Coming to America: Chvrches on their new album and new ZIP code
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry always keeps a notebook on hand for whenever inspiration strikes — which it often does, at the most inopportune times.
“I was washing my hands in the [restroom] of — what’s that bar called?” she says.
“The Girl at the White Horse!” bandmate Martin Doherty chimes in, finishing her sentence (in case anyone was wondering whether this group really are BFFs).
“I had a couple drinks and I was washing my hands and realized, ‘I have it,’” Mayberry continues. “I wrote the lyrics down, and the next day I checked it and was like, ‘Oh, thank God. It’s actually okay.’ I never think I’m more of a genius than when I’m half-cut.”
The fact that some of the tracks off the band’s new album, Love Is Dead (out May 25), were born from a night at that most American of watering holes — think millennial pink walls, $10 beers, every inch decorated specifically for an Instagram feed — feels fated now. The trio of Mayberry, Doherty, and Iain Cook recently succumbed to the inevitable and made the U.S. their semipermanent home, landing in New York after years of traveling to and from their beloved hometown of Glasgow, Scotland.
The move stemmed partly from geographic necessity and partly from to their expansion into the upper reaches of pop culture.
“It’s a pretty rich experience,” says Doherty. “I think we’re investing in it. I came out to record with Lauren and Iain, and I never went back to Glasgow. It’s easy to fall in love with that place.”
Easy to fall in love and easy to fall out of real life, as they’ve also noticed.
“It feels like a holiday — in a bad way,” adds Cook, laughing. “You walk out the door and $100 evaporates from your pocket. You go back inside the house, like ‘Oh, f—.’”
The expense of it all is just the first in a long list of New York lessons the band members have learned the hard way since relocating. They discovered that it’s really hard to show a monthly pay stub to a New York landlord when you make your living in a band; that sometimes a Craiglist ad for a “one-bedroom apartment” actually means sharing a living room with another stranger, separated only by a curtain; that the East River ferries are fun if you’re going for pizza, not so fun if you’re coming home from Ikea; and that they’ve been spoiled with fantastic Indian food all their lives.
But for every fifth-floor walk-up the size of an outhouse, Doherty, Mayberry, and Cook have also found a lot to love about the States. There’s the pizza, of course (“Sometimes you just want a filthy slice,” says Mayberry). There’s the HBO and Hulu subscriptions (and yes, they use each other’s logins). And there’s the morally perilous but visually entertaining crew at SUR (“Vanderpump Rules is brilliant; they’re the worst but it’s amazing,” says Doherty).
For Love Is Dead, their follow-up to 2015’s glowingly reviewed Every Open Eye, they transformed their stateside experiences into a high-energy, pop-meets-punk exercise that muses on romances, Mayberry turning 30, and the world’s … let’s just say upheaval. But the group was careful not to go too far off the beaten path.
“We don’t really subscribe to this idea that you have to totally reinvent yourself on every record,” Doherty says. “We’ve spent six years trying to build up a following and a sound for our band.”
He adds that they were looking to create a more live-sounding record than they’d made before. That meant using additional instruments, embracing more rough edges, and most importantly, knowing what should end up on the cutting-room floor — like enough heavy guitar sections to make, as Cook puts it, “a full balls-out rock record.”
(There’s always next time?)
They did make a few changes, though, at least in the initial writing process. On past albums, the band sketched out the instrumentals for the tracks before anything else — their songs are, after all, danceable first and foremost — but this time they took the opposite approach, as Mayberry came to the recording studio equipped with lyrics.
Following the release of Love Is Dead, Chvrches will embark on an expansive world tour. They’ll be playing a handful of major festivals — the Governors Ball in New York, Austin City Limits in Texas, Fuji Rock in Japan (the latter is a bucket-list item for the band) — and hitting smaller venues as well. It’s another opportunity to deepen the relationships they’ve developed with their fan base over the years.
“This was never about one day deciding that we want to be a top-40 band,” Doherty says. “Or rejecting what we’ve spent all this time creating. No matter how poppy we are perceived, we’ll always feel like an indie band.”