Published Oct 08, 2013Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches finds joy in the mundane things in life nowadays. As she soaks in the five-day break she has in the band's home of Glasgow, Scotland before embarking on another string of tour dates — this time, a three-month trek to promote their long-awaited debut LP, The Bones Of What You Believe — the singer sounds relieved, and almost delighted, to explain what she's been up to on her time off.
"I've been doing some exciting stuff like washing socks for going back on tour and some fun things to do with receipts and taxes," Mayberry lists. "It's been great that we can play so many amazing places, but it is kind of nice to go home because we've been travelling so much.
"Really boring things like going to your favourite taco restaurants or whatever in Glasgow are pretty exciting to me. I'm pretty sure people who are here all the time think I'm insane, thinking 'Why are you getting so excited about a taco restaurant?' It's the little things!"
Mayberry and her bandmates, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty (all share vocals and synth duties), have had a busy couple of years. Cook first took the initiative to invite Mayberry to his and Doherty's writing project after producing an EP for Blue Sky Archives, her indie rock band anchored by Dirty Projectors guitar riffs and Mayberry's saccharine melodic hooks. Cook and Doherty also served time Aereogramme and the Twilight Sad, respectively.
But with the impetus to create music with synths instead of their regular posts slinging guitars or pounding drums, the three began brainstorming ideas together, a process that Mayberry describes as "quite comfortable, which is why we were able to hit the ground running so quickly."
Since those initial writing sessions in 2011, the trio have been thrust into a whirlwind of press and buzz; your typical tale of an internet success story these days. Having gained recognition with a couple of singles posted online last year, "Lies" and "The Mother We Share" (both reworked and included on The Bones of What You Believe), the band began hitting the road while simultaneously writing and recording material for their forthcoming release, creating quite the comprehensive learning curve.
"I guess for us, the writing process was the recording process," Mayberry explains, adding that their decision to also produce it themselves is their preferred method. "We did some vocals in hotel rooms and it was hard work for a while, to do both things at once, but not being forced into a studio by an A&R guy was really important to us."
Although multitasking live shows and hotel room vocal takes became less strenuous, another problem arose: an inability to stop tweaking their own work. "That was a downside," Mayberry says. "We had to stop touching it."
An example would be one of the first songs they ever wrote, "The Mother We Share." A track that boasts a Kavinsky-like beat with an equally dark lyric propelled by Mayberry's honeyed voice singing, "The mother we share will never keep our cold hearts from thawing," the song has gone through at least five or six versions by now. Mayberry, Cook and Doherty had to learn the hard way that sometimes, less is more.
"We just kept adding layers and layers on it and, at the end, we had a barebones version and thought, 'Oh, we don't actually need all that extra crap,'" she says. "There was a version that was super upbeat and the drums sounded like Alphabeat, it was insane, but when we came back the next day, we were like, 'What have we done? This is terrible!' That was a lesson that we shouldn't drink beer after hours in the studio."
The Bones of What You Believe shows plenty more of this last-minute revelation of minimalism and restraint, from the glossy slick synths of "Gun" and dancing shifts in layers on "Recover," the majority of the songs have definitely learned to give way for its best instrument: Mayberry's voice.
In an overcrowded field of electronic bands, it's understandable how Chvrches can get looped in with acts like the Knife — many comparisons have been drawn purely on song titles for "The Mother We Share" and the Swedish duo's track, "We Share Our Mother's Health" — as well as MS MR, Kate Boy and Purity Ring. But it's Mayberry's juxtaposition of bright-eyed vocals and surprisingly dark lyrics, all cast atop a plethora of neon synths, that shows a level of humanity and knack for pop flirtation that casts them apart from the others.
Mayberry is not just a frontwoman. She shares vocals with Doherty (he even takes the lead on the bass-thumper "Under the Tide"), both onstage and on record, and she is not simply "a mouthpiece" for Chvrches. Having gotten a masters in journalism and worked a number of freelance gigs (most recently, she wrote a piece about her new favourite band, Exclaim!'s September cover artist Braids, for online blog the Talkhouse), Mayberry knows the tricks of the trade and is not impressed by the stories being spun by writers about their band.
When asked how she would write about her own band, Mayberry sounds stumped at first before listing off her don'ts instead of do's. "I would avoid cliché questions like, 'What's it like to be a girl in the band?' or 'What was it like when Martin wrote all the songs for you to sing?'" she states, sounding exhausted even thinking about such sexist remarks. "Just people making assumptions, which they have no basis for and although it's frustrating, you can only dwell on that kind of stuff for so long so I'll just call people on their bullshit when it happens.
"I also would avoid using the word 'girlish' or 'pixie-esque'" Mayberry laughs, though she has surely seen those adjectives attached to their name before. "By and large, though, we've been very lucky and the internet has been very supportive. None of us have ever been in a band that has experienced this, I guess."