Interview with CHVRCHES’ Iain Cook

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Chvrches. Left: Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook (interviewee), and Martin Doherty

This is a crosspost from my byline copy featured on DC9 at Night.

The first time Iain Cook came to the States for South by Southwest with his band Chvrches, he was surprised by their first American audience’s reception.

“In America, people are more about dancing and singing along to our music, even when we only released a couple songs” Iain said over the phone in his native Scotland. After burning their cloud-acclimated skins in the sun, tasting Austin’s barbecue and winning SXSW’s Inaugural Grulke Prize for Developing Non-US Act, Chvrches returned to their Glasgow studio basement to begin production on their full debut album, slated for September on Glassnote Records. The band will also tour for Depeche Mode on select European dates through July.

Iain formed Chvrches with main vocalist Lauren Mayberry (of folk pop band Blue Sky Archives) and  Martin Doherty (live synths for The Twilight Sad) after a demo session in 2011. Although intentional misspellings are common tactic among bands this generation, Chvrches’ Black Metal-tinged, Latin u switchup was to distinguish themselves from religious institutions.

The band rose in popularity after May 2012 when their first uploaded track “Lies” appeared on the tastemaking music blog Neon Gold and British publication The Guardian’s music blog. The band has since focused on touring, visiting studios, uploading tracks intermittently on social media and avoiding the monolithic hype surrounding them over the same. ”We’re just keeping our eye on the ball and not reading too much in our press” Iain said.

Despite the differences in age and experience in Chvrches, Iain believed that the trio mixes each others’ tastes and proficiency equally in the band. The series of tracks released to date have all three members sharing vocal and synthesizers. “Martin’s into modern hip hop and electronic music, Lauren has a good sense of melody”. Iain drew on his experience in composition and audio production,which he promises will pay of in the album. “We want our melody to grab people on the first listen and have ‘em pick up on the everything else over multiple listens”

In March, Chvrches released their Recover EP on Glassnote. The band’s music mixes thick, percussion with stark synth-pop melody. Chvrches’ dramatic lyrics, sung with each member’s Scottish inflection, adds a peculiar gloom to the synthesizer artillery.

Despite callbacks to the 1980’s — the band’s synthesizers and the Recover track  “ZVVL”referencing the villain from Ghostbusters — Iain believes that Chvrches is distinct from the recent wave of nostalgic, synthesizer-based pop artists. “I think the 80’s reference came across by accident.” Iain said “Its not something we wanted to play up too much”

“We’ll have stuff in there that’s good for racing in a speedboat” Iain joked.

In April, Chvrches uploaded a Youtube video of the band playing the theme of HBO’s Game of Thrones in their studio. On the phone, Iain aligned himself with the franchise’s House Stark because the House’s realm resembles the band’s native Scotland. “Scotland’s pretty bloody cold, pretty northern” Cook said. “Those guys are keepin’ it real”

The video earned over 100,000 views, but Iain doesn’t expect to make a habit of more theme song covers. “Someone suggested we should do the Mad Men theme song” Iain said, ”I think our days of theme song covers are in the past”.

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