CHVRCHES: Shooting up the charts, shooting down hecklers



Lauren Mayberry does not suffer fools. That includes those who expose themselves to play the fool, as happened when a New York City jackass called out to the CHVRCHES lead singer a couple weeks back.

“Marry me!” he screamed, repeatedly.

Mayberry spotted a teachable moment and, like a human record-scratch noise, stopped the show to eviscerate this “fan” for acting like a creep.

Mayberry’s impatience with foolishness also extends to journalists — like this one, who took a risk in trying to bring up that incident with his first question during a phone interview this week.

The idea for a little joke to start us off landed with all the grace and panache of the Hindenburg. The gulf of time that preceded her clipped, one-line response felt like it could've seen the rise and fall of new life-forms.

After a chance to vent about the amount of press that small incident has received, she moved on to other topics.

Mayberry, after all, has bigger things on her mind these days. Much bigger, actually. On Wednesday, the same day she turned 28, Mayberry and bandmates Iain Cook (guitar, bass, vocals) and Martin Doherty (synthesizer, production, vocals) learned that CHVRCHES sophomore release, Every Open Eye, hit No. 1 on Billboard’s rock charts.

The Scottish band's soulful synth-pop tunes soar and crash back down, serving as a showcase for Mayberry’s revealing lyrics and a wide range of emotional deliveries. Plus, it’s catchy as hell.

Mayberry has also become a leading voice in the calling-out of misogyny, railing against horrific, actionable threats of violence — often spat-out online, and directed at her — to deeply confused attempts to flirt with her by, say, proposing.

Catch CHVRCHES at Myth tomorrow night. Their stuff, new and old, will have you screaming so loud you won’t hear what the jerk next to you is even saying.

City Pages: I guess it would be bad if my first question is “Will you marry me?”

Lauren Mayberry: [Long pause.] Well that is your first question.

CP: Are you surprised with the amount of response that incident has received?

LM: It’s interesting to see how different people react to something like that. In my opinion, if I was a dude fronting a metal band, and I’d scolded a heckler, people would’ve been like, “Right on man! That’s totally awesome.” Yesterday, somebody tweeted me and said, “You’re an ignorant cunt. You’re the kind of person that makes people hate feminists.” And that was a woman that tweeted that at me. So, that kind of response proves my point, I think.

At the end of the day, all I’m asking for is for my position as a musician and as an artist to be taken as seriously as that of my bandmates, and not to be defined and separated by my gender. But it’s a sliding scale. You can see it from the kind of heckles that I get, to the heckle a male performer will get.

People were like, “Oh, she was quite rude to that fan, she should’ve taken it as a compliment.” It’s quite interesting people would take it as that. Yes, it’s different from somebody sending you death and rape threats on the internet, but it’s part of the same societal culture. I thought it was a fair enough response, to be honest.

CP: Online comment forms are basically human garbage dumps, and posts about the band often turns into a discussion of your looks. Does that piss you off? Or creep you out?

LM: I haven’t seen anything. I tend not to go around looking for that kind of stuff. That’s how female performers get spoken about by certain kinds of people. But it’s interesting when people talk about our stance on “online misogyny.” I was like, “No, it’s not our stance on online misogyny. It’s general misogyny.” The internet, generally, is a really great way to communicate with people, and its integral for how the band was formed. I think we try and make sure we’re as involved with that in a positive way, as we can be.

Some days feel more negative than others, but I think that’s the way it is for everyone. When people are tweeting at me that I’m an “ignorant, hateful cunt,” that doesn’t feel awesome. No one wants to be hated. But … I don’t want to be adored. I don’t want to be hated. I just want to be able to make art, and have that communicated with people. I guess the more people find out about your band, and the higher profile you get, the more of the good and the bad you will receive.

CP: Well, it seems like things are going well, seeing as you now have the No. 1 rock record in the world. Does this mean people know how to pronounce the name?

LM: I hope so! We just started a fan club part of the website, and I was thinking for ages about what we were going to call it. Finally it dawned on me: We’ll call it Fan Clvb. It’s important to — you have to take what you’re doing seriously, but you don’t have to take yourself so seriously. People can pronounce how they want.

CP: More seriously, do you have some idea why this album has caught on with such a big audience?

LM: At this point we feel really great it’s connected with people, because we made an album we were really proud of. Somebody made the point to me, like, how many self-written, self-produced, self-recorded records are at the top of alternative charts, or the top 10 of the main charts. I don’t know the answer to that.

I think it’s awesome for us, that we have some ownership over the successes, and the inevitable failures. I hope people can find something genuine and authentic in what we’re doing. It was made by real people that are a real band. It wasn’t made in a lab, and sold to somebody, as something that wasn’t real.

CP: When I started typing your name into Google, one of the first things that came up was “Lauren Mayberry height.” Is there a reason why your height is interesting?

LM: I don’t know I’ve never Googled my own height. I guess we’re not a tall band, but none of us are excessively tall or excessively small. I like that when we’re onstage, we can be the tallest people in the world or the smallest. You wouldn’t know, because we all put each other in proportion.

CP: Your music has been used in video games, probably because it has the right sound. Do you think they’re not listening to the lyrics?

LM: It’s interesting to me, putting songs in games, or putting songs in films. It’s like your creativity is sound-tracking someone else’s. The artwork in some of those things is incredible. Iain [Cook] and Martin [Doherty] are both big game guys. Not all games, but some games — the less kind of, mad, shoot-‘em-up games — have these incredible, fantastical storylines. I think there’s an art to that, and it’s nice to be involved in something creative that’s a little removed from what we do.

CP: Some of your lyrics can be angry or confrontational, like you’re getting something out. Is that how you are in real life?

LM: Although there’s some darker lyrical content on this record, there’s also some of the most hopeful, and forward-facing things. I don’t think people are ever one-dimensional. It would be very boring, lyrically, to write something that sounds like a script from The Brady Bunch. Nobody thinks like that, nobody talks like that. I want to put genuine emotion into something, whether it’s positive or negative.

CP: Is it ever weird for you to look at the crowd and see people dancing and having fun, when the lyrics are something that’s personal or painful?

LM: That’s the interesting thing about lyrics. I don’t interpret that many of the songs that way. Yes, there’s some songs that are about the negative aspects of personal relationships. But a lot of them aren’t. What they meant to me when I wrote them is helpful to me when I wrote them, and it’s helpful to me in the performance, and the recording. But what it means to people at shows is for them to decide.

People bring these songs into their lives, and they connect in a different way. It’s incredible for all of us that the music we’re making is communicating with people like that. We’ve all been in bands before where that hasn’t happened. You tour and you tour, and you drive seven hours to a show, you get there, there’s about eight people and you don’t get paid. I think we’re incredibly lucky.

CP: Just one more question. How tall are you?

LM: Well, it will have to remain a mystery. Otherwise people won’t Google it anymore. 


With: Mansionair.

When: 6:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 10.

Where: Myth.

Tickets: $31; more info here.