Great Scot! Keyboardist Martin Doherty of CHVRCHES
Since forming in 2011, the Scottish synth-pop band CHVRCHES (pronounced “churches”) has steadily risen in popularity. The group — singer-keyboardist Lauren Mayberry guitarist-keyboardist Iain Cook and keyboardist Martin Doherty uses synths to create densely layered pop music. Their 2013 full-length debut The Bones of What You Believe received widespread acclaim and the band has been touring non-stop in support of it since its release. Doherty recently phoned from a Los Angeles tour stop to talk about the band’s approach.
You played at Lollapalooza this summer in front of a huge crowd. Talk about what that experience.
Lollapalooza is one of the main festivals you think about when you started a band or get some success. You hope you get invited to play there so it was a nice moment for us.
Talk about how the band first came together. You had been playing in other bands – what made you think that this configuration would be productive?
It’s interesting. I’m not sure we had any real idea it would go as far as it has right from the beginning. Creatively, it felt stronger than anything else that I worked on almost immediately. There was something lean about the way we were working. It was three people and not too many opinions. It got up to speed much faster than the bands I played with in the past because then the idea of writing a song requires all sorts of politics. That doesn’t interest me.
What did you initially like about Lauren’s voice and what did you think about what she could do vocally?
To me it was mind-blowing. I thought there was something special in her vocals from the first time I heard her. She was playing in an indie band and sounded great. There was something interesting about hearing her in an electronic context with her tone and timbre and range even. For the productions we were working on, it just made sense and a voice like that could cut through. It’s instantly recognizable when you hear the first word of the first line. A proper lead vocalist needs to have that and Lauren definitely had that.
You initially released the single “Lies.” Was that the first song you ever recorded?
I can’t remember which song we first released. We just put that on the Internet to test the water. I don’t think it was intended to be a single. It ran away with itself, which is a great problem to have. That’s one of my favorites.
Talk about recording The Bones of What You Believe. Did it really start in 2011 and take two years?
Not really. At first we were doing it part-time between other jobs. We signed those deals at the end of 2012 and start of 2013. It was five months that we were working full-time between the studio and touring. It was a concentrated period. I like working that way. It gives us time to settle on ideas and revise things and tighten things. That can only be a good thing.
It has layers and layers of synthesizers. Were you looking back to the ‘80s for inspiration?
I don’t think we were drawing direct inspiration from the ‘80s, any more than with the type of equipment we were using. I suppose there’s an unspoken nostalgic element. That has to do with the fact that we grew up in that time. That culture has an effect on you whether you like it or not. In terms of direct influence, we were listening to a lot of modern music at the same time and trying to be aware of what was going around us in terms of production styles. We wanted to use the classic ideas with the most modern recording techniques and things that were at the forefront of technology.
Was growing up in Glasgow like growing up in any city or where there distinct things about living there in terms of the music you were exposed to?
It’s always punched above its weight. The entire time we were there, there were bands that were globally successful. That created an idea for me that it was possible for us. You say, ‘That guy can do it, so why shouldn’t I?’ You would see bands like Teenage Fanclub and Belle and Sebastian and Mogwai at a pub on a Friday night and it would seem much more achievable.
Have you started working on new material?
We have started working on new material. There’s a great many demos flying round at the moment. We won’t take them to the next level until we get together and start properly working on them in the same room. The songwriting comes first and then we follow our noses when we’re all in the studio. Expect something that is leaner. We’re trying to do more with less.
Upcoming 2014 Tour Dates
Urbana-Champaign, IL – Pygmalion Festival
Cleveland, OH – House of Blues
Cincinnati, OH – Madison Theater
Memphis, TN – Minglewood Hall
Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Music Festival
Miami, FL – The Fillmore
Tampa, FL – The Ritz Ybor
Orlando, FL – House of Blues
Atlanta, GA – Buckhead Theatre
Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Music Festival
Mexico City, Mexico – Corona Capital
Paris, France – Pitchfork Music Festival Paris