Chvrches makes 21st century synth-pop

The trio from Glasgow push forward and away from ’80s nostalgia. But they still worship at the feet of the bands who first made this sound massive.



Chvrches — which is pronounced “churches” (though we prefer “chuh-virches” over here at Cult MTL HQ) — emerged out of Glasgow in early 2013, and it didn’t take long for their bright and bold synth-pop anthems to attract followers worldwide.

With the Recover EP and their debut album, The Bones of What We Believe, both released in 2013, Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty launched themselves out into the world, and they’ve been on the road ever since.

Mayberry met Cook in 2011, when he produced music by one of the many bands she’s been a part of since she was 15. She was initially drafted into Cook and Doherty’s project as a keyboardist and back-up singer, but the trio quickly fell into creative lock-step.

“The thing that was refreshing for us with Chvrches was that it seemed like we all had the same angle in mind for the songs, and that just made it easy to work together,” Mayberry says. “A lot of writing comes down to technical skills, but personality is key as well, and it’s just helpful for us that we’ve got a matching skill set and matching outlook on how we want things to work out.”

Given their collctive backgrounds in guitar bands, working exclusively with new (old) gear was what shifted their sound towards synth-pop.

“Iain had been collecting a lot of vintage synths just for fun and playing with them and trying new things with them, and myself and Martin both have piano as our first instrument, so when we were writing it made sense to write on keyboards as opposed to guitar,” says Mayberry.

“But it wasn’t like we turned around and started trying to write a new genre. We’d taken aspects of different experiences and everything that we’d learned, and focused on what we were best at writing. For me, that was melodies and lyrics.”

Of all the career peaks that Chvrches have experienced in their short lifespan, Mayberry’s favourite moment so far involves a band that exemplifies success in the synth-pop sphere.

“We got to support Depeche Mode for four shows, and that was a massive deal for us because we’re all huge fans. They’ve definitely been an influence on us, but just seeing how a band like that runs a tour and how they perform live and the fact that they’re playing these massive stadiums but their music is not technically what I would define as stadium rock—they’re playing these kind of weird electronic songs, but they connect with people on this amazing level—that’s a really powerful thing to witness up close.

“But there’ve been so many mad experiences over the last three years. In 2011, I was still playing to 12 people in Glasgow who’d turned out to see the band playing after me. We are incredibly lucky to be doing what we’re doing now.” ■


Chvrches play Osheaga’s Mountain stage at Parc Jean Drapeau on Sunday, Aug. 3, 4:50 p.m., SOLD OUT

Chvrches are DJing with Cut Copy and Beat Market at the Osheaga afterparty at the Corona (2490 Notre-Dame W.), tonight, Sunday, Aug. 3, 11:30 p.m., $32/$22 with Osheaga ticket/pass