The Scottish Band's Frontwoman Weighs in on Truth, Beauty, and Corporate Branding
It’s the final day of SXSW, and CHVRCHES frontwoman Lauren Mayberry has come through the festival chaos with her sense of humor intact. Being a relative newcomer (her bandmates Iain Cook and Martin Doherty were previously in the bands Aereogramme and The Twilight Sad, respectively), the Scottish singer jokingly calls herself a “scumbag non-musician,” even though her training in percussion would imply otherwise. She compares the constant stream of interviews to being in school—and exhibits mock relief when she’d declared an A+ interview subject. In short, she’s enjoying CHVRCHES ephemeral position as “buzz band.”
With only three singles currently to their name (“The Mother We Share,” “Lies” and “Recover”), CHVRCHES already possess remarkable pop poise. Their ambitious synth-driven tunes slot comfortably between The Knife’s foreboding and Purity Ring’s artistic abstraction. Combined with Mayberry’s sugar and spice voice, capable of both cooed verses and anthemic choruses, and it’s not surprising that the band’s brief catalog has already garnered more than a half-million Souncloud listens.
We caught up with CHVRCHES to discuss making music with a mission, managing expectations, and Mayberry’s biggest fan. The band’s new EP Recover streets March 25. A full-length is due out this fall via Glassnote Records.
As a working journalist, do you read your own press?
There’s been a lot of hype that gets people to listen to us. But with great hype comes great responsibility. [laughs]…If you read the good stuff, it’s going to turn you into a bigheaded asshole. If you read the bad stuff, it gets into your head and you think about it when you’re making stuff.
That’s a parent’s job anyway.
My mom retired last year, so she now gets the Internet. She’s on Twitter. She doesn’t tweet, she just follows. We had a conversation where I told her, “Please don’t tell me about this stuff!” She said, “I saw this young man saying this and it’s completely untrue! Here’s the reasons that I don’t agree with him, baby.” “Mom, I don’t want to hear about this!” Now she can do it in her free time. She’s been keeping a scrapbook of all my bands. Now she’s like, “Oh no! Do I print everything off? What do I do?” I think it’s nice.
Are you the kind of person where lyrics have to have a meaning?
I personally am not keen to put something in because it rhymes. Probably because I have a writing background. That sounds a bit pretentious! But we’ll just pretend that it’s totally fine. I’m self-aware slash anxious. Someone said it to me once, “Don’t you think it’s strange that so many musicians are so insecure and they put themselves in a position where they get the most criticism?” Why are we in this situation? It’s so insane! I feel like we should all have a convention and support one another.
With your background in Feminist Studies, do you ever see yourself coupling your political beliefs with your music like The Knife does?
I would never want anyone to think that I talk about feminist beliefs as a marketing tool. That’s a really filthy and disgusting thing to do. I’m aware of the fact that we’re not Fugazi. I love Fugazi. But we’re not a DIY, Discord band. I think it’s inspiring when you see bands talking about things that are important to them. I think it’s easy for people to not bother to do that. It will make your life easier. This is a pop band, and I’d hate for people to think that we were trying to legitimize ourselves by talking about something that was important to us. Maybe people think that’s disingenuous.
You need to know that you stuck to your beliefs. At the end of the day, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that this stuff doesn’t last forever. At the end of the day, if you made choices that feel true to what you’re doing, I’m sure several years down the line when this doesn’t exist any more, you’ll sleep better at night. That’s my hope anyway. Talk to me in a year when I’m personally sponsored by Target or something.
Is that something you’re keeping in mind while you’re writing the full-length?
We’ve pretty much been recording since we started writing. The recording process has been a lot easier since it’s been ongoing for a year and a half. When we get back from the US we’ll have a month or so to see what sneaks in under the door at the very end.
In December we said we wanted to have this stuff finished by February. It was quite stressful. But we feel like we’re in a pretty good position with it now. Tentatively we’re going to put it out late summer, early autumn. It’ll be coming out on Glassnote on the United States. We like a lot of bands on the label. They’ve got Daughter, and I really love Daughter. When we were at Glassnote doing the negotiations I was like, “Let’s do it! Let’s not read the contracts; let’s just sign up! Daughter are onboard, we’re in!”
Do you, as someone in your mid-twenties, match up with who you thought you’d be as a teenager?
I’ve played piano since I was a kid, and I’ve played drums since I was a teenager. But it never seemed like something that you should put all your hopes onto. How likely is it that’s going to work out for someone? Really?
People always ask us what our ambitions are for the band. What do you want? What is your idea of success? But I think predicting any of that stuff is jinxing yourself to a point. Right now, we just want to put out a record that we’re proud of. If people like it, that’s great. But I think beyond that you’re shooting yourself in the foot by making any more promises.
Words by Laura Studarus