Caroline Elizabeth Polachek
June 20, 1985
New York City, U.S.
|Education||New York University|
(m. 2015; div. 2017)
Caroline Elizabeth Polachek (born June 20, 1985) is an American singer and songwriter. Raised in Connecticut, Polachek co-founded the indie pop band Chairlift while studying at the University of Colorado. The duo emerged from the late-2000s Brooklyn music scene with the sleeper hit "Bruises.”
During her time in the band, she worked on the solo projects Ramona Lisa and CEP before embarking on a career under her own name after Chairlift's disbandment in 2017. Her debut studio album, Pang (2019), featured collaborations with producer Danny L Harle and was released to critical acclaim.
Polachek has worked extensively with other artists, collaborating with Blood Orange, Fischerspooner, Sbtrkt, Charli XCX, and the British music collective PC Music, as well as penning material for Beyoncé ("No Angel") and Travis Scott.
Polachek was born in Manhattan, New York City on June 20, 1985 to James Montel Polachek (1944-2020), a financial markets analyst and trained classical musician, and Elizabeth Allan. Her great-grandfather Arthur Polachek was a Jewish confectioner from the Slovak village Lastomír. Her family relocated to Tokyo, Japan, where she lived between the ages of one and six, and later settled in Greenwich, Connecticut, where Polachek started singing choir in the third grade. She was a synth player from a young age as her father gifted her a Yamaha keyboard to dissuade her from being disruptive on the piano. Her parents divorced in 1994.
Polachek recounts her early exposure to traditional Japanese songs and anime themes as being influential on her musical education: "[Japanese singing] [is] a lot of minor and pentatonic [tonality], with really angular melodies that I think really stuck in my subconscious." She rode horses growing up: "I learned a lot about rhythm and about voice from that. Like, you don't always have full control of your instrument. You have to trust it, you have to give it space, you have to know when to push, give it air." When Polachek was a "hyperactive kid,” her divorced parents would play Enya at their houses in order to calm her senses.
As a teenager, Polachek began traveling to New York to attend concerts, which were a mix of post-hardcore emo, DIY punk and jazz shows. Mike Patton once personally walked her into a show at the Knitting Factory when her fake ID was rejected. She played in a couple of bands in high school and college.
2006–2012: Career beginnings, Chairlift, and collaborative work
Polachek founded the band Chairlift with musician Aaron Pfenning after the pair met during her sophomore year at the University of Colorado. They relocated to New York, where Polachek studied art at New York University, and were joined by Patrick Wimberly in early 2007, the year the band released their first EP titled Daylight Savings, followed by their debut album Does You Inspire You.
Polachek and Wimberly went on as a duo to write and produce their 2012 full-length record Something alongside producers Dan Carey and Alan Moulder. In addition, she directed the record's music videos, including "Amanaemonesia", and "I Belong in Your Arms".
In 2008, Polachek formed Girl Crisis choir with 12 other female singers, including members of Au Revoir Simone and Class Actress. The modular group arranged and recorded two covers a year from 2008 to 2013, including songs by Black Sabbath, Nirvana, Leonard Cohen, the Bangles, and Ace of Base.
In 2010, Polachek joined Jorge Elbrecht of Brooklyn-based Violens to record a "sgin" of Justin Bieber's "Never Let You Go": "We went on YouTube to find a video among the highest ranks of hits, and came across 'Never Let You Go'. We went on to make what we call a 'sgin' (anagram of the word 'sing')—an original song written specifically to synch into someone else's video on mute". The same year, she also recorded a duet with Violens, "Violent Sensation Descends (French Duet Version)". She later shot and directed the music video for the band's song "It Couldn't Be Perceived" in 2011. She collaborated with Elbrecht again on the EP Gloss Coma 001 in 2013, which includes the single "I.V. Aided Dreams".
In 2012, Polachek featured on the song "Everything Is Spoilt by Use" by Ice Choir, a solo project by Kurt Feldman of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart; she also directed and edited the song's music video. Polachek collaborated with Blood Orange on the tracks "Chamakay" in 2013 and "Holy Will" in 2018. In 2013, she co-wrote and co-produced "No Angel", which was featured on Beyoncé's critically acclaimed fifth studio album Beyoncé. Due to her production and engineering work on the song, Beyoncé's nomination for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 57th ceremony included Polachek.
Polachek began performing sets under the moniker Ramona Lisa in 2013. The name originates from a former pseudonym Polachek used on Facebook. She announced her debut self-produced album as Ramona Lisa, entitled Arcadia, in February 2014. Polachek described the album as "pastoral electronic music".
Polachek began writing the album during an artistic residency at the Villa Medici in Rome, Italy. In an interview with Pitchfork, she described how her time in Rome inspired the sounds of Arcadia, stating: "When I was looking out the window in Rome, I wanted this type of electronic music to feel as organic as what I was seeing. I don't think any of the tools that I'm using are particularly new—a lot of the MIDI instruments have been around for 15 years—but the compositions make them sound less electronic, more mysterious." The record was made entirely on Polachek's laptop without instruments or external microphones, except to capture field recordings of the sounds she heard in her surroundings. She sang vocals directly into her computer's built in microphone, making use of hotel closets, quiet airport gates, and spare dressing rooms during Chairlift's world tour. The album artwork was shot by New York photographer Tim Barber.
In early 2014, Polachek composed and produced instrumental scores for designers Proenza Schouler and Tess Giberson to be featured on runways and promotional videos. In April 2014, Polachek scored a live performance piece by artists India Menuez and Hayden Dunham at SIGNAL gallery in Brooklyn. In October 2014, Polachek scored "HappyOkay", a ballet performance video directed by Elena Parasco and produced by House of Makers and Last Hour. The performance was choreographed by Peter Lueng of the Dutch National Ballet, the largest dance company in the Netherlands, and performed by New York City Ballet's Harrison Ball, Joseph Gordon, and Megan LeCrone.
2016-2017: End of Chairlift and Drawing the Target Around the Arrow
In January 2017, Polachek released her second solo album, Drawing the Target Around the Arrow, under her initials, CEP. Polachek was scheduled to perform at Moogfest 2018, but she pulled out in December 2017 when the festival advertised a list of female artists performing that year, despite the festival lineup being predominantly male. She followed up with a statement on Twitter saying "This speaks not to the artists or their music, but to the politics of the festival and self-congratulatory PR. To do this without permission from the artists on display is exploitative and unprofessional", adding "Moogfest, and all other festivals, simply have a responsibility to position inclusivity as normal".
Polachek featured on Danny L Harle's single "Ashes of Love" in 2016. In 2017, she appeared on two songs from Charli XCX's mixtape Pop 2: as a featured artist on "Tears" and as a backing vocalist on "Delicious", the latter of which features Tommy Cash. In 2018, Polachek featured on Felicita's version of the traditional Polish song "Był sobie król", released on their debut album Hej! under the title "Marzipan".
In June 2019, Polachek released her debut single under her full name titled "Door". In a press release for the single, Polachek announced that the single was the beginning of a new project, made mostly in collaboration with PC Music member Danny L Harle. Later in July, Polachek released two singles off of the project, titled "Ocean of Tears" and "Parachute", and began to detail her then upcoming album Pang which was released on October 18. The album received critical acclaim and placed on many critics' end of the year lists. A remix album titled Standing at the Gate: Remix Collection was released on vinyl on April 16, 2021. In promotion, Polachek released five of the album's remixes as singles, as well as a cover of the Corrs' "Breathless".
In 2019, Polachek was a songwriter, along with Yung Jake, on the single "RIP Harambe" released by entrepreneur Elon Musk about the captive gorilla killed in 2016. In 2020, Polachek featured on "La vita nuova" by Christine and the Queens and made a guest appearance in the short film around the EP of the same name. The song was later remixed by various producers associated with PC Music, including A. G. Cook and Easyfun.
2021–present: Upcoming fourth studio album
In September 2021, Polachek was announced as one of the opening acts on Dua Lipa's Future Nostalgia Tour. The tour began on February 9, 2022. On November 4, 2021, Charli XCX released "New Shapes" featuring Christine and the Queens and Polachek as the second single from her album Crash (2022).
On July 14, 2021, Polachek released the single "Bunny Is a Rider", another collaboration with Harle; she told Crack Magazine that the song was part of a future project. In December, Pitchfork ranked "Bunny Is a Rider" at the top of their list of "The 100 Best Songs of 2021". On February 9, 2022, Polachek released the single "Billions". In March 2022, Polachek was featured on Australian electronic music producer Flume's single "Sirens", released ahead of his upcoming studio album "Palaces". In June 2022 Polachek confirmed she was working on her fourth studio album, posting a picture of her in studio with Danny L Harle on Instagram.
She cites Enya as an early influence to her music. In a question from Interview about her earliest musician influence she responds with, "Probably Enya. My parents got divorced when I was really young and I was a very hyperactive kid, so both parents independently would play Enya at the house to calm me down and soothe me as a kid."
- Future Nostalgia Tour (2022–present)
Awards and nominations
|2014||Grammy Awards||Beyoncé||Album of the Year (as producer and engineer)||Nominated|||
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Although Gloss Coma – 002 is technically the follow-up to last year's Here Lies solo album, its title marks it as the sequel to Gloss Coma – 001, Elbrecht's collaborative 2013 EP with Chairlift's Caroline Polachek.
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