Chairlift are from a haunted hotel in Colorado but moved to Brooklyn to pursue music more intensely and to be intensely pursued by people who recognize them from an iPod commercial. They speak from Paris in between kissing graves and delivering DJ sets. Their album Does You Inspire You has been re-released on Columbia. This interview by Chris Ziegler.
Have you visited the Paris catacombs yet?
Aaron Pfenning (vocals/electronics/guitar): No. I went to Père Lachaise, the big cemetery where Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde are buried.
Whose grave did you kiss first?
Randomly, Oscar Wilde’s because I got to it first, but it’s a great place to explore and get totally lost in. I was there at 6:30 AM and there was definitely a group of four teenagers at Jim Morrison’s grave. I can’t imagine what it’s like later in the day.
What is the most ostentatious grave you’ve ever visited?
Well, I think probably Hunter Thompson’s. I wasn’t really that close to it. I was going to school in Boulder—right when we started the band—and my friend Kyle was also in Chairlift before Patrick was and we drove up for the celebration where they shot him out of a cannon. We weren’t there—we were on the outside. You could definitely hear it. There were fireworks and everything.
What was it like when Hunter S. Thompson was blasted into eternity right before your very eyes?
It’s like hearing the new Grizzly Bear album. It punches you in the stomach.
I heard you’re handy with a Ouija board.
Yes, but only in the wintertime. We don’t play in the summer months. It’s not really appropriate. Spirits come out more in cold weather. There’s more electricity in the air when the weather is colder. And it’s easier for spirits to travel when there’s more electricity in the air so they just naturally come out more in the winter.
What’s the most profound thing you’ve learned about yourself from a Ouija board?
Probably just how true a Scorpio I really am.
Like in the story about the scorpion stinging the frog who carries him across the river? That was one of Philip K. Dick’s favorites.
I should know that because I love Phillip K. Dick. Well, actually the only one I have is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? We’re really into sci-fi—the whole band is into sci-fi, Western and goth things. Dune by Frank Herbert and the Phillip K. Dick one are my top two. Caroline’s reading Necromancer so I get that after her. I have friends with library cards.
But you don’t have library cards? How easily could you disappear from society?
Oh, I think we could disappear pretty easily. We’ve traveled so many places that we’ve actually scouted towns and said ‘This is the place we would come if we needed to disappear.’ It’s gotta be a place where you can stay healthy so it at least has to have some organic source of food. Clean water and a place to buy records. There’s about seven places.
Would the same things that make you work as a band make you work as criminals, too?
Yes, I think so. It’s possible that we are criminals. Just in a basic pop music level. My new favorite pop criminal is this guy called the Dream. He produced songs like Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” but just came out with his own album a few months ago. We’re DJing tonight in Paris and basically, we put his record on and have a dance party. You can play any track from his record and it would work.
Can you imagine a situation where you would have to say, ‘No, Kate Bush—no, absolutely not!’?
I almost could never say no to Kate Bush. I would trust Kate Bush with almost anything.
Describe the bond you guys have with the Crystal Antlers.
The last time we were in Paris, we had a really great DJ dance party with them and I think they were filming part of their movie. We’re in it somewhere but we don’t know what roles we play but I can’t wait to see it. We vibe well together. We can be in a room and dance or we can be in a room and nod our heads. I love them; they’re one of my favorite bands to see live. We were in a coffeeshop in Stockholm a while ago and they had their record up on the wall and nobody there knew what it was. For some reason they had Crystal Antlers vinyl framed on the wall and no one knew why. It was so weird.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever come across your record?
I heard ‘Evident Utensil’ in the JFK airport. I think I mentioned it to the waitress and she gave me a free coffee.
What kind of things are you going to take advantage of with this new record on Columbia?
We were actually just talking about making the new record tonight and I think it’s going to happen sooner rather than later, hopefully this winter. We’re talking about going to one of the seven disappearing towns and recording it there. We’ll be bringing along a special guest to help engineer with us but I can’t say.
Is it Steve Albini? Did you refresh yourself with his essay about not signing to a major?
We were approached by a lot of labels and we signed to Columbia because we met with the head people and we told them exactly what our plans were. And they said they would not interfere with anything we wanted to do and the reason they liked us is because we generate our own ideas and carry them out on our own. They said ‘Keep having the ideas that you have and we’ll give you the resources to do it.’ And they haven’t at all tried to force us to do anything.
Do you think the independent vs. major distinction is still relevant?
It’s hard to say because the way Columbia’s working—in the U.S. at least—is that they’ve totally restructured. I think it’s a survival mechanism and record labels like Columbia are working with smaller PR and radio promotion companies so we’re still sort of trying to do our own thing.
What’s your favorite Columbia record?
I think when it comes down to it, probably Jeff Buckley’s Grace.
How do you want history to remember Chairlfit?
I’m worried history will remember Chairlift as either a joke or an iPod band because we have some silly aspects that we embrace but personally, that’s not what I like about us. I want us to be remembered for putting on a good live show and having some sort of powerful presence in a live setting. And being able to tie album themes together, visually and fashion-wise and musically.
How do you rehearse for interviews?
We don’t rehearse. We had to do four interviews in the hotel today and we rehearsed by taking showers and we all wore our bathrobes in the lobby.
What is your favorite album of all time that is not Air’s Talkie Walkie?
I would say John Lennon Imagine.
What is your personal vision of the end of the world?
I personally think that it’s going to be a massive planet quake and severe electrical storms and we all fall into the ocean and become orcas.
When you were living in Boulder, did you ever go to Casa Bonita? Even though it was in Denver?
I did and I left within ten minutes because I was born in Oklahoma and there was a Casa Bonita there. I always went and they had these puppet shows. I loved those puppet shows. It was way smaller than the one in Denver and there’s no cliff diving. It was really creepy. It’s a creepy place to go. What I loved was the music they played during the puppet shows. I still think about it. It’s like dulcimers—it’s like the Fiery Furnaces composing for a puppet show in Oklahoma. The one in Denver was lame and it was just kind of sad for me to walk into a place that had such a profound affect on me and feel nothing.
Is that the moment you realized you were a grown man?
I have not realized that yet.
CHAIRLIFT WITH LUKE TOP ON THUR., JUNE 18, AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1154 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30PM / $10 / 18+. ATTHEECHO.COM. CHAIRLIFT’S DOES YOU INSPIRE YOU IS OUT NOW ON COLUMBIA. VISIT CHAIRLIFT AT CHAIRLIFTMUSIC.COM OR ON MYSPACE AT MYSPACE.COM/CHAIRLIFT.