The avant-pop star kept workingLonging, I want to transform myself into youin several countries (and touring with Dua Lipa) while rethinking what an album cycle means
STAND IN THEkitchen at a house party in Rome not long ago,Caroline Polachekheard a song that touched her deeply. "Ti Sento" ("I Hear You"), the 1985 single by Italian pop group Matia Bazar, is Eighties Europop kitsch at its finest: sparkling synth-pop paired with big, operatic vocals.
Polachek thinks a lot about divas (she lovesCeline Dionfor "how she exists as an icon and how pure and soothing and solid that is"), and the performance of Matia Bazar's singer Antonella Ruggiero became a major touchstone for her. "She just gives it her all, and the song climbs higher into those other keys," says Polachek. "There's this feeling in her vocal performance that her eyes are going to fucking pop out of her skull, it's so intense. It's like she's being electrocuted. That song became like a flashlight for me in terms of where to go and what to try.”
Polachek hopes to have her own diva moment with her upcoming album.Longing, I want to turn into youdue February 14. Polachek wanted to create somethingphysically,Songs that will spread through your whole body and make you feel like she felt when she first heard Matia Bazar. "I want to defend myself against impermanence," she says.
Polachek is in the third - and arguably best - act of her career. In 2008, her group Chairlift won indie pop gold when their single "Bruises" was featured in an Apple commercial. Later the singer became self-employed, published cerebral solo experiments andWriting for stars like Beyoncé. Polachek's first album under her given name was in 2019Stich. It has become the most famous work of her career, and with good reason. She collaborated with producer Danny L Harle, an early signer of the label and music collective PC Music. As the label created a space for pop's true mavericks, Harle became known for its classically flawless pop production, evident in collaborations with Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen. Working with Harle, Polachek navigated the fringes of pop trends, showcasing her almost operatic range amidst catchy hooks and experimental production.
Stichalmost fell victim to terrible timing: It came out in late 2019, and Polachek was on tour when the pandemic hit. On March 11, 2020, she played her last show for a while at London's club Heaven. "I came down with Covid two days later, before lockdown even started," she recalled. "When I was healthy again, traveling was impossible."
Polachek and her boyfriend, the artist Matt Copson, ended up living in London for a year and a half. As luck would have it, Harle also lived there. Polachek pondersDemandbeing a big partnership with the producer, with few other collaborators in the mix. "I realized very quickly that all I needed for the album was just me and him," she says.
A new problem emerged: In mid-2021, her immigration attorney called to say Manhattan-born Polachek was at risk of overstaying what she calls "rather a serious stay" in the UK. Of course, she solved the problem by leaving for Spain with Harle and Irish-Scottish producer Sega Bodega in tow. They recorded in a studio they knew and basked in the "amazing atmosphere" of a newly reopened country. She's even found a new friend, Arca, the experimental pop artist from Barcelona who has collaborated with Kanye West, FKA Twigs, Rosalía and The Weeknd. Arca and Polachek attended raves together. "Suddenly the world of music was merged with my reality," she says.
This new musical world that Polachek built was primarily driven by feelings. The titleLonging, I want to turn into youshe explains, has a double meaning. "First, you can read it as about the 'you,'" she says. “We all know that feeling of falling in love, obsessively learning from that person and wanting to become that person. But then again, maybe desire is what you want to turn into yourself.”
For a while,StichAndDemandhad a bizarre coexistence. AlthoughStichis more than three years old, the album has had a long, steady run with their growing fan base. When she finally hit the road in fall 2021, venues had doubled from her previously planned dates. Then,StichThe single "So Hot You're Hurting My Feelings" became a hit thanks to a viral TikTok dance that saw fans reenact the video's smooth choreography. "I feel like I connected so deeply with my listeners during [the pandemic] and I can't even explain why," Polachek reflects. "I felt like a key was turned at the time."
Polachek dismissedDemandhis lead single "Bunny Is a Rider" ahead of her in July 2021StichTour even started. The smart, sexy bop became a fan favorite, simultaneously sophisticated but extremely funny. Bubbling track "Billions" and flamenco-inspired madness"sunset“ followed suit this year. While Polachek and Harle opened for Dua Lipa for six weeks last winter, they rented studios on the side. They started recording at 9am and kept going until she had to perform. "The funny thing is that on that tour I was like, 'I don't know if what we're doing is that good. I don't know if that has anything to do with the album," she says. "And then, in hindsight, that's my favorite stuff."
Polachek had a number of dates planned for this fall, which she ended up postponing in order to devote her full attention to the album in its final stages. Life in the waiting period was nevertheless uninterrupted. Before our evening interview, she spent the whole day in band rehearsal. The day before, fittings for future tour outfits were announced. Two days ago she was in mixed sessions. "It was a real whirlwind," she admits. "I feel like I haven't quite caught my breath in the last year."
Polachek wrote the triumphant "Welcome to My Island" with Dan Nigro (who co-wrote most of Olivia Rodrigo's).Sauer) towards the end of theStichSessions, making it the oldest song on the album. Polachek dropped the song from her previous album because it represented a whole new character ("sassy and brutal and fun and messy and manic," she says) that she's only now ready to show off.
"Welcome to My Island" marks the official, long-delayed end to the colliding worlds of two albums. But the experience opened Polachek's eyes to a whole new universe of creative potential. "It feels like a more contemporary way of working," she says. "Instead of disappearing, you stay present and let people participate in the development."
Photography directed byEmma Reeves. Produced byjoe rodriguez. hair styled byAnthony V. Ronquillo. makeup byLeo Chaparro.Styling byKat Typaldos. Styling assistance fromAshley Weiler-Sandoval