We’re backstage with Chvrches at Mad Cool 2022 and the nearby thunderous sound of Metallica’s headline set is pretty hard to ignore. “They’re a bit of fun, aren’t they? A lot of highlight enjoyable riffs,” jokes understated synth player and singer Martin Doherty. They’ve no time to go and watch the metal legends, sadly, because as soon as this super-quick chat ends they have to rush across site for a headline set of their own.
Glamorous, eh? Not quite. Their time in Madrid so far has been spent looking for “wholesome” activities away from the surreal nightmare of their hotel. “The floor I’m on is kind of a mermaid, Barbie, sex club – which is a bit weird,” says frontwoman Lauren Mayberry, before Doherty adds, “Mine is somewhere between a medical spa and something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey“, and its revealed that their drummer is staying on the “goth Crystal Maze floor”.
So, not to keep them from their set or returning to their mind-bending digs, we fire through a conversation about karaoke, Jack Antonoff, being pals with The Cure‘s Robert Smith, and how they plan to mark their 10 years together as a band.
NME: Hello Chvrches. You’re having an eventful festival season. Lauren, you recently joined Jack Antonoff on-stage at Bonnaroo for an “’80s super jam“…
Lauren: “Yes, that was just before we were playing too! It was supposed to be an hour-and-a-half and then it ran late. Everyone was very concerned from the side of the stage. They were like, ‘We really want you to do this, but we really want to hurry up!”
You strike me as someone who doesn’t take much convincing to do an ‘80s superjam…
Lauren: “Oh, no! When Jack was texting about it, he was like, ‘Do you want to do this in theory?’ and then said what the theme was and then said what the songs were. I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes’. All the way down. Never say no to some Madonna!”
Imagine we’re about to go to a karaoke bar. Who’s gonna sing what?
Martin: “‘She’s Like The Wind’ by Patrick Swayze – it always brings the house down!”
Iain Cooke, synth and bass: “About eight or nine years ago, I attempted ‘Locked Out Of Heaven’ by Bruno Mars. I don’t feel like I have the range anymore.”
Lauren: “I feel like half the joy of karaoke isn’t about doing it well – it’s about choosing a song that you know people will like, and everybody can get messy along with it, or the strength of your impression. If you’re just trying to do technically good singing then go join a band and leave me alone.”
The last time we were in a room together you were singing with The Cure’s Robert Smith, and you did it twice! [Once at the BandLab NME Awards 2022 and then a fortnight later at your own show]. That must have been pretty cool…
Martin: “That was funny because after we did the NME Awards he was like, ‘Same time next week? Same venue? Shall I just come back?’ We were like, ‘Please. Yes. That would be amazing’. It was actually Lauren that convinced us. We had a really good night, lots of drinks, and the next day Lauren texted while I was in bed saying, ‘He says he’s going to come back and do it next week!’”
Lauren: “I think I was just being awkward in the goodbye. I was like, ‘B…bye then. I don’t know when we’ll next see you’ and mentioned we were playing again. We just ripped off the NME idea and did it another night at our own show!”
We’ll allow it. Do you guys keep in touch?
Lauren: “Yeah! We share emails.”
Martin: “He’s an amazing person. He really puts the whole ‘never meet your heroes’ thing in the bin. He’s so kind to us and accommodating and really good with his knowledge. He’s not afraid to comment or get into your process.”
We’re also approaching the one-year anniversary of your brilliant fourth album ‘Screen Violence’. Sorry to be greedy, but are we getting more music soon?
Lauren: “Not at present! We’re touring a bunch and doing mostly that for the rest of the year, and then who knows? I think we’ll figure that out as we get to it. It’s weird, I thought you were going to say ‘10 years’ because everyone keeps talking about how it’s 10 years since the band started and next year will be 10 years since the first record, which feels kind of mental. It’s a nice time to take stock of things and figure out where we want to go.”
Do you have any plans to mark your 10-year anniversary?
Lauren: “We talk about it in the pub. We haven’t put anything into action yet.”
Martin: “Someone needs to ask us to do stuff, like for promoters to say, ‘Do you want to come and play this album?’ I’ll say yes as long as people don’t think that’s us out to pasture! I hate it when bands are like, ‘Oh, we can only play this old album now because we’re no longer relevant’. I don’t want to fall into that trap.”
Lauren: “You could do it as part of regular touring but with specific shows for that. We just need to figure it out.”
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