If blogger buzz is to be believed, Caroline Polacheck of Brooklyn’s dreamy psychedelic pop group, Chairlift, is the ultimate indie rock goddess. The band’s brooding 2008 debut, Does You Inspire You, captivated the Internet and its follow up pop tune, “Bruises,” may have been sugary, but it also had the whole world bouncing thanks to its Pod Nano commercial placement. Since then, the band’s signed with Columbia Records and released their sophomore album, Something. But it’s the near perfect pairing of Polacheck’s hypnotic pipes—they’ve earned comparisons to everyone from Feist to Toni Braxton—and Patrick Wimberley’s brooding bass lines that’s seeing Chairlift through the opposite of a sophomore slump. They’ve just returned from a European tour, but will play a whopping eight shows at SXSW this week before kicking off their American leg. Before the madness starts (or continues?), we caught up with Polacheck to talk about her psychotic fans, the Cat Power show that changed her life, and a mutual love of Beyoncé.
ELLE: So, let’s talk about that cuckoo fan who hopped on stage and lost her mind at your Bowery show a few months ago… were you scared?
CP: It was crazy, right? Normally when people come on stage, they just want to dance or pick up a tambourine or something and that’s totally fun. But this girl had a crazed look; I think she was really drunk or something. She jumped up on stage and staggered toward me. I talked to her for a second and I said, “Hey, could you jump down?” She didn’t respond so security came on stage and as soon as she realized someone was trying to get her off stage, she totally panicked and lunged towards me. I didn’t get the sense she was trying to hurt me or anything, but it was like trying to restrain an animal! The funniest thing was, we were debuting a song that night that we never played before, and I couldn’t even sing after that happened because I was laughing so hard. It was just total chaos. We totally failed at debuting that song, but in the end, there was actually a lot more videos than there would have been otherwise.
ELLE: Carles, the mysterious blogger behind the satirical Hipster Runoff, wrote about it. Are you a fan? And of blogs in general?
CP: Carles is kind of a genius, not gonna lie. In general, I’m not that affected by what blogs write. I just realize everything they write is to boost readership, but I actually really like Hipster Runoff. I love how they generate all of their own slang, how they develop their own vocabulary. I remember they posted an article like a year ago about the new Panda Bear record where they didn’t talk about music at all but only analyzed what it means for Panda Bear to put out a new record right now. They almost judged the entire new record based on the climate of the music scene and what place there is for Animal Collective and Panda Bear. That actually really freaked me out for a while when I first read it. Hipster Runoff is such a cynical yet endearing outlook on the music industry and I think it’s kind of important even though I don’t read it often. I just love how he calls everyone “BB”.
ELLE: Bloggers love the “Brooklyn Band” generalization. Is Williamsburg really just a campus full of indie musicians?
CP: It means a lot of different things to us. Brooklyn is where we live and where we work and it really feels like home to us because I’ve lived there for like six years. There are so many scenes there that it’s really funny that the press seems to assume that there is one scene and we all know each other. It’s almost like grades in school—there’d be like one grade that all grew up together and then others that grow up together, too, and they don’t necessary know each other. There’s clusters of bands that all kind of support each other and sometimes there’s no interaction with the other clusters. I remember when I first moved to New York, I was really impressed by the cluster of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grizzly Bear and TV On The Radio and then there was Yeasayer and MGMT. And now there’s a ton of new bands that are amazing like Regal Degal, Beige, The Ice Choir and then Class Actress and Violens fall somewhere in between all of those. Even within record labels, some bands have a particular sound and aesthetic. This year is really exciting for music, even just the past two months there are so many girls making stuff that is really exciting and experimental.
ELLE: Let’s talk about your voice. How’d you learn to sing your face off?
CP: When I was a kid, I would sit down at the piano and play Disney songs like “A Whole New World” or songs from The Little Mermaid or The Lion King. When I was in high school, I started playing in two bands and in five choirs. I got really into singing medieval music and modern choral arrangements. Choir was really amazing because you could learn about how different voices can come together to make different kinds of tones. For example, when a lot of people sing in unison it makes a kind of buzz sound that three people singing in unison won’t do. I started applying that to synthesizers when I started working on Chairlift. Even when the way we arrange now with the vocals, synth and the bass, I still see them as voices.
ELLE: Is there a particular concert that affected you to the point where you were like, “I’ve GOT to do this…”
CP: I actually met Patrick [Wimberly, her bandmate] on my very first day of college—I went to University of Colorado at Boulder for two years before transferring to NYU—I went to a Cat Power show by myself because I didn’t know what to do and the band that opened for Cat Power was Patrick’s band, and I loved them. So I approached him after they played and I asked him if I could sing back-up for them because I had just moved to town and I didn’t know anyone. But that actual Cat Power concert itself really moved me. Sometimes when you go to concerts by yourself, you become a lot more vulnerable than you are when you are with friends drinking beer. It was an outdoor concert and I remember sitting on the gravel and just crying my eyes out on some songs; it was so moving. That was kind of an important day in my life.
ELLE: Is there anyone on the radio right now who with whom you’d like to collaborate?
CP: I pretty much hate everything on the radio except for Beyoncé and Lil Wayne. I wish the Dream was on the radio more often; I love the Dream. Lil Wayne is amazing—he’s like an alien. I would love to do something with him, but I’m sure I’m too straight for him. Weezy, if you’re reading this, hit me up.