Part of that differentiation also lies in the variation between how the songs appear on the recording and the life they take on in a live setting.
“We always change things up,” he explained. “If we do anything to them we definitely make them more lively and more amped up and more noisy. We did try playing more of the quieter songs but we’ve had to abandon that.”
Instead, the band focuses on what Doyle describes as a “kind of high-octane energy set” which manifests itself as “up-tempo all the way.”
As a result, the live show is infused with too many gem-like moments to count. One in particular that sticks out for Doyle is when the steel drums come in on “One Life Stand” and Alexis moves to the front of the crowd and sings.
“That’s a good moment,” he said with positive assuredness. But he said the steel pans in general are a solid addition to the live show.
“People react to them quite well. [They’re] a universally good instrument,“ Doyle said. “Live reaction has been good. People seem to be very excited and they seem to know the songs quite well,” he said.
Of course, it helps that the band loves every aspect of performing as well. The only downside to touring, Doyle said, is when he or another member makes a noticeable slip-up in the music.
“I’m enjoying it all [but] I don’t enjoy it when I make a mistake, like, a really loud mistake,” he said with a laugh.
He referenced the embarrassment of messing up on his flugelhorn solo, and another time when he realized his fly was undone on stage. But those moments – which are few and far between – aside, Doyle said he and the other four members of the band love what they’re doing and hope the fans will see that and appreciate it too.
“I think the set that we’ve got right now, we’re all very very happy with it,” he said.