Cover feature Never say die: Chvrches
Moving Stateside for album three, opening their doors to collaborators for the first time, and ripping up their rulebook in the process, Chvrches’ voice is bolder than ever on ‘Love is Dead’.
It’s an age old cliche: band makes it big, and moves to America. It’s one that’s true, too, because let’s face it, we’ve heard this story go wrong so many times before. Normally, it involves a wide-eyed band on the up plus a world famous producer, multiplied by a stint hanging out with the palm trees in Los Angeles, a spiritual experience in Joshua Tree, a swanky residence in a second city, and a couple of global megastars sashaying into the studio for feature spots - all equalling a glossy, over-polished record that’s baying for the Top 40 at the end of it all. Being one of the oldest fables in music, it’s a story that Chvrches were all too cautious about, too. “On paper, Chvrches makes album in LA sounds terrible,” concedes Lauren Mayberry today.
Unlike like many of their predecessors - too distracted by infinity pools and sweeping skyline views to notice the sterility setting in - Chvrches were determined to steer their plot in a different direction. You’ll be relieved to know that despite creating their third album from their new writing space in New York (“Shoebox is more appropriate,” deadpans Iain Cook), teaming up with pop production powerhouse Greg Kurstin for a large portion of the record, and having their faces plastered across Times Square during one especially surreal moment of proceedings, the trio haven’t lost sight of their core.
“That was a high moment!” remarks Martin Doherty, revisiting the surreal time that the band found themselves on NYC’s most infamous wall of adverts. “It wasn’t expected of anyone from Faifley. There’s nothing wrong with taking a wee bit of pride, but then let’s move on!” he adds. “You don’t grow up in Glasgow with airs and graces. You don’t get away with it. You can’t come through Glasgow - playing local shows, even - with ideas above your station. I guess that is armour. You set all of that stuff really early on in the background.”
Instead, Chvrches’ Stateside adventures came from a different place; a hunger to broaden their horizons. Teaming up with Matt Berninger from The National for witchy bop ‘My Enemy’, and opening up their close-knit trio to a producer for the first time saw the band gladly ripping up their own sacred rulebook, more than happy to be proven wrong. “I’m on the record [in interviews] all over the place saying we would never co-write with anyone,” Martin admits, “because I totally believed it at the time.” After speed-dating a few producers - with mixed results - the band instantly clicked with Greg. “It’s best to date before you get married. Maybe this metaphor extends,” he grins, “but it was three albums in before we were willing to sleep with somebody.” His bandmates groan, simultaneously.