The tag “electro” doesn’t really encompass or account for the very large rock ’n’ roll components and musical chops of Hot Chip. Once admired for its quirky, even kitschy, approach to indietronica, the British band has been steadily unleashing the guitars during its live show—three of them to be exact.
Indeed, last summer, when Hot Chip returned to Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to play the single “Don’t Deny Your Heart” from 2012’s In Our Heads album, there was a moment near the song’s end when nerdily spectacled frontman Al Doyle and two of his bandmates busted out vintage axes, layering intricate lines over a heavy funk groove. The scene caused me—and I assume others—to laugh out loud.
“Visually, it is a rather nice touch,” Doyle says during a recent phone chat. “It’s not something we do for a show, however. The guitars serve the music. We’re certainly not striking rock poses like a classic rock band!”
Still, there are heightened rock elements in Hot Chip’s music. Doyle confesses his band’s shows are increasingly acoustic-based since starting out in 2000, when Hot Chip relied on one keyboard and a guitar. A Grammy nomination, a Mercury Music Prize nod and five acclaimed albums later, Doyle’s arrangements have developed into borderline prog-jams in the way each member tackles multiple instruments.
“Yes, well, we are trying make things interesting and difficult for ourselves,” Doyle says. “We like having more people onstage doing more than they’re capable of. I don’t know if it’s rock ’n’ roll, but we do have a lot more gear and techs and people around us—so much so that you might suspect you’re watching an older band.”
In fact, the members of Hot Chip are older, which perhaps explains why the band is often tagged as “whizzes”—smart, highly creative musicians who are a bit too smart to be playing electro-pop.
“Fine with me,” Doyle says. “We’re an unusual-looking group of middle-aged men. We have a different physicality and wear glasses. But there’s freedom in that. At least we’re not young women constantly being pressured about our weight.”
There doesn’t seem to be any pressure or darkness weighing on him. Hot Chip is back in the U.S. this spring to support In Our Heads (which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart). Critics called In Our Heads the band’s most joyous, danceable effort. Upbeat rhythms. Glossy synths. Catchy choruses.
“Lyrically there are darker moments,” Doyle says. “But I agree that, overall, it’s a positive-sounding record.”
Not in a vapid way, he says, but in a manner that allows for melancholy at the edges.
“You know, we’re relatively depressed people,” Doyle says, chuckling.
Not in Las Vegas, a destination to which his band is looking forward. Hot Chip first played here several years ago on a bill with LCD Soundsystem. While Doyle chuckles at having encountered oxygen-huffing, wheelchair-bound octogenarians bleeding away their nest eggs at slots, he remains eager to take in the entire city this time—including Downtown and surrounding nature (Red Rock Canyon).
“As long as we can avoid the shock of over-sugared piña coladas,” he says, “we plan on hitting all the truly best parts of Las Vegas.”
Hot Chip with Four Tet at Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan, 9 p.m. April 18, $26, 698-7778, CosmopolitanLasVegas.com.