Chairlift frontwoman Caroline Polachek says she is not a booster of the National Rifle Association, and never plans on owning a gun.
But a year ago — when she went to Las Vegas with her surviving bandmate, Patrick Wimberly, for a weeklong casino residency, trying to figure out a way forward after losing founding member (and ex-beau) Aaron Pfenning — she found that firing a few rounds at a desert shooting range cleared her head.
Polachek, who appears with Chairlift at the Independent on Tuesday, was shocked to discover that her aim was deadly.
“I was having a really crazy day, emotionally,” says the singer, who found new confidence playing two low-key sets a day at the secluded Cosmopolitan.
She adds, “A friend of mine who knows a lot about real guns invited me out to this place outside the city, where I got a bunch of different semi-automatic weapons and shot them.”
The Beretta disappointed her: “It was so smooth and easy to hold, with no kickback, it almost made it too easy — it even has the LED cross hairs to look through,” she says. “But the handgun I tried really impressed me. That thing had some serious kick, serious character.”
Polachek — a refined New Yorker who recently modeled lingerie — got to choose from a vast array of paper targets, like a World War II-era Nazi and Osama bin Laden.
She settled on a standard circular one, she says, “and another one that looked like one of the girls from ‘Full House,’ with a flouncy blond ponytail, being held hostage by this fat older white guy with a pistol to her head. The idea was, you were supposed to shoot him and not her, and I landed all 10 shots on him, and one of ’em was right through his crotch!”
Back at the casino, the once-synth-poppy Chairlift pushed itself into dark, percussive new territory — like “Amanaemonesia” and the jarring “Sidewalk Safari” — that would become “Something,” their sophomore release.
It was the first time Polachek had stepped out from behind her usual keyboards, as well. “So the Vegas thing was crucial, because we learned a lot about what we still hadn’t done,” she says.
Polachek now directs rock videos, has recorded with her new boyfriend from the band Violens, and maintains the all-female cover group Girl Crisis, which records one song every six months.
Plus, she’s got that taste for blue steel now. “I really would like to go out to the shooting ranges on Chelsea Pier in Manhattan,” she says. “And I actually have a bunch of girlfriends who are enlisted and ready to go. My friends are superdown!”
IF YOU GO
Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com