The VICE Interview: Caroline Polachek


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the vice interview

The VICE Interview: Caroline Polachek

The Chairlift singer reveals how many people have been in love with her. It is LOADS.

This is the VICE Interview. Each week we ask a different famous and/or interesting person the same set of questions in a bid to peek deep into their psyche.

Caroline Polachek is the lead singer in Chairlift. She's also a solo artist, a songwriter for Beyoncé and one of the weirdest people VICE has ever come across. We met up for a full English breakfast in a hotel in east London where we mansplained HP Sauce and she told us about what conspiracy theories she believes and how many people have been in love with her.


What was your first ever email address?
Oh my god, it would not fly very well now. It was When I was in middle school, I loved Egyptian mythology. I still use it for situations where companies require a bullshit email address to log in. It's pretty much a spam dump at this point.

What would your parents prefer you to have chosen as a career?
My mom wasn't thrilled about me being in a band, because she very correctly said she couldn't see any sort of stability in it. She tried her best to hook me up with a job at a company that did interactive projection screens for ads. I'm sure you've seen them in the subway. She got me a trial and I said, "Thank you so much, I'm going on tour with this band called Ariel Pink with men who wear bell-bottoms and have long hair and it's going to be great."

It took a while for her to understand that this was something serious. The tangible thing was when Chairlift got an iPod commercial. I didn't even need to say anything - I felt a change. It's not her fault, it is scary out here. We've been with a major label for six years, and nothing's certain. She's just being a good mum.

Why did you break up with your first boyfriend/girlfriend?
I was 16, he was 18. He went to college on an engineering scholarship. He was a brilliant, brilliant kid, a math whizz, but when he went to university he pretty much stopped going to class immediately, and got involved in making counterfeit money. Within months of starting school he got caught by the Korean mafia in Philadelphia and people showed up with guns outside his apartment. So he fled, and he left his kitten there and the kitten starved and died. And when I found out that he did that, that was it. I mean, we were in a long distance relationship as well, but when he had that little compassion it was easy.


How many books have you actually read and finished in the past year? Don't lie.
Embarrassingly few. Like three. I'm a horribly chronic "get half way through the book and start a new one" person. There's one I read recently that I think about constantly called Shadows of our Forgotten Ancestors, which is by Carl Sagan and his wife, Andrea. It was written in the 80s, and it's essentially evolutionary theory, but some of the assertions they make are pretty bold. It doesn't even read as science, there's so much of human history that is primeval, that is going way, way back pre-memory, and looking at how our psychology can be traced through these different species of animal, back even into plants and into DNA.

How many people have been in love with you?
Hm. [She starts counting on her fingers]. Hmmmmm. [She gets her phone out and starts making a list. We sit in silence for over three minutes.] And unrequited counts? Ok well, I'm counting 18. I'm a heartbreaker. I've never been broken up with.

What conspiracy theory do you believe?
One about the use of subsonics waves being used to detect oil fields. There are theories that those have been causing all the natural disasters that have been happening over the last ten years. New waves that are so intense they're actually shaking the ground and displacing things that would normally never be displaced. It's a known fact that it creates holes in ozone. So those two factors combined can definitely bring on things like tsunamis, earthquakes. There's a cover-up because it's temporarily more important to get these natural resources and deal with the consequences overseas. And there are also conspiracy theories that this is being tested as a weapon, manipulating weather in other countries. We've been using south-east Asia as a testing ground for the last ten years especially.


Complete this sentence: the problem with young people today is…
…social skills. They interact mostly online, and that's lead to a generation with a lot more social anxiety than mine, an inability to make eye contact and have a real conversation with someone you don't know. That's why I believe we need more email etiquette, I'm quite old-fashioned about it. If I'm receiving an email from a stranger I usually like it to be properly thoughtful and explanatory, and not just hitting someone up for a casual favour out of the blue who you've never met before. I really believe in manners.

I've struggled with social anxiety intensely my entire life, but I think it's really important to learn about yourself. The way through it is empathy. To stop thinking about how you're being perceived and actually be interested and curious and care about the person you're talking to. I think people are so self-conscious constantly now, and with good reason because everyone's got a brand and a TV show from the age of ten now. It's weird, man, I don't envy it.

If you were a wrestler, what song would you come into the ring to?
If I was a wrestler, I would come into the ring to this amazing song by Kid Creole and the Coconuts called "I'm a A Wonderful Thing Baby". I'd tense my very small muscles as I walk in.

What's the grossest injury or illness you've ever had?
Severe electrocution. When I was in high school, I used to go to upstate New York on horse riding camp. It wasn't fancy, it was very yee-haw. And they generally let us get away with all sorts of stuff that we shouldn't have got away with.


A bunch of us who were 14 or 15 snuck down to the stables one night to smoke cigarettes, and one of the horses was in heat or something. She came over to us and was pestering me, sort of aggressively. I shoved her away and she wheeled around and kicked me in the chest, right in my sternum. I flew backwards into the electric fence. My arm got tangled up with it, and none of my friends would touch me to help me out, because if you touch someone you also get it. And I remember the feeling of it. I have always imagined that an electric shock felt like something sizzling against your skin, but this voltage was for horses, not for people. It travelled slowly in circles around the fence so the shock came around about every 4-5 seconds, and it felt like being clubbed over the head with a baseball bat. I couldn't believe it. It took me about four or five hits before I could get myself out. I was totally disorientated. I couldn't believe that my ribcage wasn't broken, because I got fucking kicked in the chest. And so the next day, of course I was black and blue, but we couldn't tell the counsellor what we were doing because we would have gotten kicked out. So I just dealt with it. I'm totally cool with horses now but I learned not to smoke cigarettes in the mares' paddock at one in the morning.

Do you think drugs can make you happy?
Nope. I think we have drugs built in that make us happy, like oxytocin and serotonin and dopamine and all that kind of stuff, but no, I don't. Drugs have killed far too many people I know.


What film or TV show makes you cry?
I cried to Carol on the flight here. I cry more on flights, but I also cry a lot in general. I've gotten weepier with age. God, Carol is so good – it's one of those films that you have weird emotional flashbacks to for days afterwards. It's almost like it happened to you, and you're reliving this amazing thing. It gives you this little bit of hope. I'm going to watch it again on the plane back.

If you had to give up sex or kissing, which would it be?
I'd have to give up kissing, but that is just terrible. I went on honeymoon in India, and you don't kiss in public there, and men and women don't hold hands in public. PDA is just not accepted. It was very interesting having kissing become a prohibited, illicit thing - it made it quite exciting. Women and women can hold hands, and men and men can hold hands. it was a sight I wasn't really used to - you'd see two construction workers on their break holding hands, or two older women holding hands walking down the street. It's a sign of friendship. But men and women do not. And also you'd see 30-year-old couples making out in the bushes in public parks, because they didn't have anywhere else they could go.

Chairlift play the Electric Ballroom in Camden on June 9th

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