The Weekly chats with Hot Chip’s Al Doyle

After killing it at Coachella, Hot Chip plays the Boulevard Pool Thursday, April 18.
Photo: Steve Gullicklores
Annie Zaleski

The Details

April 18, 9 p.m., $37.35.
Boulevard Pool at Cosmopolitan.

Hot Chip’s incredible Coachella performance—which saw the London-based electronic vets mix staples such as “Over And Over” and “Ready For The Floor” with newer songs “Night & Day” and “How Do You Do?” during a dynamic set—bodes well for its Vegas appearance this week. Multi-instrumentalist Al Doyle checked in from his hotel the day before the festival madness and discussed Hot Chip’s last album (In Our Heads), his side project with bandmate Felix Martin (New Build) and how the rest of the group’s extracurricular activities inspire their main squeeze.

Is it jarring for you guys going from a big festival setting to a smaller show like you are playing in Vegas? We do that quite a lot, actually. On this particular run we’re doing now, there’s been a lot of that festival and then some club shows. We were in South America doing exactly that, basically—we’d have a club show and then a festival. It was Lollapalooza in Sao Paolo and one in Santiago. You just adjust. It’s kind of nice in some ways to do that, because there’s an intimacy to having your own show and it’s also sort of luxurious—you get a soundcheck. At the same time, the festival shows—if they go well, they’re untouchable as an experience, with the number of people involved. And because it’s not necessarily your crowd, there might be some people there that know you a little bit, but you have to bring something that’s very much more hard-hitting in those kinds of situations.

In Our Heads seemed a little looser and freer than some of your past couple of records. Is that fair to say? Yeah, I suppose there’s quite a few expansive tracks on there. You know, we were definitely trying to do long takes of things and trying not to use any ... I don’t think we used any loops or anything like that. It was recorded in quite a traditional way, even though there were still only two or three tracks we recorded as a band. There’s definitely some meandering elements to it. It was nice to be able to stretch out and work with not-necessarily to a short pop song form. We were going for some longer-form stuff.

Was the songwriting process markedly different for the record? Joe [Goddard] and Alexis [Taylor] are still bringing the songs to us as a group. The difference, I guess, was we were studio-based for the whole thing. We’ve definitely done work in studios before on different records, but this was very much based with our friend Mark Ralph that runs a studio in west London. He’s a really great guy to work with. It felt much more collaborative. It’s weird to say, because I suppose most bands would always go into a studio and sit down for a few weeks and do that, but that’s actually quite unusual for us. That felt a little different. I think we’ll probably keep on working with Mark. He was going to engineer the record, but he had more of a co-production rule, and he’s been working some other stuff for New Build and for Joe’s solo stuff as well. It’s a relationship we want to continue as well.

What did he bring to the process? How did you guys hit it off? Well, he’s got lots of fun toys to play with in his studio. [Laughs.] He’s sort of been collecting cool synths and vintage stuff that’s immediately quite inspiring to look at. His mixing desk used to belong to Conny Plank, who’s a producer in Germany that did the Neu! records and the Kraftwerk records. There’s a lot of history already, and Mark’s a very knowledgeable dude, and he brings a bit of magic to everything that you do in the sense that he’s just genuinely very excited about it. That keeps us interested as well. Honestly, I haven’t thought about it for a little while because it was quite a while ago that we did those sessions. We did some sessions much more recently with Mark and did a cover of an Arthur Russell song which is going to be used on a charity compilation—a Red Hot compilation thing. We ended up doing a new Hot Chip song as well. I’ve got no idea when that’s going to see the light of day, but it was fun to do a brand new one. It’s strange to talk to you about the process [for] In Our Heads because it was quite a long time ago now.

Yeah, you guys are always doing something—there’s a constant flow of music. A lot of people in the band are producers in their own right, and we’re constantly writing. It’s one of those things that you have to be a little careful about that you sort of get to a market saturation point. [Laughs.] Especially when they’re Hot Chip remixes: I’d be doing one, Joe would be doing one and maybe Alexis would be doing one—and they’d all come out within a month of each other. We wouldn’t have coordinated on it at all. But we just can’t seem to help ourselves. Alexis has been doing another couple of side projects on his side projects. It’s unstoppable at the moment. It’s good, though—it’s nice the way those things feed back in to the main Hot Chip project. We’re all excited by what everybody else is doing.

How does everything on the side inform Hot Chip? It’s our main gig, for sure. It’s always one of those things where that’s the core of what we do; it has the broadest canvas, I feel, especially through the status and position in the sort of music hierarchy. Obviously, Hot Chip is the thing that people know the best and that people have [had] the most affection for over the years. And we’re definitely all 100 percent committed to that. Having said that, there’s always lots of other musical itches to scratch, and it’s important we’re able to do that as well. There’s the stuff that Alexis does that’s on a slightly more experimental tip, and that’s what he will then bring back to the main Hot Chip project. Joe’s been doing some much more straight-up dance music with his collaborator [Raf] Rundell for the 2 Bears. Again, that’s something that will feed back in but be given a different swing by everybody else’s contribution. It’s a healthy operation. [Laughs.]

Your side project, New Build, premiered a new song, “False Thing,” last week. Do you have a new record coming? That’s a single, and we’ve probably got another single that we’re currently mixing. That will hopefully be ready in a month or so. And then yeah, an album. We’ve got five or six songs ready to go. We hope to get an album out by maybe the fall or something like that, and then start doing some touring. If we can do that, that would work out really well because Hot Chip’s going to finish touring at the end of August, and I can start with Felix on touring again. That sounds crazy—having just said that to you, it makes me feel insane, because it means I’ve been on the road for two and a half years or something—but if I can maintain my sanity, then I will be on the road with New Build.

What does the new music sound like? That single is probably the most straight-up poppy one. A lot of the other songs are a bit more in the vein of “Do You Not Feel Loved?” which we felt was the strongest track on that previous album [2012’s Yesterday was Lived and Lost]. I think we’re going to go a little more electronic, a little bit more sort of dark and moody, for lack of a better way of describing it. [Laughs.] It was a classic first record situation; we didn’t really know particularly what we wanted to do. I still really enjoyed the New Build record, but I wanted to make the next one maybe a little bit more focused. We’ll see how it ends up sounding yet. Maybe some political protest songs on there. [Laughs.] There’s some weird stuff going on in the U.K. at the moment. It felt as though it would be almost stranger not to reference some of that stuff. There’s going to be a tone of seriousness to it.


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