Lauren Mayberry, musician, CHVRCHES
Honesty and authenticity in writing is the most important thing to me, and I think that it’s important to embrace the light and the dark because you never fully have one or the other in life either ...
It was only five years ago when CHVRCHES went from up-and-coming Glaswegian outfit to bona fide global music sensation. Since then, the trio has released three acclaimed full-length albums and toured the world, enthralling audiences with their brand of glittering and propulsive electro pop. In addition to creating sublime anthems, CHVRCHES has instilled within its music an outward-facing commentary on the world around it, in addition to being outspoken on the topics of misogyny and current affairs outside of their recorded output. The band’s latest album Love Is Dead revels in the duality of contemporary living, touching on the darkness and light that is currently splitting the world in two. Ahead of CHVRCHES’ assuredly packed performance at Splendour in the Grass, we caught up with Lauren Mayberry to talk about the concepts behind Love is Dead and finding hope amidst widespread strife.
It’s been a short while since Love Is Dead dropped around the world – what has been some of the best feedback you’ve received from the record?
I think for me the best way to get feedback on a record is just to see how people respond to it at shows, and that has been really encouraging. You can think about a record in the abstract for so long but never really know how it’s going to connect with people. One live show is more valuable information to a musician than reading all the reviews in the world, I think.
A lot has happened in the world between Every Open Eye and Love Is Dead. What occurrences had the biggest impact on the band over the past three years?
Brexit will impact how British bands tour in Europe for sure. All of us were very passionately pro-Remain and it’s really heartbreaking to see how people’s fears and angers have manifested.
CHVRCHES has always been adamant about producing every element of its music from conception to release – how would you say you’ve evolved as music writers and creators between this record and the last?
This was the first time we had worked with outside producers – Greg Kurstin for a majority of the album and Steve Mac on Miracle – but I think it was important for us to know intimately what we wanted to do so that we could articulate that to someone else and engage with them to make it happen. It was always (and still is) very important to us that we are deciding what “CHVRCHES” is, and I don’t think we would have had as strong an idea of that if we hadn’t done everything ourselves at the beginning. Iain and Martin both come from a production background so we were always able to record and write at the same time, and I think that process has just become more streamlined over time.
Love Is Dead seems to be a record of two sides – conceptually it’s a coalescing of the band’s introspective punk ethos and embracing of exuberant pop sounds, but also lyrically as you reconcile hope and hopelessness, the light and dark in the world. How did you go about balancing these aspects across the release, while also making it refined and coherent?
I feel like that juxtaposition has always been important to the sound of the band but maybe we just distilled it more this time. I think it’s just the way our personalities come together and it’s very honest. Honesty and authenticity in writing is the most important thing to me, and I think that it’s important to embrace the light and the dark because you never fully have one or the other in life either.
While CHVRCHES has never been an overtly political band, Love Is Dead isn’t without commentary. In today’s musical landscape, how crucial is it for musicians to utilise their platform to be vocal on important topics?
It’s not really for me to dictate how other people run their careers but it feels like we’re at a pivotal moment. I feel like we’re always making little decisions about what kind of people we want to be and perhaps the people who are choosing to look the other way might feel differently in hindsight. I think it’s important to find a balance between using your platform to talk about things and also remembering that you have that platform because people like the music you make, not necessarily your political opinions, but this could all go away tomorrow so I feel like it’s important to just be honest.
What sort of trials and challenges arose in the creative process that, in hindsight, makes the record what it is?
It was the first record we made outside of our studio in Glasgow so there are natural challenges that arise when you’re away from home for such a prolonged period of time. Beyond that though the process was pretty smooth. It’s not like we never disagree but we communicate a lot better than we used to. At the end of the day, you just have to be honest with each other.
What was something new you unearthed about yourself throughout the writing and recording process?
I’m getting better at controlling my inner editor. I think it’s important to hold yourself to a high standard but sometimes it used to feel like I was crossing out every second sentence I wrote which isn’t constructive. Now I find it easier to just write what I feel and then assess it afterwards, rather than stopping ideas before they’ve even started.
What about this record are you most proud of?
We made the record that we wanted to make. The idea that some people in the press have that we worked with producers because someone “made” us is annoying to me. We made two successful records completely by ourselves and we don’t “have” to work with anyone because we’re lucky enough to have our own skillset to fall back on. We wanted to push ourselves with this record and I think we did that.
CHVRCHES has a massive following in Australia and you’re bound to be one of the most heavily attended sets at Splendour in the Grass. What can audiences expect from CHVRCHES live in 2018?
Australia has always been really kind to us and we always have great shows there. Live shows have always been a big part of the band and we put a lot of effort into making sure the setlist, the visuals and everything in between really communicates what we’re trying to say properly. We don’t ignore the older songs either. It’s important to have a good mix.
This isn’t your first time playing the festival. What are you most looking forward to at Splendour in the Grass?
It’s such a beautiful site and your winter is still nicer than most Scottish summers. I haven’t seen Kendrick Lamar live since his last record so am really looking forward to that.
Finally, while Love Is Dead features moments of despair, particularly at the state of the world currently, there are also elements of hope. What is something you’re witnessing in the world that is giving you hope?
I try to take solace in the fact that we’re seeing a lot of kindness and care and empathy as a reaction to the negative things that are happening in the world. That’s how change is made.
CHVRCHES will be performing at Splendour in the Grass. If you’re one of the lucky ones with a ticket, you can catch the band’s set at the Amphitheatre stage on Saturday July 21 at 9:15 pm.