When I was young, 25 or so years ago, I loved Yazoo, Erasure, Curve, 808 State, Orbital, The Orb, KLF, EMF and of course Cocteau Twins and all 4AD bands. I was a perfect indie kid turned into an hungry electropop lover. My passion for New Order and every record that revolved around them made me love Britain and all its unlimited list of talents. When I last travelled to the USA, I was happy to listen to the radio and to come a cross a very current band that actually made me realize that all the names I dropped a few lines ago probably influenced them. That band is CHVRCHES and I am lucky enough to ask a few questions to their singer Lauren Mayberry who took a bit of time to answer me by e-mail while on the road. The band has been around for more than 6 years and 19 singles have already been released. It is a trio and also a powerhouse that evangelizes the world of electropop with upbeat and inventive songs. « The Bones of What You Believe », « Every Open Eye » and « Love is Dead » are the three parts of a rich and lively musical path that the band is building brick by brick since 2011 and all around the world. Born in Scotland, they spend time the closest they can to their audience that grows bigger even in places like Japan that seem to get their music and relate to the personnalities of the musician. Their shows are powerful and ceremonial, spontaneous and also very well prepared. It is a great pride to exchange with the singer Lauren who has been very blunt about relationships between men and women can at times be difficult to tolerate. « it’s a man’s man’s world » sang James Brown. Lauren stands by Neneh Cherry’s answer « Woman » by expressing her feelings about the abusive temperment of web users. Well done Lauren for speaking up. And nice to exchange by e-mail. After CHVRCHES is a « web » creature.
(All photos by Danny Clinch) – Iain Cook, Lauren Mayberry & Martin Doherty
It seems that everything is shiny and bright for you with your third album « Love is Dead », how did you interpret the good reception of it?
We feel really lucky that this band found an audience so early on, and that the audience has stayed with us through the past three records. As a songwriter, you don’t want to make the same record over and over but it’s always hard to know what people will think of it. The best feedback, in my opinion, is seeing people at the shows and seeing that the music means something to them and has connected with them. That’s all you ever want.
Your two previous albums were also critically acclaimed, pretty much everywhere in the western world. Though it also seems that your japanese fanbase continues growing. Are you happy about the fact that your music appeals to the audience in Japan, how would you describe it works well there?
Japan has always been a really special place for the band but I’m not sure why it resonates with the audience over there specifically. I guess that’s what’s powerful about music though – that it can bring people together. We did a special release in Japan with a Japanese artist called Kom_i and it was really amazing to get an insight into the music scene out there.
Does that japanese success confirm that your music is really fitting everybody’s tastes around the world? Is there other countries that you would enjoy visiting in Africa, in South America, elsewhere in Asia, in places that you are curious about?
We have played a few different shows around Asia but we’d really love to do more, and get to South America some day. It’s hard to figure things out logistically sometimes but we are really excited and grateful that people have even heard of our band in those places, let alone would want us to play shows there.
The success obtained with the two previous albums is more and more consistent in the places you broke through. The fact that your audience does not part way with you from an album to another, does that give you a lot of freedom to create, bring innovation in the process of writing music? More means to invent new formulas, meet other musicians, producers. engineers… people you artistically admire?
We try to just listen to our gut and not think about the outside world too much when we are making music because then I don’t think you are being truly free and genuine when you are writing. Iain and Martin produced the first two albums and I think that’s something we would go back to again as that is the essence of what CHVRCHES is — the three of us figuring things out in the room together — but it’s been exciting to try out different things and see how the band can change and grow.
You are very attractive to the people in the USA right now. It is not that often that Scottish bands make it there (Simple Minds, Proclaimers in the pop world in the 80’s, Biffy Clyro, Primal Scream, Belle & Sebastian in the rock & indie world in the 90’s/2000’s and you these last years…), how do you explain that openness to your music and your lyrics in the USA, a place that also has a lot of bands that work well in the indie-pop/electropop scene (Portugal.The Man/Awolnation/imagine dragons and so on…)?
I am not sure why the band has done so well in the USA but we were really lucky there since the start. Maybe it’s because we were such a blog band at the start — blogs are pretty universal and not tied to certain countries — and then we toured really hard around the US which definitely helped the music connect with people in a real life way.
I saw a piece of your gig in Austin (ACL) recently, you appear to be very laid back with a Texan people that stresses out a lot, with all the moves made by the US admistration there. That « F… » was totally improvised or was it prepared and discussed before? What memories do you have of that moment?
We don’t plan out things we say onstage beforehand. I think that, for me, it’s important to feel like you can be honest and open, and when you start feeling stifled or gagged then you’re not really being genuine. We don’t set out to be political every single day, but I don’t think it would be right, at this moment in time / with what’s happening in the world, to just ignore it and not talk about it, when it’s on everyone’s minds.
I never think of us as an « outspoke » band. We were always just being honest and talking about things that were relevant to us and people we care about. Whether we like it or not, we have a platform and people do listen to what we’re saying so we should be conscious of what comes out of our mouths, and make sure that we’re being smart and caring in how we conduct ourselves.
Don’t you think that Brexit is such a mistake for the whole UK, would youd hope that it is possible to vote again? Would you personally like to leave the UK after the rejection of the vote of independence of Scotland? If yes, why?
There are a lot of factors to consider and I think it’s important to think about WHY people voted for Brexit, even though we don’t agree with it. We did not vote for it and do not support it but I think it’s part of a larger problem. The surge in people voting the way they did in Brexit, the US elections and various places in Europe, is all motivated by the same fear and anger and sadness, and we need to think about why that is.
Did your op-ed in the Guardian open the door to a big change in the relationship between men and women in the music world that you are part of? Have you noticed anything different around the band?
I don’t think we noticed a change in the wider industry at that time. Now, there is a wider conversation being had about sexism and misogyny because of the Me Too movement and I think that’s very powerful. I don’t know that we’ve seen a huge change in every day life yet, but it does matter that the conversation is being had on a more mainstream platform and this will hopefully change attitudes in the years to come.
« Miracle » is a hit-single that scored very well with « The Mother We Share » in the US and also in Europe. It seems that within five years CHVRCHES confirmed its ability to be a band famous for its singles? Is that a major satisfaction for you? Do you want to appear as a « hit-single band »? Or do you expect more people around the world to take you as an « album band »?
I don’t know if either of those songs qualifies as a « hit » in the traditional sense, but I think we’re very lucky that people come to the live shows because of the albums, and not just one or two songs. People follow us around on tour for weeks on end and get the lyrics tattooed on themselves. That is so amazing and never something I thought would happen to a band I was in, and that says to me that people have invested more in us than they would in a « one hit song » band.
Musically, the pop dimension of CHVRCHES has always been very strong in your composing process, don’t you think? With a focus on vocal melodies, effects on your voice? Do you think you will go on this way for the fourth album? Is Martin back for more singing on the future projects like in « Under the Tide »? Are you already working on that 4th LP?
We haven’t started talking about a fourth album yet but the balance between the light and the dark has always been really important in our music. We have always been keen to focus on melody but there has to be a bit of bite to it as well.
What do you know about the Swiss audience? About Lausanne? Have you had good experiences in Switzerland?
We are playing headline shows in a lot of new places on this tour so we’re excited to visit Lausanne!
What is on you tourbus’ playlist?
At the moment, things like Robyn, Phoebe Bridgers, Lo Moon, Soccer Mommy, Let’s Eat Grandma, and classic stuff like Depeche Mode, Cyndi Lauper, Yazoo…
By David Glaser
« LOVE IS DEAD » by CHVRCHES (Goodbye/Virgin EMI records/Universal Music)