March 15th was a good day. In fact, it was one of my favorite days of 2012 thus far.“Why?” I hear you ask. Well, this particular Thursday marked the return of British electronic disciples Hot Chip after over two years of relative anonymity. Their return was marked with ‘Flutes’, the first single from their fifth studio album, In Our Heads, which is set to be released on 11th June. The prodigal single was met with an elephantine sigh of relief by many an avid Chipian (think Beliebers, but with taste), as it flattened the speculative murmurings of an imminent Hot Chip break-up and restored the veterans to their rightful throne.
One Life Stand, which was the band’s fourth studio album, was released way back in February 2010, and for most bands two years, four months and ten days is a long lag period between releases. However, what most people fail to recognise is that Hot Chip are not most bands. Each and every one of their seven to 10 (depending on who you ask) members actively participates in a plethora of various side projects in between making albums with the band. For this reason, all five of their studio albums have been released two years apart, akin to well-planned and highly economical middle-class siblings. Their respective solo projects have been especially prominent during the aforementioned detoxes, but most of these have gone largely unnoticed. I therefore feel it is my duty to introduce to the delightful readers of The Harker some of their most recent, weird, wonderful and uncharted musical endeavours.
Probably the best known of these projects came from Hot Chip’s guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Al Doyle, who was drafted in by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem to play guitar, bass and percussion for Murphy’s third and final studio album, This is Happening. Alongside contributing musically to the album, Doyle was recruited by Murphy as a member of his live entourage, and he eventually went on to play LCD’s last ever show in Madison Square Gardens following the announcement of the band’s break-up in early 2011.
While his affiliation with LCD Soundsystem must have kept him incredibly busy, Doyle was able to team-up with fellow Hot Chip member Felix Martin in late 2010 to form New Build alongside electronic composer, Tom Hopkins, whom the pair had met while recording One Life Stand in 2009. The band’s first single, ‘Misery Loves Company’, was released in November 2011 and this was accompanied by a B-side ‘Guitar Man’, which featured LCD’s very own Pat Mahoney on drums. Since then, the band have recruited four new members and they released their debut LP, Yesterday was Lived and Lost, in March this year before they headline tour dates in Sweden, London and Germany.
Alongside Doyle, Hot Chip’s ‘second-in-command’, Joe Goddard, has been a very busy man since the release of One Life Stand in 2010. In 2009, while working at the now infamous Greco-Roman soundsystem parties, Goddard met London-based DJ, Raf Rundell, and one drunken all-nighter later, the two musicians found themselves as The Two Bears. Interestingly, the original blue-print for the band included Metronomy founder and vocalist Joe Mount, which would have been collectively known as The Three Bears. But with Mount unable to participate, Goddard and Rundell settled as a duo.
Their debut release, Follow the Bears EP, was released in early 2010 and this featured ‘Mercy Time’ and ‘Be Strong’, both of which were results of their formative studio session. Goddard and Rundell went on to release two further EPs under their Two Bears moniker and to much critical acclaim from the likes of Annie Mac and Nick Grimshaw. Arguably, the pinnacle of their shared career, however, came earlier this year, with the release of their debut LP, Be Strong, on Norman Cook’s (aka Fatboy Slim) Southern Fried Records. The impressive 12-track album boasts the likes of ‘Bear Hug’ and ‘Work’, arguably their most impressive collaborative tracks to date. The album was even described by Goddard as an antidote to the current economic crisis.
During Hot Chip’s two-year sabbatical, Goddard also rose to prominence as a solo artist. Although Goddard had a shot at a solo career during the band’s trademark bi-annual break back in 2009, the release of his debut LP, Harvest Festival, was deemed a disappointment. However, his second bite of the proverbial cherry was clearly more successful. This came in the form of Gabriel, which was released in late summer 2011 and which featured the incredibly well-received title track alongside numerous remixes and original tracks. The success of his EP saw Goddard secure a string of headline slots at highly regarded venues, and he proved his worth as a solo artist, which was more than slightly worrying for Chipians at the time!
While many of these side projects have stayed true to the heavily synthesized anatomy of Hot Chip, the most bizarre change in tack came from the equally bizarre Alexis Taylor. The charismatic Hot Chip frontman has been part-time lead vocalist in improvisational jazz set-up, About Group, since it’s formation in 2008. The quartet includes This Heat drummer Charles Hayward, space rock group Spiritualized and latterly Spring Heel Jack multi-instrumentalist John Coxon and veteran jazz man Pat Thomas. Regarded as a super-group of some sorts, the band was formed after Taylor met Coxon at a Jazz night in legendary Finsbury Park venue, Red Rose Club, back in 2008. After recruiting Hayward and Thomas, the group released a totally improvised self-titled LP in 2009. This was followed up two years later with their semi-improvised Start and Complete LP, which was released during Hot Chip’s most recent break in April 2011 and which was generally well received.
So there you have it, a run-down of some of the projects outside of Hot Chip that have been keeping their members busy during their most recent sabbatical. Perhaps this is why the collective sound of Hot Chip is as perpetually diverse and ever-changing as it is. Us Chipians certainly hope so.
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