Exclusive: Chvrches trust their instincts, release new single ‘The Mother We Share’
Last week my personal favorite among the star-studded Glassnote Records roster Chvrches stopped through for a night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, conveniently about 12 blocks from my house. Like many before them Chvrches have benefited greatly from the keen ear of A&R Daniel Glass and were catapulted into indie-fame this year in a post-SXSW media frenzy that pushed their single “Recover” to the 91st spot on the charts. But clever positioning and industry clout wasn’t solely responsible for the buzz, Chvrches’ carefully-shapeded sound resonated with people. The chords were colorful and emotive beneath Lauren Mayberry’s angelic vocals; it all sounded so sincere, it made you wonder “What if Mayberry doesn’t recover?”
I took a walk down the venue just before doors to sit down with one of the trio’s founders, Martin Doherty, to figure out what they were doing differently than their contemporaries and how they were navigating such a rapid rise.
The first thing I wanted to touch on was Chvrches creative process. In spite of the rapidly increasing risk of electronic music-saturation Chvrches has found a way to stand out. What programs do you use and what are some of your instruments of choice?
Well, everything that we do starts on the computer really. We use Nuendo and Cubase-Steinberg work stations, and then we have a bunch of hardware we use. We use The Dave Smith Roger Linn Tempest for drum machine stuff, and a moog and a prophet. Those are the main sets we use; we’ve got a bunch of other stuff. All ideas usually start from there, and then we build them up on the computer.
Why Cubase versus some of the programs that are popular over here like Maschine or Ableton?
Well, yeah we use Ableton in a live setting and I like it but I feel like it’s more conducive to dance production, you know? And Maschine is the same, almost like a step sequencer. It’s good for building up drum programs -and I know it has the other view as well- but, there’s something more old school about using a proper work station where the whole thing runs. And it treats it more like recording a song rather than building a map. We try to play as much as possible; we still write and add sequences and stuff, but we try to physically input as much as possible so it doesn’t get too rigid or too quantized.
So the music retains some human element?
Yeah, exactly. It’s really important to us that we get that in the recordings.
I don’t think people react to a single the way they’ve reacted to “Recover” unless a very human element exists. Were you also a part of Areogramme?
Well, Lain was a member of that band but on their last record they got me in to do a bunch of engineering and initial production stuff. I was pretty young at the time and they took be under their wing a bit, and then when we were finished in the studio they were like, “Well, we need another guy to play live” so I went on the road with them for a year. And when they split up I joined The Twilight Sad. I was a touring member for four and a half years with them.
So, how does this feel? Would you call this the peak of your career, or would that be something you did with Areogramme or The Twilight Sad?
Those bands have really loyal fanbases, but the type of music it is it’s harder to reach more people so it feels like this [Chvrches] is moving faster. And the shows on this tour are way better than anything I previously played with anyone as far as actual headline shows go, last night being the biggest of them. It feels like every night on this tour has been the biggest show. It’s moving fast. To even come to this country and see 95% of this whole tour is fucking insane, in the nicest possible way.
Was this your first time as SXSW?
Yeah! Well, not mine personally, this my third year but last year Chvrches wasn’t really a band when SXSW was on last year. So that’s kind of how quickly it’s all moved, you know?
From what I read you weren’t really planning on being a band, right?
Not entirely, we were all doing our own thing. And Ian and I had talked about doing something together, and we tried a couple of things out. We got in the studio and started writing together and we were just having fun, it was sounding cool. We put our song on the internet and it just went fucking bonkers.
So it was really organic?
Yeah, exactly. Everything we’ve done up to this point has just been what feels right at the time. From the way we chose all the labels, the way we chose people we work with in every aspect. I guess it’s an experience thing as well; we’ve got a pretty keen sense of being able to feel out good people. That’s most important to us -that we work with people we respect and get along with. Everyone’s heard that horrible tale of the band that hate their label and we don’t want to be that.