Sound of the Week: Chvrches! An Interview

Glaswegian synth-pop trio Chvrches are well known for their ridiculously catchy songs and their vigorous touring schedule during the release of their debut album ‘The Bones of What You Believe’ during 2013. After a well deserved break, Lauren, Iain and Martin took a fresh approach to writing their anticipated follow up album ‘Every Open Eye’, solidifying their own unique “Chvrches” sound. With this in mind, KALTBLUT spoke to the trio during their time in Berlin on recent events, Lollapalooza and karaoke treats! You can catch them playing in Hamburg this Thursday at Docks.

KALTBLUT: Have you been to Berlin before?
Iain: Yeah, loads of times!

KALTBLUT: Do you have time to be a bit of a tourist?
Lauren: Sometimes. I guess a lot of the time we are doing things like interviews, but we’re been quite lucky to play a lot in Germany. We toured a lot during our first album and now we’re on our second!
Iain: We’ve been here maybe four times in the last two months, doing some promo things but only just started to do gigs.

KALTBLUT: You already played at Lollapalooza in Chicago, what was Berlin’s Lollapalooza like as a comparison?
Iain: I tend to find European festivals to be quite different to American ones in general, so I don’t think I compare them too much. They’re both great in their own way.

KALTBLUT: The line up has been really great this year, and it’s great that it’s been sold out for the first one in Berlin
Iain: Yeah, it’s unusual for a festival to sell out in its first year!

KALTBLUT: How has touring been this summer?
Martin: We’ve done quite a few festivals, that’s mostly what we’ve been doing this year as we’ve been slowly gearing up for the album tour. We’ve got a lot of shows ahead of us but we’re definitely ready now.

KALTBLUT: There was recent trolling on the internet over your video for ‘Leave A Trace’, do you think it’s part of the job to grow thicker skin to deflect situations like these?
Lauren: I think anybody that’s making art has to deal with a little criticism, but I guess that things you mention aren’t exactly constructive criticism. It’s just a hateful way of speaking to people, and I guess as much as people make a big deal about the online element, that stuff happens to women all the time. We think it’s important to have a conversation and discuss it, but we don’t change our approach to doing what we do because of it. We are quite focused on being in the band the way we want and not let those opinions alter what we do.

KALTBLUT: What is the story behind the new album?
Iain; Well I guess we did a lot of shows in the last two years, so by the time we finished up we decided to take six weeks off and catch up with friends family to have some proper down time. By mid January we just all got in the studio and luckily things were exactly where we left it, in terms of creativity and things happened very quickly, any nerves that we may have had before were ignored as we realised we could still work together really well after the time off. And yeah, we did the whole thing in about five months.

KALTBLUT: Compared to the first album, has much changed?
Iain: There’s not been a mad change in direction. We haven’t gone all jazz or anything like that. It’s just more of a refined Chvrches sound. I guess the first album we kind of made it up as we went along because we hadn’t found our sound, but now that’s established we just build on it. So hopefully it’s like 20% bigger and better! [Laughs]

KALTBLUT: Who is singing on ‘High Enough to Carry You Over’?
Marin: That’d be me!

KALTBLUT: It’s a really nice song, and a surprise!
Martin: Thank you. I mean it’s something that we always had, there would be some songs that I would sing on. And that song on this new record was the one that I felt belonged right in the middle. People kept calling me “Sorbet”, like I don’t know if I feel good about that!

Martin: Because it’s a palate cleanser! [Laughs] Iain: Pickled ginger.
Martin: Wait, I guess that makes Lauren…
Lauren: Sushi!
Iain: Or the wasabi. [Laughs] Lauren: It’s nice to have the option to do that, we never really sat there and thought there is a certain amount of songs that I should do, or Martin should do. It was generally about what vocals worked best with the song. We tried that with me just singing and it didn’t work, and when Martin did a proper recording of it, it just made sense. It’s nice to be able to play around with those things in the live show and in the record. We think it’s nice to use a lot of layering vocals as instruments live.

KALTBLUT: What about the story behind ‘Keep You On My Side’? It’s one of my favourite songs to keep on repeat!
Lauren: I guess I feel that it’s another interesting example of the how the guys approached production as the verse is really simple with three notes and a bassline, but it’s really effective. I think this time we were more conscious about what we were putting in the song and what we weren’t. Just thinking about if whatever we put into the track was 100% necessary, whether something is overly complicated. I think I like that we’ve not been afraid to pull back at certain points for effect.

KALTBLUT: Is ‘Every Open Eye’ referencing to anything in particular?
Lauren: It’s a lyric from the song ‘Clearest Blue’ and it kind of means being in the eye of the storm, as it were, like being looked at an analysed all of the time. We like the idea of that as the second album title because this time around we are lucky enough to have an audience for the album as we did spend like two years touring and touring non stop, and it’s interesting to take a step back from that and be in writing mode.

KALTBLUT: Would you work with anyone else to produce music?
Iain: It’s not something that we would rule out, but I think right now we are still trying to establish ourselves as a team of writers, producers and we believe we are capable of doing it whilst things are still fresh and exciting in the studio. We’ll always stick to this nucleus for now. For other projects sure, but not right now.

KALTBLUT: So maybe if you found the right sample of person to work with?
Iain: Yeah, there’s a balance to what we do and there’s a dynamic and energy to what is very much the center of the sound of that band. So diluting that or altering that in any way is not something that excites me at all! Just because that way you can get to the end of it all and look at the band’s body of work and say, “That’s what we achieved together.” There’s a nice ownership in that, you know?

KALTBLUT: During the five months in the studio, was it easy to come to come to a conclusion of what goes on the album and what doesn’t?
Martin: It’s never an easy conversation that, because some people have favourite songs that other people just hate, so there’s a lot of discussion that goes on. But yeah, at the end of the day I think we arrived at an eleven song album that we feel really flows from start to finish. It has the right kind of dynamic between each song. I think we are happy with it, but it’s never an easy conversation! [Laughs] Iain: It’s lucky though because we all write the songs together and it’s split equally, no one is ever trying to get their song on the album. Everyone is pushing towards what is best for the project creatively, and never for any other reason.

KALTBLUT: Do you have a routine when it comes to writing new music?
Martin: I guess every songs has it’s own route, we do tend to have a rough formula or pattern when we write together. Normally it’ll start like a drum beat, or a chord sequence, then a melody will go down quickly then start building it up from there and Lauren will add lyrics.

KALTBLUT: What is the last song you’ve listened to?
Iain: The last song I listened to was Muse covering our song ‘Lies’. [Laughs] No, it’s true! They just did it earlier on Radio 1.
Lauren: Yeah, we all listened to it because they’re doing a month of live sessions, and we just listened to Muse cover us!
Iain: Very flattering!
Martin: It’s very surreal as well, listening to a huge band cover us, it’s pretty cool!

KALTBLUT: What is your karaoke song of choice?
[Joint inhale] Martin: That is a good question because we are huge karaoke fans. So I’ve got a couple personally, depending on the crowd and how they’re feeling. If they’re in the mood to party mine is R. Kelly ‘Ignition’ remix. But if you want to bring people down, it’s Patrick Swayze’s ‘She’s Like The Wind’. Those are my two choices.
Lauren: I think maybe something by Carly Rae Jepsen.
Martin: What’s yours?

KALTBLUT: I think mine would be ‘Maria’ by Blondie
Martin: Ohhh, that is a good choice!
[Lauren sings the chorus to ‘Maria’] Iain: I’m going to go with ‘We Built This City’ by Starship, although it’s better with two people.
Martin: Your song is totally ‘Locked Out of Heaven’ by Bruno Mars. It was brilliant!
Iain: I don’t know, it’s so high! But thanks, Martin.

Every Open Eye is out now on Universal