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Chairlift are more than that band from the iPod commercial

June 19, 2009 - 5:45 pm


“It’s not like putting your song in some gas-guzzling SUV commercial or using our song for some bad product that we would never use or that we would never support,” says Chairlift drummer Patrick Wimberly. “And we knew it would help us get our record into as many ears as possible.”

Yeah, it would be easy to say that the Brooklyn trio is just another band that lent their cutest, catchiest song—their single, “Bruises”—to Apple so the electronics company could sell more iPod nanos. But, like many artists before them that have had a song featured in an Apple commercial, the song turned out to be a huge hit and singer Caroline Polachek likes it that way.

“I have nothing against the idea of the song being catchy whatsoever,” Polachek says. “I love that we’ve written a song that a lot of people consider to be catchy.”

Chairlift’s first full-length album, Does You Inspire You, is a collection of songs that’s actually quite genre-bending. While “Bruises” is blatant pop, other songs toy around with texture, sound layering, hooks and melodies that sit somewhere between futuristic bubblegum pop and ’80s synth-pop.

Polachek, Wimberly and guitarist Aaron Pfenning are all multi-instrumentalists. During their live set and when recording, all of them contribute vocals and play a number of different instruments.

“The only roles that we have that are defined is that Patrick plays drums better than anyone else, Aaron plays guitar better than anyone else and I play synth better than anyone else,” Polachek says with a laugh. “But besides that, everything’s up for grabs and it’s non-exclusive. I think that’s actually one of the things that makes us kind of special as a band is that we all kind of do everything.”

They’ve been that way since the start, even back in Boulder, Colo., where Polachek and Pfenning first met and founded Chairlift. But in Boulder’s mountainous landscape, it was indie folk-based rock that was mostly being made.

“We kind of sat on the outskirts of that scene,” Polachek says.

They set out wanting to make live music for haunted houses; they experimented with loops and wrote pop progressions that incorporated noise. They played wherever they could—at art parties, in people’s garages, coffee shops and opening for bigger bands that came through Denver. It wasn’t until Polachek transferred to art school in New York and the two moved to Brooklyn that Chairlift really began to take shape. Though Polachek insists they didn’t move there for the music scene, Brooklyn became the place where they felt their music fit in. It was also where they found Wimberly, who rounded out the trio.

“They were playing at Cake Shop and I remember whispering to one of my friends, ‘I’m going to join this band,’ and about three months later, I was in the band,” says Wimberly. His joining the group brought Chairlift to a different place, and the band moved forward rapidly.

“Until then it was pretty much just me and Aaron doing everything and working as equals, but once Patrick stepped in, he kind of filled the role of a producer and an arranger, actually,” Polachek says. “Aaron and I would come up with an idea for a song, usually separately, and then Patrick would help us record it, fill in the beats and bass lines.”

Brooklyn indie label Kanine Records initially released Does You Inspire You, but it wasn’t long until the big guns came calling. Chairlift has since signed with Columbia Records, who re-released the album with two new tracks, “Le Flying Saucer Hat” and “Dixie Gypsy.” The latter was recorded by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor in a church to capture the natural reverb.

And even though they’ve already opened for the likes of Peter Bjorn & John and The Killers, the band has booked a small headlining tour in Southern California this summer.

Oh, and as far the name goes, Wimberly explains that “a chairlift is a ride over a beautiful landscape. It’s a panoramic view of the world. It’s slow and it’s quiet and it’s peaceful.”

He then adds, “And it takes you to the top.”

Chairlift play with Tropical Depression and The Illuminauts on Monday, June 22, at The Casbah.

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