An advertisement can be a life-altering experience if your band’s song happens to be the soundtrack, and it turns out to be an unexpected promo for your debut record. Since Chairlift’s buoyant “Bruises” fueled an iPod Nano commercial last fall, the dreamy synth-pop trio’s music has garnered millions of hits on MySpace, inspired fan-made videos on YouTube and landed the previously indie Brooklyn band on a major label.
“The public’s reaction to it hasn’t had as big of an impact on us as all of a sudden, we have enough opportunities that … Chairlift can become our life and our job,” says Caroline Polachek, the fashion-forward lead singer of Chairlift as she sits with her band mates Aaron Pfenning and Patrick Wimberly at a South Williamsburg restaurant. “I think we’ve been distant from all that because we’ve been in work mode since then.”
Spoken like a true recipient of instant and unexpected fame. Since the fortuitous turn of events in September, Chairlift has toured incessantly, signed to Columbia Records, which re-released the band’s debut full-length Does You Inspire You. And the trio’s in the midst of crisscrossing the United States and Europe for two months supporting Yacht, then Sebastian Tellier, then Peter, Bjorn and John and, finally, The Killers, with slots at summer music fests from Bonnaroo to All Points West and Lollapalooza.What a difference six months can make.
“Before then I was working four jobs, in school and recording the album on the side. Chairlift was like a recreational activity that once in awhile I had enough time to really focus on,” says Polachek, who’s fittingly the most vocal of the three. “Getting to be in Chairlift world all the time, always being on the road, always working on the project…It’s become all-encompassing.”
The chain reaction that put the lyrics “I tried to do handstands for you” on the tips of tongues everywhere started with a show last summer in California. Afterward Apple approached Chairlift about possibly using bits of “Bruises” for an ad.Though the three signed some papers, it wasn’t until they saw the commercial online that they realized the song had made the final cut. And then everything snowballed. They pushed up the release date of Does You Inspire You, originally put out by Brooklyn label Kanine Records (which also released Horn of Plenty, the debut album from Grizzly Bear, with which Chairlift shared a practice space), and took to the road.
The three originally met at University of Colorado, where Polachek explored art, Pfenning pursued film and Wimberly studied music, which Polachek calls and “the holy trinity of pop music.” Though Polachek had collaborated with each sepa rately, the three wouldn’t join forces until they all relocated, serendipitously, to New York in 2006.
“We wanted to write … our ideal music to listen to, poppy, but also dense and atmospheric, and that doesn’t take itself too seriously—a good soundtrack to our favorite moments of life, whether it’s peaceful moments alone or ecstatic social moments,” says Polachek.
Switching off on keyboards, guitar, bass, drums and electronics in the writing and recording process, they crafted the blissful Does You Inspire You, from the glossy ‘80s-style synth fest of “Planet Health,” to the moody electronics of “Garbage” and the airy Western-inspired “Earwig Town.” “None of us are particularly virtuosic at our instruments, but having an understanding of how all the instruments are working gives us a really awesome understanding of how a song fits together, and writing and working together,” Polachek says.
“And a song becomes a Chairlift song once we’ve all dug our fingers in it, fought about it, cried about it and made love to it,” Wimberly says, laughing.
After being signed to Columbia, they re-mastered the album, removing all the parts that were driving them crazy and adding some enhancements, including two new tracks, “Le Flying Saucer Hat” and “Dixie Gypsy,” which was produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, altogether making the album “more 3-D,” Polachek says—which is perfectly in line with Chairlift’s overall expansion.
“It’s the deluxe edition,” she says. “Our show is now the deluxe edition.We are now the deluxe edition of ourselves.”
April 29, Webster Hall, 125 E. 11th St. (betw. 3rd & 4th Aves.), 212-353-1600; 8, $25. Also April 30, Music Hall of Williamsburg.