- 19 Oct 15
Glaswegian electropoppers CHVRCHES have delivered big time with their second album. Iain Cook tells Olaf Tyaransen why they wanted to make the same type of record again - only 20% better!
Often when an indie band has an unexpected worldwide hit with their debut album, the temptation is to upgrade to a bigger, better and far more expensive studio for the recording of their follow-up. Not so with Chvrches.
The Glaswegian trio’s acclaimed 2013 debut, The Bones Of What You Believe, sold over 500,000 copies, earned them a Brit Award nomination, and kept them on the road for quite some time (they clocked up 364 shows in two years).
However, when they finally came off tour, Iain Cook, Martin Doherty and Lauren Mayberry decided to stick with what they knew. Late last year the trio returned to Alucard Studios – a converted flat on the southside of Glasgow where their debut was conceived – and set to work on what would become Every Open Eye.
“It’s actually our own studio,” explains Cook. “When it came time to think about going back into the studio again, we all pretty much agreed that it would be better to spend a bit of money doing that place up and making it more of a proper modern recording studio, rather than pay some guy in Los Angeles to do it, you know? Instead of lining their pockets we’d just invest the money in new equipment and get it exactly the way we wanted it.”
Recording in their own studio also meant that they didn’t have any time constraints.
“There was no pressure and we could take our time and do it exactly the way we wanted. Plus, we feel like there was a bit of magic in that room that we wanted to recapture on album two, so we didn’t want to change things up too much.”
While Chvches have built a reputation as a formidable live prospect – their set at Stradbally last month was one of Electric Picnic’s highlights – at least two-thirds of the band are happiest in a studio environment.
“Martin and I are very much studio animals,” he laughs. “That’s where we’ve spent most of our time with music over the last 10–15 years. I prefer the studio environment because things are a lot more controlled and you take things at your own pace. When you go on tour it’s chaos, anything and everything happens, and you just have to roll with the punches. It’s more exciting in different ways, but I much prefer the more calm and measured approach to studio life.”
If their studio environment was calm and measured, it doesn’t come across on Every Open Eye. Occasionally quite dark and twisted, but still letting in the light, it’s an electro-pop record with a badly bruised heart.
“We wanted to make an album that wasn’t too much of a departure from the first one because a lot of bands that have had a little bit of success on album one tend to, almost, resent where they’ve come from,” he explains. “That’s kind of disrespectful to the people who have followed you on the journey. We fundamentally wanted to make the same record but 20% better, or 20% different. We didn’t have a grand plan for how we would move it forward, or how we would move it sideways slightly, we just wanted to go in and see what happens.
“That’s how we ended up in this band in the first place, just messing around in the studio, following our nose, following our taste and eventually coming up with something that we thought was exciting. We did exactly the same thing this time, it felt exactly the same as the first time... and just as exciting I’m glad to report.”
Many of these songs find Lauren Mayberry delivering deeply sad and personal lyrics in impressively downbeat fashion, as infectious electronic grooves loop and roll in the background. Take first cut ‘Leave A Trace’: “I will show restraint/ Just like we said we should/ You think I’ll apologise for things I left behind/ But you got it wrong/ And I’m as sane as I ever was.”
“Lyrically, it’s a lot more developed than the first record,” he observes. “It seems a lot more consistent and a lot more concise. It sounds like an album that’s come from somewhere dark and troubled, but is looking forward in an optimistic way. Musically it’s more immediate, more accomplished, more consistent. Hopefully it’s better!”
As he speaks to Hot Press, Cook is enjoying his last day in Glasgow for the foreseeable future.
“It’s my last day at home for, I think, two-and-a- half months... maybe longer. We’re just on the cusp of a really long tour.”
Although a self-confessed studio animal, he still enjoys being on the road. He certainly seemed happy out on the Electric Picnic stage. How do festival gigs compare to playing the band’s own shows?
“It’s a very different beast, you know? With your own shows, because it’s mostly your fans that come to see you and it tends to be in an indoor environment, it feels like more of a party or something. With a festival it’s not just your fans that are watching, there’s a lot of people that just come to check you out so it feels like the stakes are a bit higher, or that the pressure is a bit higher.
“At the same time if it’s a good one and the atmosphere is right and the crowd are into it then they can be some of the best experiences of playing live. I like doing both. I like doing really small club shows then juxtaposing them with bigger theatre shows and festivals, it keeps it interesting – it keeps the vibe kind of varied. It’s all good, I like them all.”