Chvrches (stylised «CHVRCHΞS» and pronounced «Churches») is a band from Glasgow, Scotland, formed in September 2011. The band consists of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, Martin Doherty and, unofficially since 2018, Jonny Scott. Mostly deriving from the synth-pop genre, Chvrches also incorporate indietronica, indie pop, and electronic dance into their sound.
Two years after their formation, Chvrches released Recover EP in March 2013, which included hits «The Mother We Share» and «Recover». Their debut studio album, The Bones of What You Believe, was released on 20 September 2013, while the band was ranked fifth on the Sound of 2013 list by the BBC. Two years later, on 25 September 2015, the group released their second album, Every Open Eye. Their third album, Love Is Dead, was released on 25 May 2018.
Origins and formation
In 2003, musicians Iain Cook and Martin Doherty met as students at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Doherty was a member of the rock band Julia Thirteen, and asked Cook to produce some of the band’s music. Although Julia Thirteen never recorded any further material, the experience proved vital, as Cook and Doherty formed a mutual partnership through music. A few years later, Doherty joined Cook as a member of the alternative rock band Aereogramme, but the two quit in 2007 when they became frustrated with the band’s sound and lack of exposure. Doherty was then offered a role as a touring member of The Twilight Sad, but quit in 2012 after growing tired of playing someone else’s music. The two had become jaded with alternative rock, and decided to start their own music project.
A few years after Cook left Aerogramme, he began listening to the American electronic music band Emeralds. Inspired, Cook bought a Minimoog Voyager and began «playing around with soundscapes and stuff like that…kind of with a view of doing stuff from the ’80s». In September 2011, he produced an extended play for the band Blue Sky Archives, and asked vocalist and drummer Lauren Mayberry if she would be interested in singing backing vocals for an electronic music project he and Doherty were working on. Mayberry was intrigued by the offer, as neither of them had any background in electronic music. «For me it was nice to write over different instruments and not have to try to sing and scream over live drums and a Marshall bass stack,» said Mayberry.
The three musicians quickly bonded, and spent the next few months writing and recording songs in a basement studio. During these sessions, Mayberry wrote the lyrics and hooks, Doherty provided melodic ideas, and Cook produced the songs. Once the sessions had concluded, the three decided that they worked well enough together to try and perform the songs as a band. The initial plan was to have Doherty sing lead vocals, while Mayberry would sing backing vocals. Mayberry was eventually promoted to lead vocalist after Cook and Doherty heard her singing abilities. In addition to her new role, Mayberry became the band’s frontwoman, and gave the other members a reading list about the inner workings of the music industry.
The band members settled on the name Chvrches (stylized as CHVRCHΞS), which uses the Roman letter «v» instead of a «u». This spelling was chosen to differentiate themselves from actual churches in online search results. There was no conscious decision to have a name with religious connotations; instead, the band members felt that the name gave «a strong vibe that could be interpreted in many different ways». Mayberry also noted that the v is a subtle nod to band names from the influential witch house genre of music, including bands such as SALEM and Ritualz. «We did consider putting upside down crosses at either side of our name, but that would have dated us, I think» said Mayberry.
2012–2014: Breakthrough success, and The Bones of What You Believe
Doherty noted how Chvrches began as a studio only project, saying: «There wasn’t really any goal other than to put a song out on the internet and see what kind of response we got». On 11 May 2012, Chvrches posted its debut song «Lies» on the Neon Gold Records blog. Instead of a picture of the band members, the song was accompanied by a picture of nuns in masks, which added to the perceived religiosity of the Chvrches name. The response was almost immediate; «Lies» reached number one on the MP3 aggregate blog The Hype Machine, and similarly received constant airplay on SoundCloud and BBC Radio 1. The band members were amazed by the reaction to «Lies». «It was unbelievable, way beyond what we expected,» said Doherty.
Despite the popularity of «Lies», Chvrches had yet to perform a live show. There was a growing expectation that the band would eventually perform live, although the band members were anxious at the prospect. To curtail this fear, Chvrches played its first two live shows under the name Shark Week, before making its official debut at the Glasgow School of Art in July. When Chvrches began to attract A&R representatives, Mayberry was dismayed that most of them wanted to make her the central figure of the band; one representative called her the next Pixie Lott. From the beginning, the band’s goal was to give equal treatment to all three members, and to not have any one person become the focal point. As Doherty stated: «We could have sold 200,000 more albums if we’d hidden Iain and I from view and put Lauren on the cover of every magazine. We ended up doing it in an indie band style. We broke through via word of mouth. It was about doing it in an honest, right way.» This mentality meant that the band had to decline early offers for photo shoots and interviews that excluded Cook and Doherty.
Chvrches had already recorded eight other songs by the time «Lies» was released, in case listeners wanted to hear more music. One of these songs, «The Mother We Share«, was released on 5 November 2012 as the band’s debut single. «The Mother We Share» was similarly well received by listeners, and was downloaded more than 32,000 times by September 2013. Around this time, Chvrches co-manager Campbell McNeil attempted to contact Glassnote Records founder Daniel Glass, and gave Glass copies of «Lies» and another song called «Recover». After traveling to the UK to see Chvrches live, Glass signed the band to a recording contract in January 2013. To promote Chvrches, managers McNeil and Danny Rogers launched a nonstop touring schedule which included several international performances. Two months after signing with Glassnote, Chvrches made its North American debut at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, where the band won a Grulke Prize for best non-American act.
On 6 February 2013, Chvrches premiered the second single «Recover». It was followed by Recover EP, out on 25 March 2013 in the UK via Goodbye/Virgin and 26 March 2013 in the US via Glassnote. On 13 March 2013 Chvrches performed at SXSW. They also won the Inaugural Grulke Prize (for Developing Non-US Act) at SXSW.
On 19 June 2013, Chvrches made their US TV debut performing «The Mother We Share» on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On 15 July 2013, they released the single «Gun«. In July 2013 Chvrches supported Depeche Mode on four shows from The Delta Machine Tour 2013. In September 2013, they also performed «The Mother We Share» on Later… with Jools Holland.
On 20 September 2013, the band released their debut studio album The Bones of What You Believe on Virgin Records. On the critical aggregator website Metacritic, the album received a score of 80, based on 39 reviews.
Chvrches covered Bauhaus‘ song «‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead» for the ending credits of the film Vampire Academy. «The Mother We Share» was featured in the opening video for the 2014 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony in Glasgow, Scotland, on 23 July 2014.
2015–2016: Every Open Eye
The band started recording their second album in January 2015, and on 5 June 2015 announced they had completed work on it. Recording was conducted in the same Glasgow facility used for The Bones, which received a major upgrade to recording gear and an increase in the instrumental variety for the second album. If The Bones of What You Believe was recorded with the only three synths they had at that time (Minimoog Voyager, Prophet ’08, Roland Juno-106), the success of the debut album allowed the band to follow their passion for synths by adding a lot more to play with on Every Open Eye: Korg MS-20 mini, Korg Polysix, Roland Jupiter-8, Moog Sonic Six, Oberheim OB-Xa and DSI Prophet 12.
On 16 July 2015, the band revealed the release date, cover art and track listing for the new album, entitled Every Open Eye. The following day they released the album’s first single, «Leave a Trace«. The album was released on 25 September 2015.
On 12 August 2015, the second single, «Never Ending Circles», was released on YouTube, and on 10 September 2015 the third single, «Clearest Blue«, was also released on YouTube. On 19 October 2015, the fourth single, «Empty Threat«, was released. The music video was revealed on 20 November 2015 through YouTube.
On 31 March 2016, Chvrches made their debut at Royal Albert Hall as part of the Albert Sessions in an over two hours concert. The setlist included 17 songs from their first album and their follow-up: Every Open Eye.
In June 2016, a new version of «Bury It» featuring Hayley Williams was released the fifth and final single from Every Open Eye. The music video for the song was illustrated by Jamie McKelvie, featuring the trio and Williams demonstrating telekinetic powers.
2018–present: Love Is Dead
Chvrches began work on their third album in February 2017 in Los Angeles. On 24 February, Dave Stewart of Eurythmics posted on Twitter that he was in the studio working with the band. On 12 December, it was announced that Greg Kurstin had produced the album, and that work on the project was nearing completion. On 1 January 2018, Doherty confirmed that the album would be released in some time the following year. Speaking about the album in an interview, Mayberry said «It’s a typically Glaswegian thing to do, to feel the most misanthropic and macabre when you’re in the sunniest place on earth.»
To promote the upcoming album, the band wiped all of their social media pages, before posting a short video containing new music captioned «GET IN». The post was accompanied by a link to a Facebook Messenger page with the band. On 31 January 2018, BBC Radio 1‘s Annie Mac announced «Get Out» to be her Hottest Record in the World, giving the single its world premiere. The album also includes a song titled «My Enemy» featuring Matt Berninger of The National, released 28 February. The track list was unveiled on 26 February 2018. On 29 March, the band released «Never Say Die» as the third single from the album. On 10 April, the band released «Miracle» as the fourth single from the album. Love Is Dead was released on 25 May. On 9 October, the band released «Graffiti» as the fifth single from the album.
In February 2019, the band was featured in a collaboration with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for the launch of the new BBC Scotland television channel. The channel’s official launch on 24 February featured an orchestral performance of «Miracle».
In October 2019, the band released the original song «Death Stranding» as the lead single of the album Death Stranding: Timefall for the 2019 video game of the same title. Chvrches played the song with Game Awards Orchestra at the opening of The Game Awards 2019 ceremony.
Known for their clean sound, Chvrches’ music style is usually tagged as electronic or synthpop. Neon Gold described their sound as «a godless hurricane of kinetic pop energy». Kitty Empire of The Observer wrote they «make accessible electro-pop that’s only just short of truly brilliant». Wired noted following Every Open Eye‘s release that the album «cements the group as today’s heir apparent to Depeche Mode, New Order, and other titans of British electronic music.»
The band stated that their heroes were David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Iggy Pop, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Tangerine Dream and Nick Cave. They are also were influenced by acts such as Madonna, Eurythmics, Throbbing Gristle, Prince, Tubeway Army, Robyn, Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins, Death Cab for Cutie, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Deftones, Cyndi Lauper, Whitney Houston and Elliott Smith. The band writes, records, mixes, and masters its songs in a basement studio in Glasgow.
- Lauren Mayberry – lead and backing vocals, drums, percussion, additional synthesizers (2011–present)
- Iain Cook – synthesizers, piano, guitars, bass, backing vocals (2011–present)
- Martin Doherty – synthesizers, samplers, backing and lead vocals (2011–present