Hot Chip’s latest album, June’s A Bath Full of Ecstasy, features the English’s group’s usual blend of throwback electro-pop sounds and warm vocals filtered through the lens of more modern production and a sparkling mix. Founding member Joe Goddard checked in with the Weekly before a recent show in Chicago.
With A Bath Full of Ecstasy, you worked with outside producers for the first time. What was the decision-making process that went into doing that? I think it was a case of feeling like, after making six records entirely on our own, we wanted to be pushed further and pushed out of our comfort zone and get inspired by the two people that we worked with.
What we realized is that it’s quite useful to have someone outside of the group being able to objectively make comments about the songs and writing and, sonically, the sound of the songs. It’s easier for that person to be critical of the songs, rather than someone within the group being critical of something you’re working on, because that feels like a betrayal of the group in some way. From an outside perspective, it feels more like their job to be critical and push you.
It was about trying to develop what we do in an interesting fashion and be inspired by new techniques and new equipment that these people might bring to the table as well.
What was the most interesting thing the producers brought to the table? There were very different things from each of the two people we worked with. They actually work in very different ways. First we worked with Rodaidh McDonald, who previously had [worked] on The xx’s records and a record by David Byrne from Talking Heads. He’s into very modern musical processes. He’s into using the most modern software available—software synthesizers and plug-ins and effects—to create very modern-sounding sonic things. He’s very much concerned with trying to keep the music feeling quite fresh and removed from the musical clichés that you can fall into if you’re using musical gear from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. He opened our eyes to some different effects and synthesizers, which was really useful for us. It’s very easy to become stuck in your ways in terms of the equipment you use.
And then Philippe Zdar was almost the opposite of that. He had a studio of this incredible gear from the last 30, 40 years of music history—amazing synthesizers from the early ’80s, and some from the late ’80s and ’90s, all incredible-sounding stuff. He really focused not on the age of the gear we were using, but on trying to get everyone in the group into a very comfortable state of mind where we would all feel free to jam together on the songs he produced with us. It was about psychologically getting everyone into that state of mind where everyone felt that they were comfortable enough to play freely. [Note: Zdar died in June.]
Very different approaches. I feel happy with the result; I feel like the album that was created has a coherence and a consistency across it, even though the two producers worked in quite different ways.
During the recording process, were there any major adjustments you had to make to reconcile the different ways they were approaching the music? If you go to two producers and ask them to challenge you and the way you do things—which is essentially what we wanted—you just have to be very open to their suggestions. … But, yeah, there were moments when we were unsure of what the result was going to be. But it’s really important to not shut down to those suggestions. We tried to give them time to try their ideas and we ended up creating things that we were all happy with. We occasionally had to temper their ideas and step back a little bit from all of the suggestions they made. But essentially, it did mean we were pushed toward certain kind of creative decisions we wouldn’t have made if we were just working on our own, which I think is a healthy thing.
How did you and bandmate Alexis [Taylor] end up collaborating with Katy Perry? I think she was interested in trying to write with us, so she got in contact with our management. I don’t really know more about the story other than that. We just got an email one day saying she wanted to try writing with us.
I really like the resulting song, “Into Me You See.” You can definitely hear your imprint on the song. It was my favorite on her album, Witness. It was a very enjoyable process; it was really exciting for us. She was really, really good to work with. She was really involved in the process, really collaborative and hard-working.
Did those sessions end up changing your perspective toward Hot Chip’s musical process in any way? I mean, maybe the session with Katy made us want to strive to improve our writing, because she’s quite meticulous. She’s hard-working about the actual structure and composition of a song. She really works hard at fine-tuning the writing of a song. But I can’t label a specific way it changed our process.
You’ve played Las Vegas before. Do you have any specific memories of being here? My only experience of Vegas so far is being in these quite incredible enormous casino and hotel places. I haven’t really had a chance so far to get out and explore older Vegas, and that’s something I would really, really love to do.
The last time we played was on the roof of a hotel [the Cosmopolitan] where there was an enormous swimming pool they drained over the course of the day so the audience could stand there, which in itself seemed like a massive operation.
HOT CHIP Sunday, 7:50 p.m., Bacardi Stage.