As a journalist myself, I must make the unfortunate confession that I do not also front a wildly successful synth-pop trio. The same cannot be said of Lauren Mayberry, who went from freelance journalist to fronting one of the most consistently innovative and refreshing acts in recent memory, CHVRCHES. Whether it be their numerous radio hits, their sold-out series of shows, their ever-growing list of features in everything from television shows, video games, to film, you would have to have been living on practically another planet to have not come across CHVRCHES’ music in some form or the other.
Yet, despite the band’s now ubiquitous nature in today’s music landscape, CHVRCHES was once just a band finding its start in Glasgow, Scotland. Before the near-universal critical and commercial success, CHVRCHES was a band like any other – a band that was concerned with failing spectacularly, a band sitting around having talks over what naming conventions sounded the coolest. Today, the idea of failing spectacularly is likely a thought of the distant past to CHVRCHES, as they prepare to release their third studio album, Love Is Dead, in late May.
So, in honor of a band that was at the forefront of cool-naming conventions and went on to succeed spectacularly, this is the story of how CHVRCHES went from Ones To Watch to the future of pop music.
Before the formation CHVRCHES, it’s three principal members very much existed in their own worlds. Lauren Mayberry, the band’s lead singer, worked as a freelance journalist for a few years before experimenting with music in a couple local bands as a keyboardist and vocalist. Martin Doherty and Iain Cook, the multi-instrumentalists responsible for crafting the band’s trademark synthpop sound, attended college together but were busy trying to make a name for themselves in their own bands before ultimately working together on a project entirely their own. This unnamed project would see Mayberry come in as the lead singer, her first time doing so, as the trio holed up in a Glasgow basement recording studio for eight months to write and record a series of demos.
The fruition of these months spent working on music together in a basement would ultimately be CHVRCHES and their first single, 2012’s “Lies.” The band’s first self-released single struck a chord with tastemakers across the globe. The highly-stylized amalgamation of retro synths and forward-thinking pop songwriting coupled with Mayberry’s uniquely captivating vocal stylings delivered an interesting and much-applauded take on the genre of pop. And while “Lies” would be the song that originally lit a match amongst the internet, their first official debut single would set the world ablaze.
“The Mother We Share” was released in the fall of 2012, but it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if you guessed the song was released in any of the subsequent years, as it dominated airwaves in both the UK and the US in the years following its release. “The Mother We Share” was also the first indication that CHVRCHES was a band capable of achieving both commercial success and widespread critical acclaim. In the band’s first year, they had managed to deliver a radio hit and receive critical acclaim, but in between the release of “Lies” and “The Mother We Share,” CHVRCHES were still gearing up to perform their first ever show.
For most bands, the first series of shows can serve as a potentially fatal turning point. After all, no matter what your internet clout and commercial success may be, it doesn’t mean much if you can’t translate that into a stunning live performance. CHVRCHES were acutely aware of this reality, stating that they were “concerned about failing spectacularly” now that they were just starting to see their efforts pay off. So, while the first official CHVRCHES show would take place in the summer of 2012 at The Art School in Glasgow, CHVRCHES would play a series of secret shows preceding it under the pseudonym of Shark Week. The first gig and those that followed it, including numerous Los Angeles stops with fellow Ones To Watch favorites, proved to be a smashing success that solidified CHVRCHES as a true triple threat.
In their first year, CHVRCHES became a critically-acclaimed band, a band capable of achieving of commercial success, and a stunning not-to-miss live act. It’s hard to imagine having such an explosive first year or a bigger year than that, but that’s exactly what CHVRCHES sought to do in 2013. To properly make note of every one of CHVRCHES accomplishments in 2013 would require its own article, but some of the year’s earliest highlights include signing to Glassnote Records, home of Phoenix and Two Door Cinema Club, winning the inaugural Grulke Prize at SXSW, and releasing their spectacular debut album, The Bones of What You Believe.
The Bones of What You Believe cemented CHVRCHES as a band with a nostalgic sound yet perfectly at home in leading the future of beautifully crafted pop music. The album also found its way on pretty much everyone’s year-end lists, including ours. The phenomenal debut would have easily stood out as the reigning highlight of CHVRCHES’ 2013, if it weren’t for multiple late-night television appearances, major festival performances across the world, opening for Depeche Mode, and lending their music to every form of media imaginable – from “We Sink” showing up on the soundtrack of FIFA 14 to a chilling rendition of the Bauhaus classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” for the film Vampire Academy.
Over the course of a monumental two years and a single album, CHVRCHES introduced themselves to the world as a talent innovative enough to not only become a staple in the world of pop music but perhaps the very future of it. A sentiment the band doubled down on with the release of their sophomore album, 2015’s Every Open Eye.
So, what does a band that is constantly standing on the precipice of the future of pop music do next? Well, the answer seems to be to keep innovating. CHVRCHES is back yet again for what is bound to be another massive year, as they prepare to release what is sure to be their third much-acclaimed, by fans and critics alike, album, Love Is Dead. And while we eagerly await to see a glimpse into the future of pop music CHVRCHES are soon to present us with, we’ll be reminiscing fondly over our memories of when the band that ignited the vowel-ditching craze proved themselves to be a band capable of anything but failing spectacularly.