Chvrches is self-admittedly tame. For a group that nails crunchy pop hooks with an ‘80s lean, the Glasgow-based trio values its humble approach, recording tracks in a basement studio in lieu of a professional one.
When it comes to reveling in the success of their breakout singles released last year, don’t expect to hear tales of trashed green rooms and gaudy purchases.
“I wish I had really rock and roll stories that we did tons of drugs and did terrible things,” says lead singer Lauren Mayberry, who formed Chvrches in September 2011 with Iain Cook and Martin Doherty. “I think we were lucky that we gelled so quickly. But when you’re just three people in a windowless basement all the time, you need to get on pretty well otherwise you will kill each other. Then, that would be a rock and roll story.”
The chemistry has yielded buzzy results: since the group released its debut single “Lies” last May, they’ve become overseas sensations, earning praise from NME and BBC, which ranked them at No. 5 on its Sound of 2013 list. A deal with Glassnote Records followed months later, aligning Chvrches with the white-hot label behind recent Grammy darlings Mumford & Sons and indie-rock giants Phoenix, among other artists.
Two weeks after its first U.S. tour kicks off in San Francisco on Mar. 10 — both of the band’s Mar. 18 shows at New York’s Mercury Lounge have already sold out — Chvrches will release its debut EP, “Recover,” on Mar. 26, offering three original cuts and two remixes fit for seedy hole-in-the-walls rife with dancefloor-friendly clientele.
The group’s natural success parallels fateful beginnings: 25-five-year-old Mayberry, who previously made ends meet as a freelance journalist, first cut her teeth as a musician as a member of Blue Sky Archives, providing backing vocals and playing keyboards. Cook was tapped to produce an EP for Archives, and after hitting the studio, he asked Mayberry to sing background vocals for a project he was working on with former University chum Doherty, then a touring member of The Twilight Sad.
“I don’t think any of us expected this amazing reaction from people,” says Mayberry. “Obviously, when you’re working at things, you all hope that people will relate to it. I’m not sure if it’s a timing thing, whereby people are looking for electronic pop mixed with a lyrical edge. I guess it’s hard to say, because you can read so many books on how to make your band known. But I don’t think there’s any way of making that happen, really.”
Chvrches’ harmony is due in part to shared influences including The Knife, Erasure’s Vince Clarke and A Tribe Called Quest. Mayberry says that the group keeps sane while recording in the studio by taking breaks to collectively watch Prince and Whitney Houston videos online. But while “similar interests” and “similar senses of humor” are bonding points, she boils down productivity to their creative process.
“When we first formed, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to play songs that are just written by someone else,'” she recalls. “But they were open immediately to changing things and we wrote as a group, which was pretty awesome in terms of them putting their trust in me. And it hopefully paid off, because hopefully we’re doing okay.”
So far, Chvrches is off to a solid start, having already opened for Passion Pit on their U.K. tour last fall. The group has re-recorded all of their demos in anticipation of their full-length debut, slated for release in late summer or early fall, and plans to head back to the lab after the North American tour wraps in late March. For now, they’re trying to deal with the sudden attention without compromising their art.
“We’re in this position where we’re trying not to fuck it up, to be honest,” says Mayberry. “We’re so lucky that so many people have responded so well and we’re just very aware that we have to make a good album that people are waiting on and will actually like. Hopefully, we won’t be distracted by any of the shiny things and do what we came here to do, which is to make a fresh records.”