Catching the light

Scotland’s Chvrches bring synthpop tides to Columbus

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Chvrches will perform on June 10 at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion in Columbus; photo: Elliot Hazel

Although I’m primarily a fan of heavy, guitar based music, I must admit I have a soft spot for really well done, catchy synthpop – synthpop that’s primarily of 1980s vintage or that carries a “retro” sound in one way or another. This is probably because I grew up hearing these sorts of sounds blaring out of MTV as a kid.

I was lamenting the lack of quality contemporary synthpop music in my life and it made me sad no one could recommend any synth-driven music I hadn’t heard before. I couldn’t seem to scratch my itch for synthpop. The last Ladytron album disappointed me greatly. I haven’t really enjoyed a new Bjork album in roughly a decade, and to be quite honest most EBM and EDM bores me in anything but very small doses.

This state I’ve been in came to a long-awaited halt when Scotland trio Chvrches was brought to my attention.

Formed in 2011, the band has generated buzz around the world in a remarkably short amount of time. Chvrches consists of Iain Cook, (synthesisers, guitar, bass, vocals) Martin Doherty (synthesisers, samplers, vocals) and Lauren Mayberry (lead vocals, synths, samples). Chvrches create a bubbly, bright, sparkling musical world where the electronic sounds of the ’80s and ’90s never went out of vogue. The group’s debut full-length album, The Bones of What You Believe led BBC to name Chvrches one of the best new musical talents to follow on their Sound of 2013 list. The band toured with Depeche Mode and last month, performed on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

Recalling sounds reminiscent of Information Society, New Order, Book of Love and Kraftwerk, Chvrches also have a bit of an ethereal edge akin to artists such as Kate Bush, The Sundays and Cocteau Twins. This is thanks in part to Mayberry’s breathy lead vocals. All in all, it’s tasty ear candy for anyone who yearns for pop-song-oriented electronica with a human touch. Chvrches are preparing for a short stateside tour this month, including a stop at LC Pavilion in Columbus on Tuesday, June 10.

I got the chance to chat with lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry about Chvrches’ plan for synthpop domination.


When you, Iain and Martin got together to make music, did you have a specific sound in mind?

We didn’t specifically set out to be an “electro” band or a “pop” band – most of it was informed by the instruments we started writing on. Previously, we’d all written primarily on guitar but this time we started working on synths and piano, so the songs formed in a different way. – Lauren Mayberry


Who might your band cite as influences or inspiration for what you do musically, lyrically or conceptually? 

Although we each have pretty different music taste, we meet in the middle on things like Cocteau Twins, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Kate Bush, Michael Jackson, Prince. … Conceptually, we wanted to make music without feeling like we had to abide by a blueprint or certain set of guidelines. – LM


Tell me about your debut full length, The Bones of What You Believe. Are there any underlying themes or concepts lyrically or musically you’re exploring with this record?

In hindsight, there are certain things that run through the lyrics – a lot of mention of body parts it seems – but beyond that, we tried not to overthink it. We trust each other a lot as writers, so if one person is really keen or really against one part in the song, we always figure it out. I think that’s the great thing about three-part writing – no one is cynically fighting to get “their song” on the record because they are all everyone’s songs. –  LM


Do you find it difficult to reproduce what you do on record in a live setting? Do your songs translate or resonate well in concert with a live audience? 

Initially, Chvrches was a studio project, but when we decided to start playing live we put a lot of time into figuring out how to translate the sounds authentically. Most importantly, we wanted to make it a live show – not a playback party, pressing play on a laptop – we had to figure out how to harness everything through technology so that, between three people, we could play as much of it as humanly possible. We’ve always had great responses at gigs and I hope that’s a testament to the fact that we’ve all grown up playing live music and, at the end of the day, that’s what we all know how to do. –  LM

Chvrches will perform on Tuesday, June 10 at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion, 405 Neil Ave. in Columbus. Doors open at 7 p.m. For more information please visit


Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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