Hot Chip: ‘For every excitement, there’s a comedown’

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Hot Chip: ‘For every excitement, there’s a comedown’

Hot Chip
Words by Tyler Jenke

The last time that English electronic outfit Hot Chip were in Australia, the world was quite a different place.

Quite literally, too, given that five days after they wrapped up their set at the 2020 edition of Golden Plains, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, putting to rest any hopes of completing planned dates in the US and beyond.

But fast-forward a few years, and Hot Chip are back on the horse. Not only are they back on stage, touring the world, but they’re armed with a new record, too, with Freakout/Release arriving on August 19.

Read Melbourne’s most comprehensive range of features and interviews here.

Speaking to Beat just days before heading out on a run of European dates, Hot Chip’s Owen Clarke recalls what it was like in those early days of the pandemic.

“We were on the tour bus the other day and someone spilled some water,” Clarke remembers. “It got into some groceries, and while I was cleaning the bread, I got a sort of rush back to cleaning all my groceries because of the unknowns of the pandemic.

“I remember being at Golden Plains, that trip to Australia, and the novel sensations of the pandemic. People were sort of just hearing about kicking off in different places and all sorts of things. So it was kind of strange, but we were having a really good time.”

Having released seventh album A Bath Full Of Ecstasy the year prior, the group were in the midst of a touring cycle which saw deep into the festival circuit. But with the pandemic suddenly taking hold, it wasn’t as though their future plans were terribly disrupted – it just necessitated a shift in their immediate focus.

In terms of experience, it made it stranger, ‘cause we usually ‘disappear’ for a year or two and ultimately end up working on a record during that time,” Clarke explains. “It meant that during the pandemic, when everyone was sort of freaking out, we were kind of well-suited to being locked down for like a year, because part of what we do is that we’re not doing our regular work of running around the world quite so much.”

As one would expect, the advent of a global shutdown undoubtedly found itself bleeding into the music somewhat. Singles such as ‘Down’ and ‘Eleanor’ show a rather more exuberant and celebratory version of Hot Chip – somewhat contrasting to the more reflective nature of A Bath Full Of Ecstasy. As Clarke notes though, there’s an even-handed approach to the content on their new album.


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“I suppose the two things that people coming out of the pandemic are going to be experiencing is processing what’s going on and the excitement about getting back to familiar emotions, familiar feelings, and being with people,” he explains. “So the album has certain things about being overwhelmed or things being too much, or there’s the feelings of yearning and missing things.

“It’s an even-handed blend between the two,” he adds. “The sound of it is generally more fizzy and distorted and things like that. So that’s sort of the aesthetic, but thematically, I think it’s got those two broad camps of worry and excitement at the same time.”

Indeed, the record does venture into more serious territory, with bandmate and Hot Chip co-founder Joe Goddard confirming that “there’s a darkness that runs through a lot of those tracks”. Much of this darkness is somewhat expertly shielded though, hidden behind slick production and deceptive melodies. But this too is found even within the record’s title, with Freakout/Release serving as something of a representation of co-existence, and the energies we’ve all felt across these past years.

“It’s kind of dealing with the two energies that can be at the same time or exist separately,” Clarke explains. “In order to release tension, you have to have the tension build. For every excitement, there’s a comedown. It’s more about processing emotion rather than a sense of tension.”

“That’s the thing about the pandemic, it’s a magnifying glass on everything,” he adds. “I think that sort of build up and release – whether it’s a weekday/weekend sort of thing, or on a much smaller scale throughout your day – these things are built up and sort of come to a point or, more troublingly, don’t.”

With Freakout/Release providing a way to make sense of what these past few years have held, Hot Chip have themselves been sharing that experience with their audiences, sharing both ‘Down’ and the record’s title track in their sets since April. Already the response to the new gear has given the group a sense of validation that they’re indeed on the right track.

“‘Down’ has a confidence to it that is quite emboldening,” Clarke explains. “The sample in there is from the Universal Togetherness Band’s ‘More Than Enough’. They’re an outfit based in Chicago. So on the last run, in the states, we were able to bring out Andre Gibson from the Universal Togetherness Band and he was able to perform the sample live.

“When we introduce new tracks into the live setup, it’s good to sort of see what place they take in the set compared to other songs,” he adds. “We do tend to have particularly raucous ones on each record, but like, ‘Freakout/Release’ does something that ‘Night & Day’ doesn’t, and vice versa.”

With the record out in the world in August, the question does arise: just when will Melbourne fans get the chance to see Hot Chip performing live again? Ideally without the threat of an impending global pandemic hanging over our collective heads.

“It’s always a big deal coming to Australia,” Clarke admits. “It’s always like, a thing that everyone is excited about. It’s not trepidatious, but obviously there’s the travel, so it’s always quite momentous. It’s like, ‘oh, that’s happening’, and it kind of feels like Australian shows either tend to be at the beginning of things or at the end of things.”

As it stands, Hot Chip have managed to make it down to our neck of the woods a total of seven times, touring in support of every album since 2006’s The Warning. Despite announcing Brisbane and Sydney dates today, however, it remains unclear just when they’ll be back in Melbourne. Still, fans can rest assured that the band have been eagerly awaiting a return.

We’re super looking forward to returning,” Clarke explains. “It’s not about putting any ghosts to rest or anything, but because of that pandemic thing, to be able to go back and see everyone again will be great.

“I won’t sort of go on about how much we like Australia, though maybe I should,” he adds. “But it’s just super fun to get out there and there’s something about how, how different it is and how similar it is for us. It’s always exciting to sort of just that energy between the two countries.”

Come to think of it, comparing the energies between the two seems to be something that Hot Chip are leaning into a lot lately. Maybe once the Freakout of touring the northern hemisphere dies out, Australia will serve as the Release that both fans and band need. Either way, you can be certain they won’t be doing anything by halves.

Keep track of the latest Hot Chip releases and tour dates here.