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“I’m only really at the beginning of talking about this record,” says Hot Chip’s lead singer, Alexis Taylor, of Why Make Sense? (due out May 18). “I don’t really feel like I know what’s going on in terms of New York — or this album.”
Taylor has frequented New York for years as the frontman of the electronic five-piece, alongside members Joe Goddard, Owen Clarke, Al Doyle, and Felix Martin. Earlier this spring, Taylor was in town DJ’ing at the MoMA, but was even more thrilled to be catching Björk’s MoMA exhibit and Carnegie Hall performance the following day while he was in town.
“I’m interested to hear her in concert playing [Vulnicura] — I haven’t actually listened to the album yet,” said Taylor, visibly excited about the Icelandic singer’s recent output. “For the exhibition, I’m really interested in her costumes. I know she worked with Bernhard Willhelm, who I really like. I don’t really know what it’s going to consist of.”
Björk’s marriage of music and art isn’t unfamiliar to Taylor. Hot Chip’s first single from their upcoming record, “Huarache Lights,” met its match in Rob Bell’s light installation for the music video, something that fans will likely be seeing while the band is on tour. The audio/visual juxtaposition is taken one step further through designers Nick Relph and Matthew Cooper, who made over 130,000 cover art variations for the new record. With slight differences in graphics and more than 501 distinct colors used, the cover of Why Make Sense? serves as a unique creation for Hot Chip fans. (“Every copy will have a different sleeve and color,” adds Taylor. “The foreground image will slightly change positioning in each edition.”)
With fifteen years of music-making under their belt, Hot Chip are paying homage, with this sixth studio album, to the past, pulling from earlier Hot Chip influences, other artists, and previous eras.
“I think that [this album] may be a nice return to the r&b and hip-hop influences that were there at the beginning of Hot Chip, before we went so house and disco-y,” says Taylor. “It reminds me of the first two records in certain ways, and in some ways it doesn’t feel like that at all.”
Fans who have followed Hot Chip from their first records, Coming On Strong and The Warning, to One Life Stand and, most recently, 2012’s In Our Heads, shouldn’t expect any of the songs themselves to be homages to other records.
“I much prefer working really, really quickly — to the extreme”
“We haven’t thought about those,” says Taylor of Hot Chip’s previous albums. “ ’Huarache Lights’ in the groove does remind me of ‘Over and Over,’ but there are pretty different things on this record, like the title track, ‘Why Make Sense?’ — we haven’t made anything that noisy, with an orchestra of synthesizers, before.”
With influences of disco and funk from techno/house DJ Moodymann and old-school hip-hop, Hot Chip mostly focused on inspiration from the past to craft Why Make Sense?. “Love Is the Future,” featuring De La Soul’s Posdnuos, stands out in particular as a smooth r&b-pop song — something different when up against the rest of Hot Chip’s discography. Upon hearing the throwback samples on D’Angelo’s long-awaited masterpiece Black Messiah at the end of recording the album, Hot Chip even changed one of the record’s songs.
“It took fourteen years to make, but it has this effortless feel to it, and the grooves are easy,” says Taylor of Black Messiah. “Something like ‘Started Right’ [from our album], we re-contextualized by changing the drum pattern based on hearing D’Angelo’s record.”
And while he agrees that Black Messiah is brilliant, Taylor doesn’t think the next Hot Chip record will take a decade and a half to come to fruition. “I’m not really looking to make an album over a fourteen-year period. I much prefer working really, really quickly — to the extreme.”
Hot Chip’s Why Make Sense? is out via Domino Records on May 18, and the band will play Governors Ball June 5.
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