Reading through the itinerary for Hot Chip’s ongoing international expedition is more exhausting than keeping track of the instruments employed by the English dance pop five-piece, but only slightly. Starting this week and running through November, Hot Chip’s tour behind In Our Heads, the band’s fifth studio release, will take them from Tokyo to Toronto to Mexico City and back to their native London, and their arsenal of guitars, bass, percussion, steel drums, piano, synths, drum machines and a flugelhorn will be joining them for the duration of the trip.
As demonstrated by the complex build-ups and multi-faceted breakdowns bookending each track on In Our Heads, Hot Chip is very much so a modern pop-anthem machine with the rare ability to make a mess of creativity and control it in the form of infectious, intricately arranged dance floor standards. According to Al Doyle, Hot Chip’s jack-of-all-trades on guitar, synths, bass, percussion and the occasionally flugelhorn, this is one of the hardest aspects of bringing their show on the multi-continental road.
Now, there’s a lot of you, and a lot moving parts to bring on the road. What’s the most difficult hurdle to jump when it comes heading out on tour with Hot Chip?
Al Doyle: It’s always very difficult to convert the songs to a live experience, because we don’t really record the songs in a way that’s close to the live performance. We lay things down piece by piece. When we get into playing live shows, we relearn the mental semantics of making it work, especially when it comes to the multi-layered base of a song.
This is your fifth studio album. Did you take anything from the experience of making One Life Stand and did that inform the creative process behind In Our Heads?
Doyle: It’s not something that we really think about too much. We’re just sort of continually writing and recording music, so it’s not like we have an expectation for a certain song—like, “We’re going to try to do this one this way” or whatever—it’s just that the songwriting reaches its critical mass. I think with One Life Stand those songs belonged to that album and it has a sense of unity to it. The new album is a similar thing—the space of it and the songs of it feel like they all come from the same place. I also think that the Alexis and Joe’s songwriting skills are improving all the time, and I think they’ve done some amazing tracks on this new record.
In Our Heads is chock full of romantic themes—“Look At Where We Are” is particularly heartbreaking. You guys have made the danceable love song your calling card. What’s the anatomy of a love song, according to Hot Chip?
Doyle: A lot of the other love songs on the record sort of seem to be tinged with some kind of weird skew on the whole thing … but from what I can tell, the musician has to be saying something true about their own experience and it should be something worth saying.
When it comes to performing these songs with emotional undertones, are any of these difficult to put out there?
Doyle: No, no—Alexis in particular just loves singing and performing. If he’s in a room with a piano, he’ll just play that piano until someone literally closes the lid on his hand. He just has to play, and he does it in a very natural, obsessive way. That’s never a problem, and he’s a very open kind of guy who’s up for laying it on the line.
When I think of Hot Chip, I think of “Ready for the Floor.” If there’s one stereotype pertaining to dance music that you’d want to dispel, what would it be?
Doyle: That it’s brainless or stupid music. It is stupid music in some ways, but it’s very hard to get it right. I think that dance music in America is a particular odyssey to me, and its recently aspired to get a lot more recognition for the homegrown talented techno producers in America of Chicago and Detroit and elsewhere. For a lot of American kids, dance music is this weird music that they like in Europe, that they associate with glow sticks and dreadlocks. It blows my mind quite how big this new dubstep is, as it comes without a history behind it. When we were growing up, there was a huge rebirth of dance music in the ‘80s and ‘90s in the UK, and we all went to raves and dance music fests when we were kids. Dance music is something we have a lot of affection for—it moves you emotionally and can be very complex.
What’s the pre-show ritual like for Hot Chip? Do you guys have one?
Doyle: (Laughs) A lot of people ask about this! A problem I have personally along with some of my bandmates is that we’re pretty much borderline alcoholics, so we have to watch the booze consumption, which we often get wrong (laughs). I sometimes consult with Owen as to what his strategy’s going to be. Our drink of the moment is the Negroni.
So, basically your pre-show ritual is getting shitfaced.
Doyle: In a word (laughs). Actually, our pre-show ritual is battling against getting shitfaced.
Hot Chip Tour Dates
Chicago, Ill. @ Pitchfork Music Festival 17
Boston, Mass. @ House of Blues 20
New York, N.Y. @ Terminal 5 21
Philadelphia, Penn. @ Electric Factory 22
Columbia, M.D. @ Merriweather Post Pavilion
9 Los Angeles, Calif. @ Hollywood Bowl
11Oakland, Calif. @ Fox Theater
13 Portland, Oreg. @ Mcmenamins Crystal
14 Seattle, Wash. @ Paramount Theatre