AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 16: (L-R) Recording artists Martin Doherty, Lauren Mayberry and Iain Cook of Chvrches are seen backstage at the 2016 MTV Woodies/10 For 16 on March 16, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/MTV1415/Getty Images for MTV)
Glasgow synthpop band CHVRCHES is on a week-and-a-half break from their world tour. They’re taking a breather in Scotland where they can recharge and get some “seafood and whiskey,” says guitarist-producer Iain Cook. The three-piece will then take off for a tour of the states and Europe, where they’ll take part in the festival circuit — Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury and the likes — through the fall.
Cook chats with us about their sophomore release “Every Open Eye” that dropped in September, dealing with online misogyny and their latest single for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.
How did “Warning Call” for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst come to be?
We went to Cologne [Germany] for Gamescom last year doing promo and met with some of the developers for the game who showed us the first section of the game. I knew the previous game from four or five years ago and knew the aesthetic of the story and the world we’d be writing for. It happened organically, though, we didn’t change up our style to fit into the game.
Since the game is so narratively driven, it must almost be like composing music for a film.
It’s almost exactly what I’d imagine writing for film would be like. It was an odd [process] because we usually sit down in a studio together and write, but this time, it was just bouncing ideas back and forth over e-mail until we thought, “OK, this sounds like a CHVRCHES song.”
The band has a balance between sounding airy and sweet, but still emotional and sometimes pissed off — like “Leave a Trace” is an angry song. How do you achieve that?
It’s a balancing act — like cooking, which is the comparison I keep going back to. When you’re creating something in the kitchen, you want to keep it from being overly salt or overly sweet. It’s about creating tension. When you have angry lyrics like “Leave a Trace,” we want to pull it back from with the music, and vice versa, if the lyrics are sweet, it gives you more scope in amping up the edginess. We don’t talk about it a lot, but we’ve figured it out. There’s not a formula, but it’s a feel thing — we have a similar mindset.
On the other hand, you’ve become known for this sparkling, intricate sound — how do you keep it from getting lost in a stadium or festival setting? Well, we certainly don’t write songs with a particular purpose. You think of Coldplay or some other massive stadium band, they need to create music at a particular tempo and range of beats to carry that to an audience, but for me, that’s one step too far in calculating. We write music to sound good on the record and please ourselves and we’ll adapt it slightly to translate live. But now, that’s the benefit of having two album rather than one — you can change it up. Before [“Every Open Eye”] we’d be like, “Sorry guys, that’s it!”
But you’ve become known for rounding out your set with covers.
For some reason, we’ve become known for that but I think it was for that reason exactly. Radio stations would always ask us to play them. I remember once we were on tour and “Do I Wanna Know?” by the Arctic Monkeys for triple j in Australia. We got on a boat with a bunch of bands from a festival we were playing the day before and got really brutally drunk. It was a day of debauchery that ended in karaoke at 2 a.m. in Sydney but I went back to the hotel and managed to pull it together with Martin and Lauren. We had to record that at 8:30 a.m. and if you watch it, you can tell we’re a little bit worse for wear.
Lauren has become a crusader for speaking up against misogyny and sexism online, but what role for you and Martin play in that? Are you protective of the situations she has to deal with? Do you feel the need to speak out, too?
We definitely feel protective. She’s one of our best friends and when stuff happens to her, it happens to us, too, but it’s obviously more difficult for her because she’s the target. We’re as supportive as we possibly can be of what she feels like she needs to do, not just for herself but for the countless other girls who have to deal with this s—t on a daily basis. There’s not a great deal we can do being white guys and that’s not something we’ve had to deal with in our personal lives, but it affects us through Lauren and we try to give her the freedom and space she needs.