British electronic band Hot Chip like to follow one rule when making music: less is more.
Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard, Owen Clarke, Al Doyle and Felix Martin have been a band for 15 years, and DJ in their spare time, so they've learned a thing or two about performing live.
"When making something to put on a record, you try to be concise. You're trying to present a lot of ideas in a short space of time. When we're on stage, we're trying to make people dance," Martin tells Young Post.
Sometimes this means stripping off a few layers of electronic sounds and textures, playing a part with a single synthesizer rather than three, or repeating certain verses over and over again.
The band's sixth album, Why Make Sense?, is a fine example of the idea that you don't need blasting, crazy beats to get people moving. Love is the Future, Cry For You and Easy to Get are funky mid-tempo tracks with an irresistible groove, while slower songs such as So Much Further to Go and White Wine and Fried Chicken show off the band's soulful side.
There are exceptions, though. True to the Why Make Sense? spirit, the title track could well be one of the noisiest songs the band has ever produced. An orchestra of synthesizers bleeps over intense layers of hisses and laser sounds, as Taylor sings, "Why make sense/ When the world around refuses?"
Exactly what Taylor was referring to when he wrote the lyrics, Martin isn't sure. "It's a bit of a mystery to me," he laughs. The lines may be open to interpretation, but Martin says Taylor often hints at the band's creative process in his lyrics.
"In a lot of ways we're quite a confusing band. We have a lot of different sounds," says Martin, who likes listening to producers Planningtorock and Paula Tempo. "We all have quite strong identities and interests of our own, so we're not always growing in the same direction," adding that the American singer Michael McDonald was the inspiration for the stripped back sound in Easy to Get.
The band had a lot of disagreements over Started Right, and several times wanted to give up on the song. They stuck to it, but just when they thought they had it, they heard D'Angelo's Black Messiah and decided again to change the drum pattern.
"It wasn't really like a eureka moment. We just kept on experimenting until finally we had a combination we liked," says Martin.
Their effort pays off. Together with live drums performed by Hot Chip touring member Sarah Jones, the album has an organic vibe that adds to the dynamics of the band's machine-driven music.
Why Make Sense? hits stores tomorrow. And don't worry if you see that your copy is different from a friend's. Designers Nick Relph and Matthew Cooper printed the album sleeves in 501 different colours, and modified the graphic's position to produce more than 130,000 cover art variations. Hopefully, says Martin, this will encourage more people to actually bother to buy a physical copy!