An Afternoon With Indie-Rock Goddess Caroline Polachek

In the studio Caroline wears a silver shirt from the '80s, a vintage '90s Talbots plaid skirt, Walmart knee socks, a Lady Grey bone bracelet, and Acne Boots. The wooden mask sculpture is by Jorge Elbrecht.
We're not gonna lie, Chairlift's '08 single, Bruises, still makes about every playlist on our iPod. Their recent endeavors don't fail to impress either, including a video with Marc Jacobs and Saks, the soundtrack for The Lake & Stars latest fashion show, and—woohoo—a summer album that's on the way! So, we were seriously excited when the band's frontwoman, Caroline Polachek, let us inside the Greenpoint pad she shares with her boyfriend, Violen's Jorge Elbrecht. We convinced Caroline to model in her favorite duds while playing tour guide, resulting in a gallery of her singular style, collection of guitars, and a Q&A that might answer any question you've ever had about this indie rock goddess. It's official—we're groupies.

First, tell us what's happening with Chairlift right now:
"We just finished our second album, which will be out in the summer! It's a much faster, more acidic, and more emotional record than our first one, "Does You Inspire You". I can't wait for it to come out. Album title and release date will be announced soon, tour to follow in the late spring. We've got some unusual New York shows in the works, I will make sure to let you know!"

On the mantel, Sebastien Blanck's "Caroline and Jorge" and a wooden mask by Caroline's boyfriend Jorge Elbrecht.

What are the five key pieces you find yourself wearing constantly?
"1. Men's camo jacket, a precious find in Fargo, North Dakota.
2. Acne ankle boots
3. Black & beige silk collared shirt
4. Lady Grey angular ring
5. Sony studio headphones"

What's your secret style weapon (the thing you turn to to pull your look together in a pinch)?

"Good posture."

Caroline mid-air in her bedroom clad in a Moon Landing teddy by The Lake & Stars gray panties, and a Lizzie Owens static duster necklace (a beloved prop from Chairlift's "Evident Utensil" video). The airbrushed velvet flags are her own creation.

You've collaborated on several projects with lingerie brand The Lake & Stars, including modeling in their cult-themed spring lookbook. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience and why you love working with them?

"Maayan (of The Lake & Stars) and I instantly started scheming on contact, we have a very similar sense of humor, and regularly find ourselves shooting hairbrained ideas back and forth over very long email chains with lots of capital letters. I NEVER fancied myself a lingerie model (and still don't!) but we'd been looking for an excuse to make stuff together, and at the time of her offer to join the shoot I was dying for an excuse to get out of the city, so my participation was really a matter of perfect timing. The shoot started out a bit self-consciously because I had never met any of the other models, and then suddenly there we were, running around nude, holding torches, painting each other's bodies black. Totally surreal, like some femme version of Lord Of The Flies, and as the weekend went on, I started to forget what side of the hoax I was on, or if it even was a hoax anymore. So I don't consider it a "modelling" thing as much as an adventure.
Then more recently, we worked together again on the soundtrack to The Lake & Stars' fall '11 presentation, which was an amazing open-ended assignment: to come up with a "muzak" that would underscore their visions of Italian-neoclassicism, '70s minimalism, and "A Night at the Museum". (Yes please.) I eventually went with '60s Moog synthesizer versions of Bach and Beethoven, back to back with a few traditional orchestra performances which I degraded and layered with additional synths. It came out lush but foreboding, like a love scene in the Twilight Zone."

In the studio wearing a Givenchy '65 couture velvet dress, American Apparel asymmetrical tights, and vintage blue suede "no-name" pumps. The bass is a Hamer custom 5-string and the drums are '60s Slingerland.

Your boyfriend is in Violens. What's it like living with another musician? Is your joint musical equipment taking over your apartment? Do you guys ever play together and would you consider collaborating on an album?

'We've use the living room as a recording studio, which kind of exemplifies a lifestyle choice! I love it. There's gear everywhere, cables tangled between the legs of the chairs. We share all our instruments and cracked software, and are constantly asking each others' opinion of whatever we're working on, showing each other new tricks and good music we find out about. And yes, in fact we've already made an album together, but it has yet to be mixed because we've been so busy with other things, so it's just sitting on the computer ripening. It doesn't sound like either one of our bands, but influences both of them."

The kitchen table—the "Parisian street" placemats are a recent chistmas present from Caroline's mom. Caroline's sporting '90s Gottex sheer shirt, a Walmart neon bra, and a Lady Grey bracelet.
Tell us your soundtrack for:
The tour bus: "Syd Barrett—'Golden Hair'"
Getting ready to go out: "Class Actress—'Journal Of Ardency'"
A dinner at home:"Roxy Music—'More Than This'"
A portrait by Caroline's friend Sophia Higgins, age 5, drawn on the last night of her most recent trip to London, where she was recording her new record.

Who are your style heros?
"Delia Derbyshire, Kate Bush, Isabelle Antena, Klaus Nomi, Maya Deren, David Bowie, Laura Palmer of Twin Peaks, Mia Wallace of Pulp Fiction."

In the studio: Masks by Jorge Elbrecht, "Amoral" LP by Violens, vintage mirror, and Happy plant (fondly named "The Rapunzel") adopted from a friend 7 years ago in Colorado.

Do you have anything in your closet you could never bear to throw away?
"Yes—a black tailored tunic with HUGE puffed sleeves that my sister gave me, which I wore in Chairlift's 'Evident Utensil' video. Even if that thing became unwearably destroyed, I'd still keep it forever. But in the event of a fire, I'd run to save the studio, not the closet!"

How do you get in the music-making zone? Do you have any rituals?
"Coffee or sleep deprivation. Or both."

Caroline wears a Jeanne Simmons silver angora beret, vintage '50s Dana Cote D'Azur jacket, 80s Whitby condom shirt, and American Apparel leggings.

We love that condom-print shirt! Where do you do your best vintage shopping? What do you look for when you're thrifting, or do pieces seem to find you?
"Haha, I have a serious problem of not looking at how things fit when I'm at thrift stores, of only looking at the fabrics and prints and stories of previous owners, as if I'm looking for collage material or something. So my closet gets full of things that are neat objects, but not particularly flattering to the human body, and thus never get worn. Thankfully, the "smiley condoms" shirt isn't in that category! I got it in London around the corner from where we were recording and mixing our album, and wear it more than i reasonably should. But as far as where I end up acquiring stuff, I must be a total pain in the ass on tour, because I'm constantly typing 'Goodwill' into the GPS... (sorry, dudes). So most of my clothes do double duty as tour souvenirs."


Best cheap score of late?
"A silvery angora beret, $12, at a Polish shop in Brooklyn."

If your style was a song, what song would it be?
"That's a very weird question to answer, but I'll put it this way: if there was a movie where someone else had to play me, I'd like their entrance song to be 'Tes Yeux Noirs' by Indochine. That would be cool."