CHVRCHES: The Scottish temperament is sometimes the best thing

CHVRCHES: The Scottish temperament is sometimes the best thing
Photo courtesy of the artist

Although they are only two years old, Scottish electro-pop group CHVRCHES has taken the U.S. and U.K. by storm with their infectious synths and bare lyrics. Together the trio, made up of Iain Cook, Martin Doherty, and Lauren Mayberry, have released only a small amount of material, including the Recover EP and their newest single, "Gun." As part of their Scottish mentality, CHVRCHES are taking fame, festivals, and functionality in stride.

Ahead of Saturday's Fine Line show, Gimme Noise spoke with keyboard and synth master Iain Cook about the group's roots, growth, and upcoming album releasing later this year.

Gimme Noise: What has been the most interesting moment being in the US? Any culture shocks at all?

Iain Cook: Not really, no. We've been mostly around for holidays so there hasn't been much of a shock at all. SXSW was crazy, though. It was nothing like we've ever done as a band. I don't even know what to compare it to, just like a circus or something? There was constant talking to people and playing shows, it's very intense. We had a great time though.

Was it hard to quickly transition from mostly digital to stage performances?

Like all things, it's been a gradual process of adjusting. We spent about six months in the studio before anyone heard any music at all. Then we started playing last May, in 2012. We didn't know what to expect at all because no one had heard our music. Then we put a song up and it seemed like people we really into it and then we sort of freaked out because we had to know how to play this live, it was a bit scary. But we try not to read too much about what people are saying about the band and concentrate and to completion of the album.

Did you have a vision for CHVRCHES when you first started?

Not really, no. It all started about five or six years ago when Martin and I were on tour with a band called Aereogramme. We were having a really bad American tour, no one was coming to the shows, and shows were getting canceled because hardly any tickets were being sold, we were having a really bad time. So we sat down and said "Let's do something that people would actually like to listen to." We really had no vision or plan, we just sat down for a couple days to see what came out. It was quite haphazard, it all seems to be happening really quickly. The original plan was to do it as a two-piece, just Martin and I, both on keyboards. And then I happened to walk in as a producer for an EP that Lauren's band was working on. I played a song for Martin and we thought, "OMG her voice is amazing, we have to get her down to try out some backing vocals." We got her down to the studio to try out backing vocals, but immediately muted the lead vocals and just listened to her backing vocals on top of our synthesizers. That was when we realized this might be more than a couple of guys throwing around in a studio. We just thought, let's give this a try, spark a bit of interest. That's sometimes just the best thing, the Scottish temperament.

When you guys got together, what artist inspirations did you have that listeners would be surprised by?

Around the time that we started we were just listening to a lot of the stuff that was just going around. Martin in particular was really heavily influenced by a lot of the new hip-hop music and I guess that really influences us in terms of the beats and rhythm production. But we also share a common ground as regards to older electronic music such as Depeche Mode and just kind of a mixture of old and new electronic stimulated production. Hopefully it doesn't sound too retro, we're trying to be quite modern with nods to the stuff we grew up listening to.

Going into your newer stuff, you just released your new single "Gun." What has the response been like?

We actually finished it about six months ago, it's been something we've just had in the back for some time. But it's really difficult to gauge which song to put out next, especially when you've only released a couple of songs. People have an idea of what you sound like and a sort of expectation and it's difficult to just choose what songs to follow up with. Originally we kind of thought that "Gun" would be a bit too far down the pop sound and it's also a bit less dark than "Recover" or "Lies," but people seem to be really into it!

Do you have any surprises for your upcoming album?

The albums done now, we've written it and recorded it. We're actually going to LA to finish mixing it tomorrow, so the end is in sight! There should be a decent amount of variation, I don't think there should be any mad surprises, there are a couple of songs with Martin singing lead which not a lot of people have heard so far. But we're trying to vary it up in terms of mood and feel, but still sounds like the same band, it's what we're aiming for.

I can't help but mention your recent cover of the Game of Thrones theme. Whose idea was that?

[Laughs] That was not my idea, that was Martin's idea. We were just sitting around the studio, I think Martin had been watching Game of Thrones at the time, and for some reason in his crazy head thought the main theme would go well over the drum beat of our song "Lies". So we just played the drum track from "Lies" and he started playing the keyboard and then Lauren started filmin' and it probably should've never seen the sight of day, but it did [laughs]. People seemed to have fun with it more than we were expecting.

Sometimes great ideas just come out of the blue like that.

Yeah people were like, "You need to release that," and we were like "noooo fucking way," but it was fun, a good laugh.

Currently on their U.S. tour, CHVRCHES will perform in Minneapolis with Still Corners for the first time June 8 at the Fine Line Music Café. Info here.

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