2016 Music Midtown
Credit: Chris McKay/Getty Images

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Scottish group Chvrches scaled the indie-rock mountain with its first two self-produced albums, 2013’s The Bones of What You Believe and 2015’s Every Open Eye. But for its third LP, frontwoman Lauren Mayberry and bandmates Iain Cook and Martin Doherty decided to expand their inner circle and bring megaproducer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Pink) into the fold. “He’s done such big pop records, but they’ve always got a bit of saltiness in them,” Mayberry says. “He pushed what we were doing to be bigger in some ways, but he also pushed us to be weirder. He’d be like, ‘If the vocal melodies are as sweet and as precise as this, why don’t we make these other sounds so f—ed up and gnarly and strange?’ I loved that.”

Mayberry’s lyrics are also more outwardly focused than before. “I was looking at the world and realizing that we are both the best and the worst — humanity does all of this to itself. [The album] is about questioning why we are where we are and how do we reconcile with that.” Laughing, she adds: “Yeah, it sounds cheerful. I know.”

The group’s writing process even changed for this LP, she says. Used to finishing a track together and then Mayberry handling the lyrics alone, after the fact, she switched things up for this still-untitled set. “We were looking to have lyrics happen more naturally, as the music came,” she explains. “I would try to think of something in that moment or find something that already existed in a notebook and put it in there right away. It felt like the words and the music were more married, right from the start.”

Heaviness aside, Mayberry promises the group is ecstatic about the results: “When I listen to the record, I feel like it’s the most pop stuff we’ve done and also the most aggressive and vulnerable at the same time. It was about really leaning into those moments — and also wanting there to be a real humanity and character to what we’re saying.”

She adds: “I find it quite boring when you’re listening to radio and it’s the same kind of voice that’s on every song on the radio. You can’t really tell a lot about that singer as a storyteller and about the singer from what they’re singing.” So instead of getting the “perfect” take, Mayberry says they were just focused on finding the right delivery: “I thought about that a lot this time.”