Hot Chip are a true survivor in their field. The electronic music scene is littered with the carcasses of interchangeable acts that either relied too much on flash or simply couldn’t return to the well when it came time to find the next infectious beat. Hot Chip emerged in 2004 with Coming on Strong and over the next five years recorded three more (The Warning, Made in the Dark, and One Life Stand) albums that only served to burnish their reputation as one of the most successful purveyors of electronic music to mainstream audiences. The band returns in 2012 with its fifth full-length, In Our Heads. Band member Felix Martin discussed the new record, the pleasures of playing on classic instruments and the secrets of the Hot Chip’s longevity and success.
The band’s last album, One Life Stand, touched on the themes of growth and maturation. Does In Our Heads continue on this path?
I think it does. We have a lot of songs that are written about relationships, and written in a very straightforward way. They talk about the way things really play out, and in that way do a pretty good job of discussing life in general.
Even if your lyrics aren’t exactly heavy, they are concerned with more than turning it up at the club. Do you have to work to balance these evolving themes with the “Hot Chip” sound?
I don’t think so, really. If you go back and look through music, you’ll find it’s a very old trope to use very upbeat rhythms and melodies and pair them with very dark lyrics, and vice versa. I think there’s definitely a lot of the dramatic and serious in our music, but we’re not original in that we do it. It’s just the way that we’ve found to do it over the years that sets Hot Chip apart from other bands.
How much of a collaboration is the band at this point?
I don’t think it’s changed a great deal. It’s still very much led by Joe and Alexis, and what they come up with, basically. The role of the other musicians in the band is really to develop the live sound of the band. We’ll be in the studio a lot to contribute, but there are roles that have evolved over time, and we’re pretty comfortable with how the process works at this point.
Speaking of sound, how would you characterize the overall sound of this record compared to your other albums?
I think that is a very upbeat sounding record, but it’s hard to compare it to any of the other ones, really. It has a lot of the ideas that are always present on the records. I guess that Hot Chip as a band is sort of obsessed with certain things, and you just keep digging away at the same patch of earth. The difference is that each time the idea gets more refined, and the production gets deeper, richer, and more affecting. We’re not, however, really breaking a lot of new ground.
I get a lot of ’80s type sounds in the synths, which is new for Hot Chip.
I think comes from the fact that we recorded this one is a very different environment. We worked with Mark Ralph as our engineer, and he has this studio in London with a wonderful old mixing deck. To go along with that, he has a bunch of classic ’70s and ’80s synths. We were really excited to use them and experiment with the sound that we could get out of them. I think that you hear a lot of that on the album, and it could come through as sort of an ’80s, retro vibe, which is really one of the best elements on the record. Even so, I don’t think it’s over done; we didn’t want to bow down at the shrine of the ’80s synth. It’s just an element that exists under the surface on a lot of the songs, which are still Hot Chip songs.
Do you feel at all constricted by the sound that you’ve developed over the course of your records?
Not really. Everyone in the band has a bunch of different projects, and we can make music in a bunch of different avenues. I also think none of us is really unhappy with what Hot Chip is; it’s something that’s very dear to us. With our fans, we have a group of very like-minded people who buy our records and come to the shows. They are still very psyched about the music, and we’re very connected to those people. It’s nothing we want to change.
Your fan base has allowed you to continue on to record a fifth album, which not a lot of bands get to do. Is it hard to get “up” for the fifth album, though?
It’s funny. It’s weird, but not weird at the same time. It feels very natural; we just go in and do what we do. I don’t think it’s something you want to just overlook, though- there aren’t a lot of bands that have been able to record five albums and not go to shit. At the same time, it’s never been a struggle. We don’t sit around and worry about having to record the fifth album. The band is blessed in the fact that we have a great writer and a great engineer working all the time. When it comes time to make the album, the amount of work that’s already been put in pays off. I think that’s the secret of Hot Chip continuing to release records without a great deal of difficulty.
Do you feel any additional pressure, given that Hot Chip has risen in status with the release of each new album?
I think there is a little bit of pressure, because each album is kind of a referendum on what you’re doing as an artist and why you continue to release albums. Whenever there are more people paying attention, the stakes go up. It’s also easier in some respects. There are a lot of people who are interested in hearing the new Hot Chip record. That’s the nice part of having the pressure on you.
Is it possible that Hot Chip is the most well adjusted band working today?
I think it’s quite possible, with the adjustment of different band members varying at different times. We’re friends, and we try to support each other. We’re also lucky because we have good people working around us. I think we’re primarily lucky, but we’re also well adjusted, whatever that means.