Music

Chvrches are ascending to the top of festival bills

The Glasgow synthpop trio are taking their new album all over Europe and the US this summer

Chvrches

Major music festivals have in many ways been the making of Chvrches – and at times literally the breaking too. 

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that number of people in the same place at the same time, it was a properly holy shit moment,” marvels synths player Martin Doherty of doing Coachella in California in 2016.

“We got through it, despite the fact we were pretty much paralysed with fear,” Doherty’s multi-instrumentalist bandmate Iain Cook adds. “It was a bit of a confidence-booster.”

Glastonbury that same year, when Chvrches were the penultimate band on the Other Stage at dusk just before New Order headlined, was another massive moment for the Scottish synthpop trio. “It’s quite a famous slot,” says Doherty. “That was a pretty special night for us.”

“Especially because when you were a kid and when you were a teenager in bands, you watched the BBC coverage of Glastonbury,” singer and former Big Issue journalist Lauren Mayberry agrees.

From festival triumphs to the tribulations of your equipment having an actual meltdown in the sweltering heat of the Australian summer. “We played a festival in Adelaide where it was so hot the computer overloaded and just died and wouldn’t do anything,” Mayberry laments. “Our poor tech spent half an hour trying to fix it and then it was like, ‘your slot is done now, so you have to go and tell the angry crowd of Adelaide that the 30 seconds of the song they got is all they’re gonna get’.”

Their set-up now rejigged in light of such an unfortunate experience, Mayberry assures us that Chvrches are now fully proofed against extreme temperatures. “Unless one of the human beings overheat,” she jokes. 

“Yeah, a fat ginger Scotsman on the floor of the stage,” Doherty laughs.

Packing plenty of factor 50, Chvrches are ready to do it all again as they prep their massive-sounding third album Love Is Dead for release in late May, ahead of a summer of festivals all over Europe and the US – including Parklife, TRNSMT and Citadel in the UK. If the band’s ascendency continues at the same rapid rate it’s been going thus far since they formed in a basement studio in Glasgow in 2011, it’s not hard to imagine Chvrches headlining major festivals in summers soon to come.

It’s a remarkable success story for a band who have developed a fiercely loyal following by doing things on their own terms and staying strong to their principles – with Mayberry in particular garnering a reputation for speaking out fiercely on feminist issues and standing up to online trolls. Love Is Dead finds them perfecting their poise as a trio with the voice and values of an indie band, yet packing powerful pop clout (Chvrches’ previous album Every Open Eye went top 10 in both the UK and US).

“I feel like we’re lucky because there’s never really been any pressure for us to be one thing or the other to some extent,” says Mayberry. “Although there was always a pop element of the band it was never like it was such a massive pop band you couldn’t put a record out unless it had a top 40 single on it.”

Even as Chvrches’ success grows and her journo days fade into memory, Mayberry continues to support the hand up not a handout values that The Big Issue embodies, for instance finding time to try her hand at selling the magazine on the streets of Glasgow as part of Vendor Week in 2015. “I really feel like what The Big Issue does and what other street papers do is so important because it empowers people to take charge of their own life when so much of what the rest of society does to them is so disempowering and so cruel really,” she reflects. “I’m glad to have been a small part of it.”

Isn’t there one dream commission we could coax her into to make a comeback? “Weirdly, I interviewed Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child for The Big Issue, which is pretty bizarre,” Mayberry ponders. “So I guess if I can get the exclusive Beyoncé interview then I’ll come out of retirement.” 

Over to you, Bey.

Check out more music interviews, including chats with Spinal Tap rock god Derek Smalls and Public Service Broadcasting, and a whole lot more as The Big Issue warms up for the summer with this week’s Festival Special. Get yours from your nearest vendor or The Big Issue Shop here.

Main image: Danny Clinch

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