Exclusive: Chairlift Talk Prince-Inspired Dirtiness and Secret Obsessions


Brooklyn trio Chairlift take an all-in approach to art, shamelessly mashing folk, electronica, country and — sure, we’ll say it — pop. Capitalizing on the success of hit single “Bruises” (and the subsequent iPod ad), the band recently released an updated version of its Kanine Records debut, Does You Inspire You

, adding two new tracks and an extended version of album highlight “Make Your Mind Up.”

Flavorpill caught up with singer Caroline Polachek before a “Saturdays Off the 405” performance in LA to talk about Killers frontman Brandon Flowers’ secret obsessions and Prince-inspired dirtiness behind closed doors.

Flavorpill: I’m excited about your Prince cover [featured in the upcoming Spin magazine Purple Rain tribute album]… “Darling Nikki” is my favorite Prince song.

Caroline Polachek: A friend of mine was telling me that that was the song that her and her friend would like play behind closed doors, and like, masturbate! It’s funny, because I probably would have been a big fan as a kid if I’d had access to that song but I just found out about it — honestly, I hate to admit this, but I found out about the song only because of the Spin compilation.

FP: Seriously?

CP: I knew “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain,” but I didn’t know “Darling Nikki” at all. We were asked to choose a track for the album and instantly, as soon as it came on, we were like, that’s the one!

FP: Back to the album. Who are some of your inspirations?

CP: I think that just like our record, our taste is super eclectic. We listen to all sorts of stuff. Right now we’re shamelessly listening to a lot of top ten hip-hop, like The Dream and Rick Ross… I love the soundtracks from David Lynch films. Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive are my favorites. A friend of mine has recently been getting me into black metal. There’s a band I really like now called Xasthur, out of LA. They’re awesome.

FP: How did you reconcile your independent tastes while making this record? What if someone wanted more jazz or a different lick?

CP: That actually never happened, but we’ll argue about the style of a song. If one person wants their part to sound like one style and another person wants it to sound like their style, we have no hesitations at all about putting the two together. I think “Earwig Count” is a good reflection of that. Aaron’s playing these Spaghetti Western-style guitar licks, and on top of that I’m playing these New Age-y pan flutes. It really goes both ways and we find ourselves quite intuitive of what the other wants. There’s a lot of “this makes it cooler” kind of thing. We don’t try to stick with one color.

FP: What about opening for the Killers. How was that?

CP: It was really awesome. We’ve never had a crowd as big as the Killers’ crowd. I expected that we’d be a little bit nervous but it was actually really nice. We were so well taken care of. They had a really nice board and the nicest monitors we’ve ever used. But the most fun aspect of playing the shows for me — besides seeing the Killers play every night, which was awesome — was playing for that kind of crowd. We’re sort of used to the mid-twenties, hipsters. Kids who read Pitchfork or whatever, who kind of have a back story. These kids had no idea who we were. They totally got into it. A lot of kids came to the merch tent afterward and said, “Who are you? You’re so mysterious! We like it!” It was really neat playing to a blank state.

FP: Do you have any stories to tell about Brandon Flowers?

CP: Brandon Flowers is super nice. He’s not like a cocky diva or anything. He’s really down to earth, really sweet, and a huge music fan. He knows so much about music that it actually blew my mind. We all kind of bonded over a similar kind of love for Roxy Music.

FP: Really?

CP: He’s a huge Roxy Music fan! What impressed me so much about playing with The Killers was how anthemic their songs are. Every single song seemed like an anthem to young America. There were just these ecstatic hands-in-the-air celebrations. I really appreciated that. But it’s very different to what we do.

FP: How did you learn to sing? Have you had classical training?

CP: Yeah. I’ve had as much cross training as you could possibly have. I grew up singing choirs when I was a kid. In high school the school choirs weren’t enough for me; I started singing in a couple of churches. I also started an accapella group where we did Doo-Wop covers. We did everything from arranging like, Dave Matthews and Christina Aguilera song to become beat-boxed, vocal-based arrangements. I learned how to use the voice as every part of the arrangement. I was also getting opera training on the side. I didn’t really pursue it after high school. I was doing Mozart, Italian operas. On the side, I was also in two pop metal bands that I would be so embarrassed to hear now. I’ve been in like eight groups.