Like the rest of the world, Chairlift frontwoman Caroline Polachek was pleasantly surprised to learn that Beyoncé dropped an album last night. But unlike the vast majority of us, she got the extra shock of finding out that Beyoncé included a track, “No Angel,” on which she’d worked.
“A friend of mine texted me at midnight saying ‘congratulations,'” says Polachek with a laugh. “I was, like, ‘why?'” She adds, “I had no clue it was coming.”
So how exactly did Beyoncé come to collaborate with an avant-garde leaning indie-rock siren? Chalk it up to family connections. Polachek’s Chairlift bandmate Patrick Wimberly had recently been playing drums for Solange Knowles, and was helping with a show Beyoncé’s younger sister put on last spring at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art. He was then asked to come along with the Knowleses on a tour of the MoMA’s private collection. During that tour, explains Polachek, Beyoncé mentioned to her bandmate “that she loved Chairlift and would love to get in the studio some time.”
Not one to let an amazing opportunity go to waste, Wimberly followed up with Beyoncé’s people, and he and Polachek were invited to a Manhattan studio to work on potential tracks for the superstar. “We camped out there for about a week,” says Polachek. “Right when we were giving [Beyoncé’s team] all the tracks, I threw in one I’d written on my laptop while we were touring in the U.K. I had all the production, I was just missing a verse. I thought it could be a good album track for Chairlift, but it would be incredibly sexy if Beyoncé did it.”
About two weeks ago, remembers Polachek, whose efforts on “No Angel” garnered her a songwriting and production credit, heard a version of the track. “It was slightly different from the album version,” she says. Comparing Beyoncé’s treatment to her original treatment, Polachek notes that, “Her groove was different—my vocals were jumpier, and her’s were more like panting. And in my version the synths detuned really quickly for a second; she did the same thing but with her voice. It sounds like the whole song melts. It’s amazing.”
As for the rest of Beyoncé, Polachek, who has previously collaborated with the likes of indie standouts Blood Orange and Delorean, is so far just as impressed as everyone else. “If this is what pop music is in 2014,” she says, “then I’m really excited to be alive.”