The Big Issue : Edition 494
THEBIGISSUE25SEP–8OCT2015 35 SCOTTISH SYNTH-POP trio Chvrches – pronounced “churches” but more Google-friendly – make the kind of records that come from growing up with electronic music as well as guitar music, combining danceable instrumental breakdowns with anthemic choruses and plenty of effects. Their songs have a tendency to begin small and nervy, then build into confident, reinforced towers of feelings. They start humble, but then there’s the bit where lasers blast until you’re dancing. Or they kick into one of those choruses where the precise meaning of the words is less important than the heft of their emotional impact. Each of the band members initially treated Chvrches as a side project, a mere recording experiment, until they put their song ‘Lies’ on the internet and quickly realised people liked it. Only after their songs took off did they actually learn to play them live, and they’ve had plenty of practice since. After releasing their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, in 2013, it seems like they’ve been on the bill of every second music festival in the world. “I always feel bad when people ask me about festivals because in my heart I’m not a natural festival-goer,” says lead singer Lauren Mayberry. “We play a lot of festivals and I’ve just come to terms with it. I love playing at festivals [but] I don’t know how much I loved going to festivals when I was younger. I was always an old soul that was all, ‘Uh, where’s the hand sanitiser? What is everybody doing? I can’t see anything!’ I’m five foot two, so I see shit-all the whole weekend! After a while I just sit down somewhere, which is not really the festival attitude.” Last year, Chvrches played the travelling Australian festival Laneway, which was made special because her parents, who had never been here, took a holiday so they’d be in the country at the same time. “They did an Australian odyssey...and came to that festival,” she recalls, “[but Mum has] come to other festivals since and been like, ‘Ew, this is really disgusting and dirty and rainy and horrible!’ She’s like, ‘Not as good as Laneway.’ I think we spoiled her with that.” The constant touring of the world’s festivals ended only when Chvrches went back to the studio to work on their second album, Every Open Eye. “It’s only during the six to eight months we took off to make the record that you look back and think, ‘Actually that’s kind of insane that we got to do all those things in that short amount of time,’” Mayberry says. “I think it was good to have a time to get some perspective on it.” Though she says they’re not the kind of band to sit down and have a meeting about their overall goal, they did decide to trim away some of the effects and layers that filigreed their first songs. “By the time we got to the end of touring the first album,” she explains, “just the really boring technical stuff of looking at the computer and seeing how many tracks have to be activated and how much stuff we’re actually playing, we’re like, ‘Holy crap, we’ve got a lot of layers in this song.’ Some which I’m not convinced need to be there.” The consequence of this dialling back is that Mayberry’s voice – she sings lead on all but one of the songs – comes through more forcefully than ever before. “I guess that’s a good thing if you like the vocals,” she says. “If you don’t, then...oh dear!” Before finding musical success, Mayberry studied journalism (she has a masters degree in it, plus a law degree) and worked for The Big Issue in Glasgow. When one of her former co-workers suggested she participate in Vendor Week this year, in which celebrities are mentored by a regular vendor to help sell copies of the magazine, she leapt at the chance – though she did feel a bit of trepidation. “I was like, ‘I don’t think people will buy it from me, I don’t know how this will work,’” she says. Fortunately, she could turn to her fans for help. “I did use the band’s social media to say, ‘I’m standing in this place; if you come here and buy The Big Issue that would be really good for me right now!’” Standing on a street in Glasgow during a typically frozen Scottish winter didn’t make it any easier. “By the end of it I was definitely done,” Mayberry says. “That was a very important lesson. Other people don’t get to be done, they don’t get to go inside, they don’t get to have that be the end of their shift. I think that we’re just in a band – we’re not doing anything politically important – so we can take a tiny, tiny time-out to do something like that and hopefully highlight some of these issues.” by Jody Macgregor » Every Open Eye is out 25 September.