Caroline Polachek

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Caroline Polachek
Polachek performing at Treefort Music Fest, March 2016
Polachek performing at Treefort Music Fest, March 2016
Background information
Birth nameCaroline Elizabeth Polachek
Also known as
  • Ramona Lisa
  • CEP
Born (1985-06-20) June 20, 1985 (age 35)
New York City, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
Years active2005–present
Associated acts

Caroline Elizabeth Polachek[1] (born June 20, 1985) is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and record producer. 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 and Charli XCX, and penning material for Beyoncé ("No Angel"), Travis Scott, and Superfruit.

Early life[edit]

Polachek was born in Manhattan, New York, on June 20, 1985.[2] Her family relocated to Tokyo, Japan, where she lived between the ages of one and six,[3] and later settled in Greenwich, Connecticut, where Polachek started singing choir in the third grade.[4] 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.[5][4]

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."[3] 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."[6][4] As a "hyperactive kid", her divorced parents would play Enya at each other's houses in order to calm her senses.[7]

As a teenager, Polachek began traveling to the city to attend concerts, which were a mix of post-hardcore emo, DIY punk and jazz shows.[3] Mike Patton once personally walked her into a show at Knitting Factory when her fake ID was rejected.[3] She played in a couple of bands in high school and college.[3]



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 December 2016, Chairlift announced that they would be breaking up, with a final tour in the spring of 2017.[8]

Solo work[edit]

Polachek began performing sets under the moniker Ramona Lisa in 2013.[9] The name originates from a former pseudonym Polachek used on Facebook.[10] She announced her debut self-produced album as Ramona Lisa, entitled Arcadia, in February 2014.[9][11] Polachek described the album as "pastoral electronic music".[12][13][14]

Polachek began writing the album during an artistic residency at the Villa Medici in Rome, Italy.[15] 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."[15] 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.[16] 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.[15] The album artwork was shot by New York photographer Tim Barber.[10]

In January 2017, Polachek released her second solo album, Drawing the Target Around the Arrow, under her initials, CEP.[17] Polachek was scheduled to perform at Moogfest 2018, but she pulled out in December 2017 when the festival advertised a list of female-identifying 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".[18]

In June 2019, Polachek released her debut single under her full name titled "Door". In a press release for the single,[19] 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.[20] 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".[21]

Collaborative work[edit]

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, she 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".[22] Caroline shot and directed video for Violens' "It Couldn't Be Perceived". Polachek and Elbrecht collaborated again in 2014 on two singles, "I.V. Aided Dreams (feat. Caroline Polachek)" and "Full Mental Erase (feat. Caroline Polachek)".[23] In 2012, she sang with Ice Choir (solo project of Kurt Feldman of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart) on the song "Everything Is Spoilt by Use" and directed/edited its official video. Caroline contributed vocals to Blood Orange's "Chamakay" (2013), collaborating with Blood Orange again on "Holy Will" (2018). In late 2013, Polachek wrote and produced "No Angel", which was featured on Beyoncé's critically acclaimed fifth studio album, Beyoncé.[23][24] Thanks to this song, at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, she received a Grammy Award nomination for Album of the Year.[25] Polachek then collaborated with PC Music's Danny L Harle in early 2016 on the single "Ashes of Love". Polachek collaborated with felicita throughout their album "Hej!" (PC Music 2018) including an arrangement of the Polish traditional song "Byl Sobie Krol" (released under the title "Marzipan"), and with Charli XCX on Pop 2 (2017) on tracks "Tears (feat. Caroline Polachek)" and "Delicious (feat. Tommy Cash)".

Other musical projects[edit]

In early 2014, Polachek composed and produced instrumental scores for designers Proenza Schouler and Tess Giberson to be featured on runways and promotional videos.[26] In April 2014, Polachek scored a live performance piece by artists India Menuez and Hayden Dunham at SIGNAL gallery in Brooklyn.[27] 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.[28][29]

Personal life[edit]

Polachek was married to artist Ian Drennan from 2015 to 2018.[30]


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Nominated work Category Result Ref.
2014 Grammy Awards Beyoncé Album of the Year (as producer and engineer) Nominated [31]


  1. ^ "Caroline Polachek". Discogs. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  2. ^ "How Chinatown at Dawn and Beyonce Inspired Chairlift's New Album, 'Moth' | The Village Voice". Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Ace Hotel". Ace Hotel. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Chairlift's Caroline Polachek On Her Beauty Routine". Into The Gloss. June 5, 2016. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  5. ^ "Caroline Polachek on Making Work That's Useful". Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  6. ^ Zhong, Fan. "Caroline Polachek's Arcadia". W Magazine. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  7. ^ "Caroline Polachek is Listening to Katy Perry, Enya, and Third Eye Blind". Interview Magazine. October 25, 2019. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  8. ^ "Chairlift Break Up". Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Minsker, Evan (February 18, 2014). "Chairlift's Caroline Polachek Announces Solo LP Arcadia as Ramona Lisa, Shares "Arcadia" Video". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  10. ^ a b Shiffman, Allyson (February 26, 2014). "A Voice of Her Own: Caroline Polachek of 'Chairlift' Band on Her Next Efforts". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  11. ^ Brelhan, Tom (February 18, 2014). "Ramona Lisa (Caroline Polachek) – "Arcadia Video"". Stereogum. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  12. ^ "Chairlift's Caroline Polachek is Ramona Lisa". Pretty Much Amazing. February 18, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  13. ^ Jonze, Tim (April 10, 2014). "Ramona Lisa: Arcadia review – beguiling side-project from Chairlift singer". The Guardian. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  14. ^ Dyer, Deidre (April 22, 2014). "Gen F: Ramona Lisa". The Fader. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  15. ^ a b c Fitzmaurice, Larry (March 6, 2014). "Update: Ramona Lisa". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  16. ^ Hannah, Andrew (June 18, 2014). "Caroline Polachek of Chairlift and Ramona Lisa: "I don't want to work things out with anyone, I just wanna do it exactly the way I feel"". The Line Of Best Fit.
  17. ^ Jazz Monroe and Sheldon Pearce (January 19, 2017). "Chairlift's Caroline Polachek Shares New Solo Album: Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  18. ^ Michelle Kim (December 6, 2017). "Caroline Polachek Pulls Out of Moogfest 2018 Over Lineup Announcement". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  19. ^ Nast, Condé. "Step Into the Surreal New World of Caroline Polachek's First Solo Track". Vogue. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  20. ^ "A Pop Cyborg With A Human Heart". Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  21. ^ Bloom, Madison (December 17, 2020). "Caroline Polachek Covers the Corrs' "Breathless": Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  22. ^ "Violens & Chairlift – Never Let You Go". No Conclusion. May 3, 2010. Archived from the original on April 13, 2014. Retrieved October 3, 2012.
  23. ^ a b Listing of the writing, arrangement and performance credits Caroline Polachek has received on, (accessed December 13, 2014).
  24. ^ Marchese, David (December 13, 2013). "How Chairlift's Caroline Polachek Landed a Track on 'Beyonce'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  25. ^ "Caroline Polachek". Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  26. ^ Widman, Jon (March 12, 2014). "Tess Giberson - Spring 2014". Sweden Unltd. Archived from the original on December 13, 2014.
  27. ^ Press release from the Signal Gallery (NY) on the India Menuez and Hayden Dunham show, (accessed December 10, 2014).
  28. ^ Baumgardner, Julie (November 19, 2014). "An Art-Ballet Hybrid Video Scored by Chairlift's Caroline Polachek". T Magazine. New York Times.
  29. ^ Parasco, Elena. "HappyOkay". Vimeo. Vimeo. Retrieved December 10, 2014.
  30. ^ "Couples Tribute: Caroline Polachek & Ian Drennan Wedding". April 27, 2017.
  31. ^ "Caroline Polachek". Grammy. Retrieved November 11, 2020.

External links[edit]