Alexis Taylor on Pharrell’s Lasting Influence and Sharing a Name With a Porn Star

Photo: Ben Stockley

Alexis Taylor’s best known as the fashion-forward lead vocalist of UK dance group Hot Chip. But over the last few years, he’s branched out and gone a bit prog on us with another group, aptly called About Group. Their new record, Between the Walls, continues to feature Taylor’s smooth-as-silk vocals, but is a delightful mix of oozy funk and spacey-noise (which should come to no surprise, as Spiritualized guitarist John Coxon is a member of About Group.) Hive recently spoke with Taylor about musical moonlighting, the surprising influence Pharrell Williams has had on him and his thoughts on sharing a name with a porn star.

You said somewhere that About Group represents “the balance between songwriting and free playing and a lack of clarity.” How does that not turn into chaos?

Well, we didn’t really plan to make that type of combination. We didn’t go into it with, “What the world needs right now is improvised songwriting.” It was more, we have a way we play as a band together which is quite natural to us, which involves period of playing without talking about what’s going to come out. We just play. Some of what we play is improvised and some of it is songs that perhaps none of the band has played before, which makes them close to improvised as well. I think it’s just the way the group has evolved.

About Group is sort of like your weekend job; something you do in your “off time” from Hot Chip.

Maybe. You could call it that. I put a lot of time into it as Hot Chip. We were making this record in the same studio as I was making the last Hot Chip record and it wasn’t really so much “down time” as something I was trying to devote time to and do properly. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly relaxing. It’s just as intense and challenging as making the Hot Chip record, really. The recording sessions are quite quick. One day for the first album, one day for the second album, three days for this album, but there’s more time around it mixing it, editing. That takes quite a while.

Mixing aside, you’ve released three records in under a week. You must be a record label’s dream band.

Yeah that’s true, but I guess the record label’s dream is radio play and video play and singles. I don’t think About Group is so good at some of those things. But yeah, maybe in the olden days — not having to put too much money helping a band make records — maybe we would have been their dream. Um, yeah. I don’t mean to sound as humorless as I sound. I take your point on it.

Are you humorless? It’s probably the British accent.

Yeah. No. No. I just thought the way I answered the question was not really taking the humor of what you were saying.

“Words” from your new album apparently takes a synth from a Neptunes and LL Cool J track.

I never heard the record in question. John Coxon said the bassline he played on “Words” was really similar to this LL Cool J track produced by the Neptunes. We didn’t copy it. Maybe it had a similar sound. That track on the record was one of the ones I liked the most, actually. It has a strange kind of sound to it. It’s quite spare and sort of alien sounding.

Ever thought about collaborating with Pharrell?

When Hot Chip started, we said in a press release that we were attempting to be like the Neptunes. They were one of our favorite groups and producers. He’s obviously very talented. Any of the bands that I’m in, we’d love to do something with people like that, specifically with him. He hasn’t reached out. Who knows whether About Group reaches Pharrell world? I doubt it.

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