12.06.2019

Hot Chip might just be the most consistently inconsistent group of the last decade

Words by Christopher Lewis

“Hot Chip will break your legs, snap off your head. Hot Chip will put you down, under the ground.” This was The Warning given to the world in 2006 by a precocious indie-dance group from London. What they didn’t warn us was that they would become the most consistent source of loved up disco-pop for the next 13 years.

The brainchild of high school friends and falsetto aficionados Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard, Hot Chip shot to fame on the back of Ed Banger, Kitsuné and Modular’s nu-rave explosion. Since then they’ve soundtracked your regrettable nightclub pashes, the giddy feeling of white hearts hitting your bloodstream and the countless hedonistic evenings that you can now hardly remember.

Speaking to Taylor on the eve of their seventh album’s release, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, there’s a feeling of homecoming as the band reconvene following their longest break between albums.

In the intervening years, guitarist Al Doyle recorded and toured American Dream with LCD Soundsystem, Goddard released his solo album Electric Lines and Taylor released the contemplative Piano and last year’s Beautiful Thing. Which begs the obvious question, can Hot Chip still write bangers?

“We’re not in the same place psychologically as we were when we wrote ‘Over and Over’. It’s been impossible to ignore what’s going on in the world and so there are moments on the record that we probably wouldn’t have written ten years ago.

“You can hear it on ‘Melody of Love’, it’s not that it’s explicitly about Brexit or the rise of right-wing politicians, but the impact of those things is felt in the music. It’s been impossible to stay frivolous now.”

Those fearing that Hot Chip have done a Morrissey can breathe easy, the new album still has songs destined for sticky dancefloors at 3am, but it’s not their magnum opus as, once again, they balance the forgettable with the undeniable. They might just be the most consistently inconsistent group of the last decade.

“I think our best is still to come. In Our Heads was one that I particularly liked making and I stand by how that turned out. I also think that ‘One Life Stand’ is a very strong track and I think this new album is one of the strongest we’ve made.

“With Made in the Dark we were going for something like a double album feel, where the moods change from song to song and I think we might still make something better than that.”

Sparser in composition and shorter in length, A Bath Full of Ecstasy favours depth over breadth as the majority of tracks tip over the five-minute mark and it’s clear there’s been a conscious decision to move away from the formulaic three-minute pop single.

“The obvious connection between my solo album and A Bath Full of Ecstasy is that Piano was very minimalistic and so we tried to leave a bit more space in the music compared to other albums.”

“Sometimes Al would play a bassline, or a guitar part and it would remind me of the kind of locked in, repetitive grooves that you hear when he plays in LCD Soundsystem. And on ‘Hungry Child’ I can hear a connection with Joe’s album, which was influenced by classic house and disco.

“So, it definitely seeps in, but at the same time it does feel like Hot Chip have a particular energy when all of us are together, a kind of spirit of experimentation in the studio that we can’t replicate working by ourselves.”

This experimentation was augmented by legendary French house producer and one half of Cassius, Philippe Zdar, who stepped in to aid the usually self-produced Londoners.

“Philippe could see the kind of melodic and vocal hooks in the tracks and he brought those out in the mix. He captured the fun improvisation of the studio and, like us, he was keen on mixing it so there was more space in the music.

“He also provided us with lots of unfamiliar equipment and instruments, so it was like being a child arriving at a new playground. I think if we’d just done it ourselves, we maybe would’ve settled into our groove or used overly familiar techniques, so it was good to kind of break away from that.”

Prompted that it’s mildly disappointing Zdar didn’t make them write a Berghain techno track, the overtly serious façade of the artist slips as Taylor chuckles, “Sometimes I want to make a minimalistic techno track or something that doesn’t rely on vocals, a chorus and a middle eight. But at the same time, music without those elements can feel a bit boring unless it’s really perfectly produced.

“I love Rhythm & Sound Records, which came out of Germany by the Basic Channel guys in the late ‘90s, but I don’t really feel like I can make things like that. I rarely feel like I can escape from pop music, because you have to do what you’re best at and, for me, that’s trying to write pop songs.”

Hot Chip’s seventh studio album, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, hits the shelves on Friday June 21 via Domino Recording Company.