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Scottish synth-pop trio Chvrches on milestones and the making of Every Open Eye

Holy Trinity

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Scottish electro-pop trio Chvrches may have nearly 700,000 fans on Facebook, but the group has only recently played its first arena concert. That experience happened at Glasgow, Scotland's relatively new SSE Hydro this past April and was one of the band's more sentimental milestones. "When we were making the first album, they were just finishing the Hydro, and we'd drive past it and kind of joke that we'd end up playing there," recalls synth player/sampler/vocalist Martin Doherty. "So for that to actually become a reality, that's about as crazy as it gets."

The three — lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry, producer/guitarist Iain Cook, and Doherty — met via connections in Glasgow's enthralling, and somewhat incestuous, music scene, as well as through the University of Strathclyde, where Cook and Doherty studied music while Mayberry earned an undergrad degree in law and a masters in journalism. Mayberry, a pianist since childhood and a drummer since her teens, was performing with Glaswegian band Blue Sky Archives when she met Cook, who produced an EP for the band, and Doherty, who also helped out with some of the singer's recordings. Additionally, Cook produced records for Scotland's Twilight Sad, with which Doherty also performed and recorded, and was the guitarist for the now-defunct but still highly regarded Aereogramme, another Glasgow band Doherty played with at one time.

It wasn't until 2011 that the three began tinkering around in the studio together. "We started out trying to make demos and things," Doherty says. "We were all excited about the music in a way that I don't think any of us had really experienced before, and as a result, we had the bulk of an album formed really, really quickly."

Before long, the lives of Doherty, Mayberry, and Cook would take a wild turn, after only one single, "Lies," dropped digitally. That's also when it first occurred to them that Chvrches was a band, for real. "We'd just been writing stuff together, and we thought it'd be fun to put a track down and see what developed," Doherty says. "And it ended up being insane, and suddenly the industry wheels started moving almost immediately with people coming to us looking to sign us to record deals or whatever. And our lives were different after that."

Chvrches released their debut full-length The Bones of What You Believe in 2013, and with that, they broke America. After filling up venues several nights straight in the Big Apple, the success really set in. "I think that was the moment we realized we had a lot of potential in the States, beyond anything that we had imagined," Doherty says.

Only six weeks after finishing that album's exhaustive tour, the group returned to the studio energized by the momentum of that campaign. The result is the band's relentlessly electric 2015 release, Every Open Eye. The album's pop-sure tenacity from the word go was absolutely intentional. "We just felt ready to make album two, and we were as tight as we'd been as a group at that time," Doherty says. "When we sat down, that was the sound and the type of music that actually came out of us, and I think it was more of a reflection of where we were in our personalities than anything else. I knew for sure that we didn't want to make a deep, dark, thoughtful record — I feel like I'd done enough of that stuff at that point in time anyway. I felt like it was the right time to make a more immediate and confident and self-assured record."

Although the guys have no regrets about sinking their teeth into Every Open Eye with such immediacy, the route for the next record will be decidedly different. Yes, they're already contemplating what's to come — it's hard not to while ruminating aboard a tour bus for weeks on end with plenty of time to ponder, theorize, and discuss the direction of the next studio session. "What I will say for sure is that we are going to take a bit of time off — not like a huge amount, but we won't put a date on the starting of the recording just to make sure everyone gets the right amount of rest," Doherty says.

Who knows, the band's approach could be something they can't foresee now while in the midst of another invigorating tour. April alone saw Chvrches, along with Twilight Sad, fill the Hydro in Glasgow before they found themselves performing to an infinite sea of fans at Coachella in California and New York's Governors Ball last weekend. After all, the exemplary Every Eye Open came about on the heels of a similar sort of whirlwind year. "We weren't imposing rules," Doherty remembers, "but we had half an idea of what we wanted and actually felt pretty proud of the album. I feel like we achieved everything we set out to do there."

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