Glaswegian synth pop sensation CHVRCHES are coming towards the conclusion of the most hectic year of their lives. Since the release of their breakaway debut album The Bones of What You Believe almost exactly a year ago exposed the world to their slavishly catchy brand of synthesisers-driven music, the trio have completed a round of pretty much every major festival on both sides of the Atlantic with intermittent trips down to Australia as well. JUICE talks to Martin Doherty about the band’s origins, their follow-up release, and about the shift in the international electronic scene, but evidently not about Scottish politics.
How did your musical style come to be? Was your sound something that you were striving to create from the beginning, or did it just happen through experimentation?
The musical style of this band happened really without any kind of elaborate intention. It’s very much the latter of what you suggested; being in the studio and using lots of synthesisers, and coming up with songs. The one thing that was constant was that we knew we wanted to write songs, it was never meant to be an experimental project. We knew that melody and songwriting would be the most important things of all.
The band already had been working for months to create a wealth of material before ‘Lies’ came out. Was this a conscious decision on your part, instead of putting a song out and gauging the market’s response from there?
Absolutely. It was crucial to us back then for a number of reasons but most importantly, if we were to release a song and people were really excited about it, we wanted to have other music to follow that up with, and we wouldn’t be one of those bands whom you hear about from time to time that get overly excited and release songs and start performing before they’re ready, and people forget about them before they’ve even gotten started, y’know?
Was there a thematic direction from the start of the writing process of The Bones of What You Believe?
I’d have to say no, but when any artiste works on a song or an album, maybe they’re writing about their personal feelings, or maybe they’re writing about their life, and when you step back after that and see it, then you think, yeah that makes sense, or it makes a certain point.
What’s the CHVRCHES process then in the studio when it’s just the three of you?
It’s very fluid the way we work. No one ever comes into the studio with, “Hey, this is my song, and it’s supposed to sound a certain way.” It never really starts like that. Usually, what happens is that there’ll be one little drum loop for a beat, or something interesting, and then we begin to build upon it, work on it, and then suddenly we’ll see how it sounds with a melody there, and it happens in a very smooth fashion. In my life, it’s the only band that’s worked that way.
Have you guys started work on your sophomore album yet?
For sure. We’ll be recording hopefully in January. Lots of ideas flying around now, lots of nuts and bolts that we’ve been working on. There’ll be two new songs in the live set for the last leg of the tour, which will be a nice change. There won’t be any stylistic changes, but we’re learning and rehearsing the songs now, and they’ll definitely be in our set by the time we reach Southeast Asia.
What else can we expect from your follow-up, something more like your debut release, or something a little more expansive musically?
I don’t feel like we will try to reinvent who we are on the second album, and in terms of actual sonics, no one knows how it’s going to sound like until we actually get together and really start fleshing it out, but I would say that the songs are what’s most important over everything, and the production kind of happens in the moment. I guess it depends also on what we’re listening to around the time. At the moment, I’m almost exclusively listening to [FKA] twigs and experimental electronic music, and so that might include that little ‘something else’, y’know?
There’s been a whole new breed of electronic acts springing up from the UK over the past few years. What’s been going on over there to cause such a shift towards this new sound?
Absolutely! I think the culture of electronics is something that is happening worldwide. To me, the obvious reason for that is that computer technology and recording software have developed to such an extent that people can make professional recordings in their homes on a laptop. And the internet, coupled with that, is a whole new platform of distribution which never existed before. For one, if you wanted to record music [back then], you had to have money because it was a very expensive process. And you absolutely had to have a record deal to get your music on the radio, and CDs, or vinyl, maybe. Compared to now when anyone can watch a YouTube tutorial on song recording or how to use Logic, and how to use Cubase – and you just have to have a little bit of talent. And that’s an amazing thing.
Are there any up-and-coming bands from Glasgow that we ought to check out?
It’s a little bit funny cause you asked about any bands from Glasgow, but really, I haven’t been in Glasgow for the last nine months. It’s a little difficult at the moment to talk about Glasgow cause I’m not really sure what’s going on there. There are plenty of songs that I listen to, but at the moment it’s more music from the mid-to-late ‘90s. But there’s always someone breaking through over there.
Speaking of which, what were you thoughts on the push for Scottish independence?
Uhm… Well, this is an interesting one. But it’s not something that I’d cover extensively, because I don’t agree with influencing people in politics through my position as a musician.
CHVRCHES will be performing at KL Live for the first Urbanscapes Satellite Show on Wednesday 19 November ’14. The band will also play at the inaugural cruise festival It’s the Ship, happening from Friday 21 to Tuesday 25 November ’14.