Met a few hours before going on stage at the Trianon for their concert event in Paris, members of the group CHVRCHES talk about their influences, the atmosphere tour and the evolution of their live music, their latest album – The Bones of That you believe – and the next one, ready to be recorded.
B & G: We’d like to know what you think about several Scottish bands, starting with Glasvegas ?
Iain Cook: I really loved their first album. When it came out, there were a lot of people that we are friends with who were a bit suspicious of them because of the way they were using the dialect and the accent and stuff like that… But it’s a nice kind of blending of styles: shoegaze, 50s-style rock, genuine Glasgow confessions or stories. That’s a really interesting band and their new album is also really good.
B & G: Primal Scream ?
Martin Doherty: This band is not entirely Scottish but they have a Scottish front man [ndlr: Bobby Gillespie]. I’m a big fan of Primal Scream. From a personal point of view, two records are considered to be very important: XTRMNTR , at least because Kevin Shields was involved, and Evil Heat .
B & G: Belle & Sebastian ?
IC: Belle & Sebastian have been around for… as long as I can remember. I remember being at school and one of my friends had got a copy of Tigermilk [Belle & Sebastian debut album, 1996] which at the time was not released properly, it was only ever released on a very small pressing of vinyls, so it was really difficult to come by. It was just the time when The Boy With The Arab Strap was blowing up. My friend came at school with this copy, on a tape he got from somebody. It was a really big deal! Their importance remains. It’s not the kind of music that I listen to, but I have a lot of respect for a band that has a career as long as they have.
B & G: Has any of these Scottish bands been an inspiration to you ?
IC: We grew up listening to all of the bands of Glasgow that we were into at the time. All of the bands of the Chemikal underground [an independent record label set up in 1994 by Glasgow Scotland rock band The Delgados] were really important to us, forming our musical landscape. We loved the Delgados, Arab Strap, particularly Mogwai for me. Those are the bands I still listen to and still think they’re really important.
B & G: Do you think there is a Scottish pop with a Scottish specificity ?
MD: There are different styles. Maybe Scottish bands have in common a certain level of self-depreciation and humor. That’s what, I would say, would be the “Scottish element” (laughs).
B & G: You said in an interview that synthpop suited better groups like Depeche Mode because you think you use more modern production techniques, especially in the rhythm techniques, and the focus on melody can make your band more unique. What’s the Chvrches’trademark ?
Lauren Mayberry: I think that synthpop implies a certain time period… We are not really part of that. But I don’t really know, does anyone want to help me? (laughs) We don’t want to be a pastiche band nor a chart pop band. We are just writing primarily on the synth instead of the guitar.
MD: Synthpop refers to a period in time and a synthpop band appears to be a retro band. We don’t really subscribe to that. There is a small element of what we do that is in the technology that was used at the time and that we use. But to describe our band now, it’s just “song focused electronic pop music”, somehow influenced by yesterday but it’s not really definite. When you tie something to genre, you immediately impose rules on yourself and I consider that to be a negative thing. I don’t think there should be any rules.
B & G: About the concerts, are you more anxious with the venues getting bigger and bigger as your success is growing ?
IC: I think that initial nervousness comes from the fact that it was a studio based project. There were no plans to take it live. Technically, it was a difficult exercise to translate our songs on stage, to translate it well in a live environment. We played our first show in July 2012, that’s nearly two years ago, we played a lot of shows, so I feel like that kind of nervousness about playing live is way gone. Now, every time we play, every tour we do, we thrive to be better.
B & G: You did a lot of concerts in 2013 and you are touring a lot around Europe still now in early 2014. Do you still manage to appreciate waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning to take the bus and go from one place to another… ?
MD: I don’t think I’ll ever appreciate waking up at 4, even if it was to get a million pounds! But, I mean, it’s hard to complain about this job. There is a lot of worst things that we could be doing with our lives. And I love all our songs. About the evolution, to us, it’s not about being more comfortable on stage, it’s more about feeling better.
IC: The only time I can get bored with playing a song is when we’re not having a great gig for technical reasons. But the most important is that people have a good time and enjoy and sing along, and when it means something to them.
B & G: How would you sum up, in a few words, 2013 ?
LM: I feel like we covered a lot of ground, it was a lot of ‘first times’ of things [first album, first shows…]. We learned a lot, but we are still learning a lot, I think. So, yeah, it was good!
MD: It was good, that’s the word!
B & G: And in January 2015, how would you like to sum up 2014 ?
MD: In one word? (laughs) I would like to achieve satisfaction and success, in the way that I want to.
The next album
B & G: You said in an interview that you were “looking forward to getting back to the studio”. Do you know where your second album is heading to ?
IC: We play in some festivals during the summer but we have some breaks that we will use to make a proper start. We’re looking forward to getting back to the studios. We have many ideas.
MD: We would not be very good musicians if we had no ideas! (laughs)
IC: Let’s say we want to finish the heavy schedule for September…
B & G: Which colour would you choose to describe your first album? And the next one ?
MD: I’d say the first album is dark orange; the second album will be red.
IC: The third is going to be purple.
LM: That sounds good. Red and blue, that makes purple!
by Baptiste et Gérald PETITJEAN