On the eve of their gig at Leeds Metropolitan University I had a brief opportunity to chat with Chvrches. It has been a huge eighteen months for the band so there was plenty of things to cover in a short space of time.
The first thing that struck me about them was how relaxed and friendly they were. We met them in their dressing room, which was upstairs at the venue, there were more couches than people in the room but there wasn’t an ego amongst them. They seemed genuinely surprised by the speed at which the photo shoot was conducted and the lack of faffing around we made them do for it.
The night before the Glaswegian trio had played in their home city’s’ iconic venue Barrowlands. They seemed to still be on a high from the experience and Martin Doherty said ‘It was pretty special moment, for as long as I have known what live music was then that is the venue that I wanted to play, it’s where I have seen the most music when I was growing up so it’s a really important gig’. When I asked if he ever thought he would make it onto that stage himself he showed a humble side to the band ‘well no, you always hope, you don’t expect, it was amazing’. The gig was sold out and Lauren Mayberry was also humbled by the event ‘It was good, we hadn’t played in Glasgow since October so it was nice to go back after the record had been out for a while to see what the response was like.’
This Leeds gig was the forth date of the tour but prior to that they have recently played in Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and The U.S.A. Ian Cook thought it was an amazing experience and besides indulging in some warm weather during winter months the difference in the crowds had provided him with good memories. ‘The Japanese crowds are totally different from anywhere else on the planet, they are so respectful and they know all the words. It’s strange walking up to the stage at a gig, normally you would hear like a hubbub from the crowd, or music or people chatting, but in Japan it’s total silence and you are like is there actually anybody there? It’s so surreal.’
At the beginning of 2013 Chvrches were featured in the top five of the BBC’s Sound Of 2013, alongside the likes of HAIM, AlunaGeorge, Laura Mvula, Palma Violets, Peace and Savages. Ian told me how he thought that had helped with their success to date. ‘That came along at a really great time for us because we were just beginning to find our feet, people were starting to talk about us and radio stations were starting to play us. Internationally that kind of put us on the map because people outside the U.K. looked at that pole and gave us a degree of respect, so yeah that definitely put us on the map so that came along at just the right time.’
Some bands can find the recording process frustrating and much prefer playing live music but because Chrvches are so experimental with the technology they use in their music I wanted to know if they had the reverse opinion to this tendency. Lauren thoughts on both processes were that ‘I look at them as two different things I suppose because we started this band as a writing project and didn’t think we would really play it live, maybe a few shows here and there but it wasn’t going to be a tour project necessarily. I think it was definitely interesting for how to translate it live and what kind of live show we wanted to do because I think with the kind of music we play there is a tendency with those kind of bands to just have a playback party rather than do like an actual gig. Because of the backgrounds we come from playing a live show and actually making it a proper performance and a proper gig was very important to us, so it has been nice to figure out the two sides of the band.’
One of the more impressive facets of the band is the fact that unlike the majority of acts their influences aren’t obviously audible within their tracks so I want to delve a bit deeper into their collective musical heroes. Ian gave me a detailed insight into how they draw on their influences and who in particular has inspired them. ‘We draw influences from a lot of different places like there’s a lot of hip-hop and r’n’b ideas in the production of the rhythm track, also in the way that we approach vocal melody and the rhythm within the vocal melody which is really important to us. Also we go back to the synth-pop stuff of the eighties, and pop in general from the eighties. Some more modern electronic music too, it’s all in there, it’s all in the mix.’ When pushed on his childhood influences he picked out ‘Depeche Mode, Prince, Michael Jackson, Kate Bush all that sort of era’ and Martin added The Cure and Gary Numan to the list.
In the last few months two of their performances have become huge viral hits. Their performance on The Late Show with David Letterman was the first, which the band described as a huge honour. The second was their cover version of the Arctic Monkeys single ‘Do I Wanna Know’ for Like A Version. The majority of online publications ran a feature on the performance and it has become incredibly popular with Chvrches fans. I wondered if due to the popularity of this cover version they now felt obliged to incorporate it into their sets but Ian said that it wasn’t really an option for them. ‘We talked about it but I think it’s maybe a bit too downbeat I don’t really see where we could fit it into the set.’ Lauren shared this view, ‘Plus when we do those radio sessions we normally do it on a stripped back set-up, so it has been written on different instruments to what we have on the live shows. We have played a few covers in the set but it is not something we are going to make a habit of, we’ll see, it depends.’
This tour is their biggest U.K. tour to date and their notoriety continues to grow. After this tour their fame is sure to rise as they go straight on to tour America and they will be playing Coachella Festival.
Read our review of their recent performance at Met University in Leeds.
You can buy Chrvches music on iTunes.