Something changes in a band once they have reached a certain point in stardom. Yes they most likely have more money, but they also seem more worn-down. I have noticed this with so many of the touring acts I have interviewed. They go out and put on the show, but as soon as they are off-stage the on-stage persona ceases to exist. It is a two-faced world in today’s indie rock scene. The bands that seem to be enjoying themselves the most on and off-stage are barely making ends meet, but as soon as the big labels and TV cameras come to their doors, they suddenly grow old. I spoke with a tired looking, tea-sipping Alexis Taylor, Hot Chip’s front man, before their show last Friday.
Their first disc with Moshi Moshi came out in 2004. It was titled “Coming on Strong.” The London-based label has a knack for breaking famous indie acts, including The Rakes, Bloc Party, Architecture in Helsinki, Lo-Fi-Fnk, Kate Nash and many others.
A&E: For your first record, how did you get signed with Moshi Moshi?
AT: Just giving demo CDs to people. I found it harder to get gigs than to get records released, when I first started out. With the first full album, we wanted to just play a show, and the guy was called Steven Bass (One of the label’s founders). I sent him a CD and instead of him coming back saying “Yes, you can play” he said, “You can play and, also, do you want to release an album with us? We’re a label.” I didn’t know he worked for a label, so I was like “OK.” That’s basically all that happened; it was exactly what we needed at the time. That label was tiny, but it was growing in reputation.
A&E: Is that typical for young London acts? Is it hard to get gigs?
AT: It wasn’t that hard to get gigs. But I used to play gigs on my own at the same time as doing the Hot Chip thing. Some people just thought the music was too miserable to book. “Oh we want something that people will get into a bit more. The songs are too sad.” Maybe that’s why I found it difficult to find gigs in the beginning. Hot Chip gigs were kind of similar to that in the beginning, just me and Joe (Goddard, vocals and keyboards) and our voices, a keyboard and a guitar.
A&E: What kind of tea are you drinking?
AT: This is ginger and lemon that Owen (Clarke, guitarist) just made for us. It’s fresh ginger, hot water and lemon.
A&E: Is it good for your voice?
AT: Yeah, ’cause I get quite ill on tour and with singing a lot. I have to look after my throat when not partying too much.
A&E: Since you’ve been on tour, what are the groupies like? Do you like American groupies as opposed to European groupies?
AT: Actually, I’m married and I don’t really have much to do with groupies. I think people are attractive the world over. Obviously in Scandinavia they’re quite beautiful people, particularly in Iceland – both men and women; they look like models.
A&E: Now that you’re doing all right, selling out clubs the world over, have you made any big purchases?
AT: I bought the complete Hank Williams box set. That’s the biggest purchase.
A&E: Getting much enjoyment?
AT: Yeah, I only got it yesterday in Chicago. I’m going to try and buy a house. From Hank Williams to a house, I think that’s the next stage.
A&E: Where do you see yourself after all of this? Do you think Hot Chip will be like the Rolling Stones, keeping at it after 60?
AT: I don’t know. I think Hot Chip will exist. I hope it will exist for a long time, in one form or another. I don’t imagine we will commit to making an album a year until we are 90, but I’d like us to still be working together – to still be friends. We’ve been listening to a lot of Rolling Stones, actually, watching footage of them and there’s a thing you can see – I think it’s on YouTube. They come off stage and they’ve just played the Super Bowl or something – the biggest stadium they’ve ever played – and the first thing Mick (Jagger) says in the dressing room is, “Oh, there’s still some cheese.” He’s just come off the biggest high in his life, you would think, and he’s just more concerned about there being some cheese in the dressing room. It’s kind of something to aspire to.
A&E: If you are still active 20 years down the road, how would you like people to remember Hot Chip as they are today?
AT: I would want people to be paying attention to the record that’s coming out then. I wouldn’t want them to be like, “Oh, yeah, remember when they started they were so cool? They were quite interesting, now they’ve just been doing the same thing. I wish they wouldn’t have gone into New Age music, what did they do that for?” I do actually like New Age music, so that’s just a bad example. If they have to remember something specific about this period, this would be the period where we thought we went all pop, but it turned out we were just still hovering in the underground somewhere. “Do you remember that sort of weird time where Hot Chip tried to break into the mainstream and it didn’t really happen?” Maybe that’s what it will be like.