Glasgow’s electro-pop trio, Chvrches, was down in Kuala Lumpur last week for the first Urbanscapes Satellite Show on November 19th. Formed in 2011, the band consists of singer Lauren Mayberry as well as Iain Cook and Martin Doherty on the keyboards, aside from occasional vocals. Their self-produced debut studio album “The Bones Of What You Believe,” which was released in September 2013, is euphorically brilliant and in 2013, the band also made it to BBC’s Sound of 2013 list of most promising new music talent.
To date, Chvrches’ song “The Mother We Share” has garnered international acclaim and the song “We Sink” has been made popular on the renowned football simulation video game, FIFA 14. Just recently, the band also worked on “Dead Air”, which is a track from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 soundtrack, curated by none other than Lorde.
The trio spent a good amount of time in Malaysia and we got the chance to hang out with them thanks to our friends at Universal Music. It was indeed our pleasure and after getting to know Lauren, Iain and Martin a little better, we actually do like them even more. Thanks Chvrches, for being extremely down-to-earth and modest, despite your success!
Q: So, you’ve been in Malaysia for a few days now and you’ve also visited the Batu Caves. How’s it been so far?
Iain: Yeah, we were all trying to get some sleep after that really long journey.
Martin: Awesome Malaysian food.
Iain: Yeap, that was the number one thing to do as a tourist. I was not disappointed. I don’t think any of us were. We had a really amazing time (at Batu Caves).
Lauren: We were very surprised that there were monkeys! That does not happen in the U.K. but we were like, “Oh, that’s amazing!” But, a lady who works here who was with us, she wasn’t too impressed. She was like, “Don’t go near them. They’re aggressive and scary.” Well, I respect that. They’re being entrepreneurial and they’re just living their lives. There’s no monkeys in the U.K., apart from those that are in the zoos, but I don’t like zoos, so I never saw them. They’re just like pigeons, they’re everywhere. I quite like pigeons! I feel like I’m the only person in the world that’s not irritated by pigeons.
Martin: I thought the monkeys were super cute.
Lauren: There was a mother one that had monkey babies at her belly. I’ve never seen that in real life!
Martin: I definitely bonded with one or two as well. But, that guy was posing for the photo. Haha!
Q for Lauren: Prior to Chvrches, you were writing as a journalist. How has that experience helped your musical career and having to handle the media interviews?
Lauren: I wrote about music a bit when I was a student. Mainly, I worked as a sub-editor for magazines and blogs, or as a production assistant in film and TV. So, I don’t have a huge amount of knowledge on music journalism per se. But, I think it’s been helpful trying to just have an understanding of how the media works I guess. I think that was helpful for us, especially at the start. Being aware of the plus sides and the negative aspects of the media because we can kind of anticipate that.
Q: How is it like having to read reviews and critiques of your band and music?
Martin: Oh, we don’t do that.
Lauren: Yeah, we don’t. Sometimes, when you do feature writing, you’re basing your story on something that’s come out of an entry or an actual experience, whereas to me, I understand the purpose of reviewing and critique. It’s not something I enjoy doing because it’s very subjective. I actively try and never read reviews of our band. I don’t see how that could be helpful. If it’s great it’ll make you big-headed and lazy. If it’s bad it’s just going to make you feel bad.
Iain: I think it’s almost definitely best to avoid positive and negative reviews of your own work because either way, it could increase your ego or make you really discouraged. I think both of those extremes are to be avoided as they are not good for creativity.
Martin: The extremes? I don’t even see that anymore. The reason why I don’t even look at them now is because I don’t want to have my opinions swayed even one step. We want to be completely in control of what we’re doing creatively, not influenced by the world around us, beyond inspiring music or a person that we’ve met. I don’t to make music based on what other people wrote or said about us. It’s a very dangerous territory.
Q; You’re on your Asia Tour 2014 right now. How’s your schedule like on a daily basis?
Martin: It’s awesome!
Iain: It’s amazing. It’s like gig, day off. Gig, two days off. Get on a bloody cruise ship for a few days! Haha! It feels like a holiday where we have to play a few shows.
Martin: If I had known that that was the way of it down here, I would have insisted on coming at the start, middle and end. We’re heading to Singapore for a headline show and then we’ll go on It’s the Ship.
Q: Songs like “Gun” are just really infectious. How do you guys put your soul into your music?
Martin: I guess a lot of that comes from the lyrics.
Lauren: Yeah, when we write a song, we would get an idea from a sound or a sample or a beat. Then, we’d build an instrumental version of the song with a melody over the top, which doesn’t have lyrics in. And then, we’d put the lyrics on last. I guess it’s nice to have a mix between darker sounds and darker lyrics with lighter sounds and lighter lyrics. I guess if something was too light, too shiny and too polished, we wouldn’t be happy with it and vice versa. It’s nice to have the balance.
Martin: We don’t over think music production as well. You do put everything that you have into it and I guess the idea of your soul being in a record is quite intense. It’s not something that we’re ever constantly trying to make it the best thing we’ve ever done. We are, but you’re never consciously thinking that. We’re all making music. More than anything, we’re tying to have fun and we’re trying to make each other laugh. It’s just the most crucial stuff just happens and we don’t think about it. That’s production to me.
Iain: That’s what I was going to say actually. We are really lucky that we have this energy when we’re in the studio together. It kind of like carries along the way. We don’t really have to think or try too hard. It happens almost instantaneously. It’s like, “Whoa, we’ve got a song. How did that happen?”
Q: In terms of musical production, Lauren isn’t the only one that contributed vocals into some of your tracks in the album. Martin also contributed some of his vocals. When did you decide to incorporate your voices into your music too?
Martin: I think that the songs I sing on the album are born out of maybe me singing a demo of them, with no lyrics on them. Then, realizing either that the key doesn’t feel right for Lauren or that the songs sound more special when we’re both singing it. We eventually decide on what feels most natural or most immediate for all of them. I think we would continue to approach all the songs in that way. Like, on the album, I could easily be singing half the songs or none of the songs. It will just be about how we feel when we’re writing them.
Q: In terms of song-writing, did everyone come up with the materials or just the person who’s going to be contributing the vocals?
Martin: Again, there’s no rules to that. Sometimes, it can just come from someone grabbing a mic and managing to finish the whole song. Like we were talking about – subconscious writing. Sometimes, it can get sculpted, changed and manipulated over a month. All of that stuff keeps it nice and fresh I think. If you start to impose rules on your creative process, that’s when it kills your music.
Q: Tell us one weird habit that you have, each and every one of you.
Lauren: I quite like making lists of everything. There’s quite a lot of stuff to do and you forget a lot if you’re in different time zones. So, I make lists.
Iain: One of Martin’s wonderful quirks is that he starts dancing when he’s drunk.
Martin: Thanks, I think. Haha! I don’t think I’m too aware of any of that stuff.
Iain: I don’t know. I’m addicted to coffee, you know. Boring, basically. Haha!
Q: Do you think that you have a different persona or personality that you carry up on stage when you perform?
Lauren: I would say it’s probably an authentic extension of what we’re really like. I would say I probably aim to be like 20% tougher when we’re doing those things. But, you can be a little more gentle on your social life I suppose.
Martin: I completely agree with that. When you’re performing, you’re offering up a piece of yourself. It’s a really important thing. You don’t have to give all of yourself. You can give the self that you want people to see and project like a certain image. That is what performance is, you know.
Iain: It’s not something that we’re painfully aware of. It’s not like we have these persona that we don like masks and go on stage. I kind of have a lot of respect for people who do that. Put on a show, tell a story or whatever. But, we’re not really like that.
Lauren: In a way, it’s easier. I mean, it’s harder to do initially. But, yourself in your musical format is more are of your personal self, so if people like or dislike it, it would be slightly further moved. People are always going to have opinions on what you should do and what you shouldn’t do.
Martin: Maybe we should go as less of ourselves and maybe just choose something.
Lauren: Maybe next time. People always have opinions on what they think women in bands should do and specifically, women in electro bands. They’re like, “She’s from this band so for sure, she should be like this.” I find that intensely irritating. I just won’t think of it.
Martin: I would be like a cross between Nick Cave and Thom Yorke maybe. He’s probably one of the most charismatic performers I have ever seen.