Gimme Your Answers 2: An Interview w/ CHVRCHES

CHVRCHES
Photo by Eliot Hazel

Keeping busy this summer by heavily touring the festival circuit, electronic trio CHVRCHES are also gearing up for the release of their sophomore record Every Open Eye. In our latest exclusive interview, AMBY gave CHVRCHES frontwoman Lauren Mayberry a call to discuss how less is more, their fan community, heartbreak, her great impressions, and melancholy Glasgow. Enjoy our full conversation below. Every Open Eye is scheduled for release on September 25th and is available for pre-order here.

AMBY: In a couple of months, you will release your new record Every Open Eye. As we and our readers loved your debut, tell us a bit about this forthcoming album!

CHVRCHES: I would say for people that know about the band already they probably won’t be hugely taken aback by what the record sounds like but I would say it hopefully sounds like a CHVRCHES record. We tried to be a little more conscious of what we were putting into the songs and the production; the idea that putting more and more layers on a something doesn’t necessarily make it bigger, so we just tried to be leaner with the production aspect. I would say lyrically, even though this record probably has some of the darkest stuff we’ve written on it, it probably has some of the most hopeful stuff as well. I think that’s something we’re conscious of; trying to marry up the light and the dark and having that juxtaposition in the lyrics.

AMBY: I also read you were trying to use fewer instruments on the record and just use the ones that you use very very well. How did that actually end up working for all of you?

CHVRCHES: I think it was just an exercise in self control really and trying to keep the time to step back and look at the sessions we were putting together and think what is one hundred percent necessary and what is not. Part of that is probably informed by the fact that we’ve played live so much over the past couple of years and translating the first album from the studio to live was quite a challenge, but in a good way. I suppose this time we can visualize and advance how things we will be able to translate the technology live. The other thing was that, Martin especially, is a big fan of specific eighties and nineties producers like Quincy Jones. If you listen to a song like Smooth Criminal, it’s got about five things happening in it but it’s so big and it’s so massive, but it’s like that because of the vocal performance and the production was very classy. It isn’t just tons and tons of things thrown at a song to make it feel big, it was a bass line and vocals. So I think that was something we wanted to play around with. The idea of less is more in some ways.

AMBY: I know this album was in the works for quite a while, but exactly how long have you all been working on Every Open Eye?

CHVRCHES: We finished touring at the end of November last year and we took December and a little bit of January off to spend with our families and friends. I think the twelfth of January we started writing and recording and for us the writing and recording process are kind of intertwined. So we went back to our own studio which we have in a basement apartment in Glasgow and just started working. I think we sent it to mixing in June, so that’s not too bad. I think we did well time wise. We were lucky we weren’t in a position where labels or management we saying “You have to have it done by this date”, we went in in January and said we’ll spend a few months writing and not talking to anybody and see where we’re at. By the time April came we felt we’d be ready to do something in September, so I l think if you had people pushing deadlines on you that would be a bit scary, especially after so much time on the road, but, we were especially surprised at how quickly we were able to start working. You do worry that maybe you’ve lost your touch or you’re out of practice but I think we got back into it quite fast.

AMBY: A lot of the record is about heartbreaks and getting over past relationships, the record’s single Leave a Trace being a great example of that. Has it ever been difficult for you to share your personal experiences with listeners, or is it easy for you to break down that wall of privacy?

CHVRCHES: Well I don’t tend to talk about anything personal in interviews, so for me it’s always been something I’ve done as meek or as it’s personal to me as a personal experience or personal perspective. I don’t feel for me that that’s all we’re sharing because I don’t share the specifics with anybody in discussions. So it’s more of a dramatic thing. I think the cool thing for us about our songs so far is that when we talk to people at shows or when we meet people, they are really kind and tell us what the songs mean to them and I think it’s always really interesting to see how different that is and what happened to us when we were writing it. But if you can connect with somebody in that way, it’s great! There are some songs about that in the record and there are some more kind of hopeful forwards-type motion things as well. I think the lyrics on this record are more assertive and not about feeling like a victim. It’s more about what you do with it after that.

AMBY: Alike the first album you all made, as you mentioned, this is recorded in your studio flat in Glasgow. The band once said how “there’s something about doing anything in Glasgow that drives you back to a kind of melancholy”. For yourself, how did recording in Glasgow impact you and the album?

CHVRCHES: Martin always says that Glasgow music especially, and Scottish music in general, has a kind of sense of melancholy through it. I suppose if you believe seasonal affective disorder, we don’t get a lot of sunshine so that has something to do with it. For us really, the recording process is actually very healthy. We’ve been on the road for such a long time and we did have the option of going away somewhere and going into a studio with a producer but it didn’t really feel right for us at that time, because I guess the second album is a really transitional thing for any band. We talked about it and we figured the best way to get the most pure version of what we think we want it to be is to just eliminate outside elements and go back to just doing it ourselves. We’re lucky enough to do that, I guess it is kind of sad that it is so rare for a band to write and produce their own songs, but we’re really lucky to be in that position. We liked the comfort of it in a way because we’re all able to stay in our own houses and travel, you go to the same studio everyday and the same flower shop and it’s less pressure if the band’s only got two months in the studio and they need to do fifteen hour days to get it done. I don’t think we would have a lot of perspective if we had done something like that. I wish I had a more rock and roll story about working together but I think it was just about looking back at the things we’ve experienced in the last few years and putting those into songs. I feel really proud of what we’ve managed to do.

AMBY: You’re now touring North America and playing a ton of festivals. How have the festivals been treating you?

CHVRCHES: It’s weird to flip from one mode to another. We started this band as a writing project and we didn’t really know if we’d played that many shows or if we’d put an album out online or something. Then we went from being purely one hundred percent in the studio to being on the road one hundred percent of the time. So it was nice but strange to go back into writing mode and have it be just the three of us for about eight months. Now it’s funny to be back out in the world and talking to people about the album and it’s really strange how things that we just like sentences in a journal are now things that we’re sharing with people at shows. It’s really nice so far to have fun and communicating with people. I think we’re all definitely ready for a rest after that much touring, but I think we’re all quite excited to go out and play the record properly for people.

AMBY: You mention the different parts of the job, which would be the writing, recording, and touring. Which do you prefer?

CHVRCHES: I guess each part is great and each part is special in some way. I would never want to do completely one or completely the other. I think the live aspect of this band has been really important to us because we were born on the internet sort of, so making our band less abstract and bringing it out into the real world and making it a 3D thing has been really great. Also, we were unsigned for a long time when we were doing things and we were able to be in a great bargain position with labels because we had such a strong family and we were able to do so much by ourselves. I think that, for the lack of a less cringe phrase, the fan community is something that’s truly important in the identity of this band. So coming out and making the CHVRCHES experience more of a community thing is really cool. We’re lucky to be able to start thinking about translating the songs into our live shows. It’s funny to see how people react to them live, especially at the moment because they’ve only heard that one single, so it’s like a social experiment to see what songs people don’t know they enjoyed.

AMBY: When it comes to packing for a tour, what are some quintessential items you must bring with you?

CHVRCHES: I’m a very organized tour packer, it’s quite sad. We’re away so much you don’t have to be organized so I’ve got a list in my phone when I pack. Just boring stuff that would be very difficult to find like a wash bag and books and lots of different adapter plugs. I actually got this yoga mat in my suitcase which is unfortunately kind of a new thing and it’s really taking up a lot of space. You just can’t sit crunched up all day. You’re in a band, a bus, and you’re sitting down doing interviews all day in a windowless venue. There’s no light and none of that healthy lifestyle, so I think it’s helpful to do some exercise at some point to keep you’re brain inside your head.

AMBY: Scotland has some great acts coming out of there, some of our personal favourites including Honeyblood, The Fratellis, Broken Records, Glasvegas, Model Aeroplanes, and CHVRCHES of course! Who are some of your favourite artists from there that you’d recommend our readers give a listen to?

CHVRCHES: Honeyblood are doing really well and they’re a really good live band. I feel like they’re going to go places. There’s a Glasgow band that started a little while ago called Bossy Love. There’s another thing called TYCI which is kind of a women’s collective. It’s a radio show and live event and things like that, and we had Bossy Love play our live show in Glasgow back in June and they were really amazing, so I would recommend them!

AMBY: In our last interview with the band, I spoke with Martin and he mentioned how you do a great impression of Gollum and I’ve read that you can also impersonate Alanis Morissette. What’s your favourite impression that you do?

CHVRCHES: Ohh, that’s very nice of him! [laughs] I don’t really do impressions on a daily basis but I think I was quite a nerdy teenager so that’s probably where the Gollum thing came about because I had too much time on my hands. It’s not even a hard one to do, but the Matthew McConaughey “alright alright alright” is quite a good thing to do, especially in light of True Detective season one. The whole Matthew McConaughey resurgence thing. Plus, it’s very applicable across the board and it can sound sort of disappointing or a little bit weird or kinky. That is one I would recommend everybody to do.

AMBY: [laughs] And for our last question of the day, what’s the best part of being in CHVRCHES?

CHVRCHES: That’s a hard question! I think at this point I’m real emotional because it’s the start of the album two campaign, but I think the best part, for me, of doing this is that we’ve been able to do it exactly how we want to do it. I suppose that’s a testament to us sticking to our guns but also that we get to work with people who don’t try to make us into something we are not. That was something that worried me for a long time – people trying to shoehorn you into what they think a girl run band should do or a band with a female front person should be. It was quite tiring saying no to everyone for a long time but I feel like this time it feels like we’ve managed to set our rules a bit. We’ve got a blueprint of what our band is so it’s nice to keep doing things the way that we want to do them, and we’re very lucky to do that.

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Thank you CHVRCHES, for giving us your answers!

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Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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