Chvrches sings praises of synth rock

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If nothing else, Chvrches manages to stand out in an increasingly crowded new synth-pop genre by managing to string together six consonants in a row and still make the name pronounceable.

It was partly a matter of design, according to singer Lauren Mayberry, who says a friend created a stage-setting logo.


Where: Stage AE, North Shore.

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“We were just trying to figure out domain names and we figured she already made this great logo that had a Roman U in it which was like a V, so if we stylized it, then it would be interesting aesthetically and also it would come up on search engines, which is an important thing for an unsigned band, really.”

Chvrches formed in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2011 with Iain Cook (synthesizers, guitar, bass, vocals) coming from the bands Aerogramme and The Unwinding Hours, Martin Doherty (synthesizers, samplers, vocals) from The Twilight Sad and Ms. Mayberry, an aspiring journalist, stemming from the local bands Boyfriend/Girlfriend and Blue Sky Archives.

The trio obviously settled on a swirly synth-based sound, bottomed with programmed beats and topped with her gorgeous siren vocals.

“When we were writing, initially, we didn’t write on guitars as we had in previous bands,” she says. “Iain had been buying a lot of vintage analog synths just as collector’s items and he was going to use them for his own work. And we started writing on that primarily and that is kind of how the sound grew, from that starting point.”

Chvrches created a buzz in late 2012 with the sweet, soaring single “The Mother We Share,” building anticipation for a debut album, “The Bones of What You Believe,” that didn’t arrive until September 2013. It naturally drew comparisons to such ’80s synth bands as Depeche Mode, New Order and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

“Yeah, I think things like Depeche Mode and Talking Heads and The Cure are a big influence on us as individuals and on this band,” she says. “I think it’s important for us to not just be a purely nostalgic retro band. I think you can take influence from a lot of different places, but we have to write about things that are interesting to us and we try and use as many modern production techniques as we can, and I think hopefully it’s come out as idiosyncratic rather than a pastiche of older bands.”

The challenge for Chvrches on the road is turning an electronic studio sound into something that’s exciting live, not to mention one that functions smoothly night after night.

“I think there is a tendency in some modern electronic music to press play on a laptop and have amazing visuals, and that’s great and those shows are still great to go to,” Ms. Mayberry says. “But I think for us, the background we come from is live music. So playing as much as you possibly can live was really important. But it was tricky initially figuring out how we can harness all that technology and make it still work live. So after a lot of Googling and a lot of soldering and lying on the floor whilst attaching a lot of cables to different things, we figured out how to do it. And we have a backline guy who’s really amazing and knows loads and loads about MIDI, which always helps if things go wrong. But flying a lot of vintage synths around the world is a terrible idea, but we’ve never found software since that can compare in the live format, so, yeah, we just have to get a lot of repairs done a lot of the time.”

Chvrches had an auspicious launch to its first major U.S. tour with a prominent showcase at the Coachella festival in April that went out to the world via the Web.

“Coachella for us was a really big deal because it’s one of those festivals you’ve heard about for so many years and you’ve watched it on the Internet and it’s just not somewhere you think you’ll ever get to go. So the fact that we got to play there,” she says, “and got such a big crowd was incredible for us, and yeah, I think we’ve played a lot of different places and a lot of different festivals and it’s really cool to get to experience all those things you normally wouldn’t, so, yeah, we’re really lucky.”

Chvrches has been blessed with positive reviews for both the record and the shows, but Ms. Mayberry, who has a master’s in journalism and has done some music writing, tries not to read too much into it.

“For personal reasons, I try not to look at that, because I don’t think having a constant stream of other people’s opinions in your life is a great thing. But I respect it as a craft, and it’s great that people want to write about us, but just because you studied journalism or worked as a journalist doesn’t mean that you’re immune to responding to those things. If you get a great review, then that’s nice, but it’s not helpful to you, because it’s just going to take your eye off the ball. And if you read a bad review, then it’s just going to make you feel [bad]. In the end, it’s one person’s opinion and not gospel.”



Scott Mervis:; 412-263-2576; Twitter: @scottmervis_pg

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