With nothing more than an EP, a smattering of superlative endorsements from the international press and a forthcoming debut record they haven’t even mixed yet, Chvrches are set to become your new favorite band–and this is a phenomenon the Scottish electropop trio is still adjusting to. “We’re taking baby steps, as it’s our first time outside of Europe as a band,” says Lauren Mayberry, Chvrches’ lead vocalist, “and we’re just trying not to take any of this for granted. The fact that it’s the first tour of a British band relatively unknown in America and it can sell out in, like, a day is ridiculous. I guess we’re just aware of how lucky we are to be in that position, and it’s a privilege I’ve never had before. I’m just trying not to take things too lightly and avoid all the shiny stuff and concentrate on making a good record.”
“Lies” and “The Mother We Share”–the first songs released by Mayberry, Iain Cook (previously of Aerogramme) and Martin Doherty (formerly of The Twilight Sad) as Chvrches–caught the attention of BBC’s Radio 1 and NME in 2012 for their intricate breakdowns and Mayberry’s approachable, confectionary crooning. Their Recover EP, out March 26 on Glassnote, follows suit in that it provides ample opportunity to indulge the familiar themes of your favorite love song in an unexpected oasis of synthetic, electronically engineered bliss. Below, Mayberry takes a breather before sound check on the second night of their seminal American tour to navigate Chvrches’ meteoric rise, their artistic growth and what they’ve learned about themselves as performers over the course of a whirlwind year.
Welcome to the States, Lauren! What’s surprised you about touring in the USA so far?
I guess I’m shocked at the amount of people who dance at rock shows, ’cause that’s not a very British thing to do. People kind of head-bop but nobody actually physically dances. So that was weird!
People don’t dance at your shows back home? That seems crazy to me.
Well, the dancers aren’t in the majority, really! [laughs]
You’ve got a lot of new music to get out there, between Recover and your debut full-length. What excites you the most about the new material?
Martin sings two or three songs on the record, and I think some people thought he was more one-dimensional than that. He’s got a cracking voice that he doesn’t get to show off that much.
How’s the new record coming?
It’s going really well! We’re pretty lucky–we’ve always been able to record while writing, and I think it’s really helpful for us that we can record as we go. We were able to work on the songs for a year before it came to making a demo. I think at the moment we’ve tracked and recorded all the material, and it’s starting to be mixed. We’re thinking about writing some new things to go on it. This self-recording thing has so many parts–you have more control over what you’re doing, but there has to be someone to say “Stop”–and if you’re going at your own pace, you can just keep going and going and it’ll never end. I think we’re getting to the part where we’re like, “No more add-ons! Move on!” I kind of hope that we make something that lives up to people’s expectations and our own expectations, as well. I feel like we put everything we had into these songs.
It sounds like you’ve really pushed your own limits when it comes to songwriting. Did that lead to any tough moments in the studio?
I don’t remember any bang-your-head-against-the-wall moments, but there are always times where you overthink it too much and you mess around with something so much that you can’t see what needs to be changed, and you don’t know what the main quality of the song is. Sometimes, you need to go have a cup of coffee and come back and look at it again. In terms of how we write, it’s very collaborative. Normally, we start with a drumbeat, we’ll get a rough instrumental part and come up with a melody and really hash it out. Sometimes it takes two days to write something; sometimes it takes two weeks.
How have you grown as a songwriting unit?
I think we’ve all been very lucky to have written with a lot of different people and different bands, but I guess we were shocked by the immediacy of this, as far as not knowing people for a bit and seeing what their strengths are and how they write. I think we were a bit pleasantly disturbed by how quickly this managed to get together, so I think there must be something in there in terms of chemistry. I don’t want to say anything mushier than that, because then they’ll read it, and I don’t want them to think I like them or anything. [laughs]
See also: Nashville Songwriter Luke Laird Talks Kacey Musgraves, Eric Church, and Kendrick LamarWhat has the past year taught you about yourself as both a performer and a songwriter?
I guess it’s been a bit of a baptism for us with this band. We were like, “Okay, guess we’ve got to hit the ground running!” as this all came about a bit unexpectedly and we’re just going with it. We were very encouraged from the early sessions and how quickly we can write together. We gel well as musicians, and that was a great surprise. I think it’s just about learning to be yourself and finding your own niche, if that makes sense–before we played our live stuff, I think people thought we’d maybe be a really serious electroband. We take our music seriously and the standard of our stuff seriously, but I think it’s important to be able to put your own personality into your performances so that it’s not just a continuation of the stuff you were doing before, I suppose.
What kind of niche does Chvrches fill?
Gosh! I don’t know. I’m not sure. I hope that people think the songs are heartfelt, if that makes any sense. We’ve been very lucky because we came out a time where there was a resurgence of electronic music of sorts, and that’s definitely helped our band. I hope the lyrical content and the quality is something that resonates with people, but I guess you never really know–you have to put it out there and see what happens.
That’s a courageous thing to do, no matter how you slice it.
I’d like to write songs about unicorns and things, but I’m not really skilled at when it comes to fictional narrative.
It’s cool, you guys can do a My Little Pony concept record later.
Maybe a Dungeons and Dragons one! I think that’d maybe be more up our street. That’s taking things into a nerdy area we don’t really need to go to, though.
Chvrches perform tonight at Mercury Lounge and tomorrow at 285 Kent.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 18, 2013