Nothing gives you indie cred quite like a stylised name, but this Scottish band will tell you that Chvrches (pronounced “churches”) chose the name for practical reasons.
It was so that people doing an online search for them will find the band easily, and not a Wikipedia entry on a church building, or that of a British footwear brand called Church’s.
Like the spiritual connotations of the name, the synthpop band, due to play at the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Singapore next weekend, have since built a following in a short two years with their accessible electronic hooks and slick synths.
The trio, made up of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, all play switcheroo on vocal and synth duties. But it is Mayberry’s saccharine vocals that are a standout.
The group took shape when Cook, who was collaborating with Doherty at the time, took Mayberry in to record a couple of vocals on a whim. You could say her voice was the clincher and the beginning of a musical relationship that resulted their debut album 'The Bones Of What You Believe'. It made it to countless top-albums-of-2013 lists.
The band’s rise from being an unknown entity to indie darlings is thanks to an organic multiplication of social media shares by fans, and more than a year’s worth of playing high- and low-profile gigs across Europe and the US, as well as supporting similar bands on tour, including synthpop pioneers Depeche Mode.
inSing spoke to the charmingly self-assured Mayberry about the influence of the 1980s, standing up against misogyny...and boybands.
When you released ‘Lies’ and it took off around the world, how did that feel?
We have been really lucky that people have responded to the band so well, especially so early on, and we’ve been working hard – recording, touring – to make the most of that. For now, we are just excited to get to play so many different kinds of gigs in so many different places.
You’ve done everything from playing SXSW and on 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon', and opening for Depeche Mode. Which has been your favourite so far?
I think it would be hard to choose just one favourite moment as 2013 was an incredible year for us, but Depeche Mode was definitely a highlight because we are all huge fans of the band, and they have been a big influence on us. 'Violator', especially, is an amazing record.
The pop-synth element is a large part of your music. From where did that influence come?
The sound of the band largely came from the instruments we played when we started writing music. Iain had been collecting a lot of vintage synths and when we started working together, we wanted to write primarily on those instruments rather than starting with guitar parts or vocal parts as we have done in other bands.
Chvrches with 'The Mother We Share', guaranteed to be stuck in your head for days
Who did you listen to growing up?
I grew up in a very musical household and there was always music playing. When I was very small, I would just listen to what my parents were listening to in the late '80s to early '90s (Annie Lennox, Simple Minds, The Blue Nile, Steely Dan, The Beatles) and I was into a lot of awful boybands when I was very young. But when I started playing instruments and investigating bands in high school, Sleater-Kinney, Bright Eyes, Tori Amos and Kate Bush were really exciting to me.
What’s it like in the studio with the band? What’s your creative process?
Chvrches is a three-person writing process, so no one comes in with a pre-made song. We usually start with a new sample or a sound, or mess around with a new piece of musical gear, and then we will get an instrumental sketch of a song before putting down a vocal melody, and then the lyrics get finalised last.
Songs such as ‘Gun’ sound upbeat, but the subject matter is dark. Is that a conscious decision you make when you’re writing music, to have that jarring difference/juxtaposition?
I think the juxtaposition is important to us as we never want anything to sound too cute or too polished, but also not too extreme. If the vocal part is quite the centre element, then you can push things a bit further with the production, or make the lyrics a bit more thought-provoking, and still feel like the song has a balance.
The trippy visuals and vocals on 'Gun' betray the dark subject matter of the lyrics
Are you working on any new material?
We have a few ideas kicking about but will hopefully have a bit more time off tour to work on new material this year.
You’ve been vocal about the way women in music are treated on social media. What has the response been since you wrote that opinion piece, 'I will not accept online misogyny', in The Guardian?
The response to us personally has been very positive – from people online, other musicians etc – but I think the thing that makes the most difference is when people mention it to us at shows or in stores, because it’s cool to see those kinds of opinions receive so much support from people when they identify with what you are saying.
What can we expect from your live show?
Anyone who has heard the album will have a pretty good idea of what to expect, but it is always important to us that a live show be "live" and that we play everything and put on a proper "gig" rather than just pressing "play" on a laptop like some electro musicians do.
Are you looking forward to playing in Singapore?
This is our first time in Singapore, so we are looking forward to seeing the sights and finding out what audiences are like there.
Chvrches at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2014 | Date: 25 January 2014 | Time: To be confirmed | Venue: The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay | Tickets: $150 (standard ticket); refer to the Laneway Festival website for full package details