One evening during the fall of 2017, Caroline Polachek found herself on the cliffs of Palos Verdes in Los Angeles, staring at the Pacific Ocean and tripping on mushrooms. At the time, she was a decade into a career as the frontwoman of the now-defunct band Chairlift, whose experimental mix of pop, R&B and rock thrilled indie tastemakers and industry heavyweights alike: The band’s 2008 track “Bruises” appeared in an iPod ad, while Polachek and bandmate Patrick Wimberly worked on Beyoncé’s self-titled 2013 album. “The industry has set up this assembly line where anyone who’s doing anything remotely different is fast-tracked toward chart pop,” she says.
Polachek, 34, had flown out to L.A. for writing sessions with electronic producer Danny L Harle during a break from touring in support of Chairlift’s final album. But that night on the beach, she recalls, “I had this revelation that I shouldn’t be working on anyone’s music but my own.” When she emailed Harle to cancel, he wrote back, “Why don’t we just write for you instead?”