Seemingly reluctant but brilliant British producer and bawdy New York singer, Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and Amy Douglas have the foundations of a legendary pop duo. One is a master of electronic music; the other, a rock and jazz performer and a Brill-Building-nerd-level singer-songwriter. But these two seemingly disparate identities overlap a lot (a love of pop music and excellent songwriting being paramount) and they collide in a gloriously theatrical way as HARD FEELINGS.
It all started with a tweet. Shortly after the release of RÃ³isÃn Murphy’s haunting “Something More”, written by Douglas, Goddard reached out to the artist by publicly tweeting, “Amy, can we do something about it?” What started as a few songs and then an EP, the project became the eight song banger that is the album, Grudge (released on November 5). The results are nothing if not dramatic. It’s crying at the disco, wailing under the flashing lights, heartbroken on the dance floor. Douglas aptly describes the album as “a sad banger opera”. With great performance and arrogance from the New York native, impeccable and vibrant production from Goddard, and plenty of ’90s disco and house influences (including sparkling synths, muted basslines, and happy piano chords. ), the record is a great sarcastic and daring power.
In 2019, Douglas traveled to the UK to work on what was then still destined to be an EP. The duo had written a few songs (including the lead single “Holding On Too Long”) and they all took on a desperate tone. âThe funniest thing is the conversation I had with Joe in London, the only time we got to get together in the studio,â says Douglas. “The first thing I asked Joe was, ‘Are you okay? And he said, ‘Yeah, are you okay?’ Why do we write these songs? I looked at him and said, ‘It’s clear we’re trying to say something.’ “
When the Domino Records team started listening to some of the early mixes, they pitched the idea of ââa full album. âThey saw potential for a bigger and longer vision, so we had to answer the call, which is frankly very exciting. That’s when Joe said, ‘Do you maybe have songs that are already demos that I can put my magic on?’ Of course I’m sitting there saying ‘Oh my god to do I have songs that the wizard can turn into real works of art? ‘ I was so excited and that’s when “Dangerous” and “Sister Infinity” came into being. (Douglas first wrote the latter as a duet for herself and RÃ³isÃn Murphy, after the Irish artist requested a song about infinity that included âinfinityâ in the lyrics.)
From there, the duo embarked on what would be a âloose conceptâ album. âEveryone wants to do a great work of art, but conceptually loose, it’s something lost. I like it because conceptual, it’s almost like a bunch of soap opera watchers; you insert a bit of your own personal inference into the art, âsays Douglas. “It almost becomes like therapy.” She lists albums like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and Eurythmy ‘ Savage as flawless examples. âIf you listen to the songs, even song by song, there’s a story going through them, but they don’t say ‘We purposefully designed this to tell this story.’ It’s sort of escapingâ¦ You can’t help but feel it. It is the arc. I said to Joe, “It would be really great if we could do something like this.” And so was born the opera of sad bangers.
These songs, from the darkest to the melodramatic and lascivious, combine elements of all kinds of genres, sounds and eras, but the music of HARD FEELINGS is, according to Douglas, truly a sum of its parts. “It’s just the result of who Joe is and who I am. In the case of who is Joe, I feel like everything I would have to say is incidental at this point,” we said. her. “His legend, I think, has already been very well cemented. I have said it many times: I believe that Joe Goddard is one of the greatest producers of modern music.
If we were a Venn diagram, the overlap in the middle is wide
From his work with Hot Chip and The 2 Bears (with Raf Rundell) to his solo releases, Goddard is indeed an important player in the world of dance music, a world that Douglas, admittedly, was not a part of. âJoe is a master of electronic music, electronic pop music. It is focused on dancing. But I would also say he’s an indie rock kid who loves punk, hip-hop, and classic rock. It is a fully trained animal capable of making a high explosive bomb in anything, but its base will usually be electronic. My course is therefore not electronic; it’s about sitting on a big piece of wood and hammering it. But here’s the problem: If we were a Venn diagram, the overlap in the middle is wide. We both love pop music. We both love the great art of songwriting. We both love big jobs. We both love drama.
From the shattering opening of the album “Love Scenes” to the theatrical verses of “You Always Know”, there is a lot of drama about. Grudge. Believe it or not, a lot of this theater comes from Goddard. âIt comes from his natural inclinations as a producer and his use of ostinato and his use of arpeggio and everything that has this very lyrical invention of Bach, a classically leaning thing,â says Douglas. “So my natural inclinations were to lean into it and get deep into the drama.”
âWe also both love Giorgio Moroder and we love Eurythmics. Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, and Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer are the two best examples I can think of of a game-changing producer and singer, âshe says. Eurythmy comes up several times during our conversation; it is obvious that the british pop duo influenced and motivated the HARD FEELINGS project. âWhen you take a great producer and a great singer and songwriter musician, and you put them together, you can create magic that way. But no one touched Annie and Dave. So I said to Joe, ‘I want to outdo Annie and Dave.’ Douglas pauses, cutting himself off to explain. âI am a cheeky creature. I know that. It gets me in trouble sometimesâ¦ I’m not saying this to be cheeky, so Annie and Dave challenge me to a bar fight. His eyebrows could kick my ass! She has nothing to do. Her body walking through the door would kick my ass. It’s Annie, fucking Lennox. And she is pious.
“But I said it to start a fire,” she continues. âI am in London, thinking of being a child; the first time you see the music video for “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” and you hear this song and you see Annie Lennox and you’re like, “Wow, that’s a very different world that I’m in. this moment. “” I think about how important she was to what I do. I’m sure Eurythmics â Dave Stewart in particular â worked with Joe. So I said to him, ‘That’s the point.’ Let’s see if we can do it. Let’s see if we can do banger after banger after banger. He probably thought, “What did I get into with this girl?” But I’ll say this, I think the music is about honoring that feeling.
Aside from this studio session in London, the majority of the album was created via email and Zoom, with the two swapping ideas for lyrics, rhythms, melodies and moods. âThere was no ‘I want you to do this very specific’ it was always ‘I have an idea’ or ‘Do you think we can do it?’ and then when I wrote something to him, I gave him an e-mail with a thesis, âDouglas laughs. âWe just wrote. It was very old fashioned which, to be honest with you, shows what area we were both in. We were really using force. We were tapping into energy. We were tapping into something that existed outside of ourselves.
Now ready for the album’s debut later this week, Douglas says he feels different from the other releases. âThere was definitely a feeling of suspension and suspense. It has been a tense feeling, even as we are approaching this time to give birth and give it to the world and let it affect people’s lives, âshe tells us. âWhen we wrote it, it felt like such a moment encapsulated in our own gestalt or personal angst. Because of where we areâ¦ I think I still feel very grounded in that and in the music. Even though I am working with other people, even though I am working on my own things, even though I am asserting my own identity. I do not know yet if I have necessarily moved away from this project. It’s also probably because I haven’t had the opportunity to perform live yet.
As for what a HARD FEELINGS show might look like, Douglas and Goddard are still figuring out. But the full blast nature of music lends itself to various performances, from 3 a.m. in a sweaty nightclub to an opulent Broadway disco show. And, despite being primarily a rock and jazz singer, Douglas has, over the course of her career, demonstrated that she can be a disco queen, club singer, and house diva. âA Broadway show is not something that I have considered before, but it just might be. I’m saying it right now: it’s a vehicle worth exploring, âshe says. âI’m a Broadway baby. I am a girl from New York. It is a very basic part of my education. It’s a very basic part of my life as a songwriterâ¦ All my stuff is pop and rock craftsmanship to hell and bring drama, passion and searing glory.
Hero image courtesy of HARD FEELINGS