With their third EP, Love Is Dead, lead singer Lauren Mayberry and fellow multi-instrumentalists Iain Cook and Martin Doherty of Scottish synth-pop band CHVRCHES have leaned into the maximalist, pop-centric sound the band has teased throughout its career, positioning itself in the mainstream. Even so, CHVRCHES (pronounced "Churches") hasn't abandoned biting lyrics about misogyny, religion, world politics, violence, existential dread, love, time, fear and everything in between.
"I think a lot of the time, half the things that people do is motivated by fear and the passage of time, their time running out," says Mayberry. "Even when you're making music, I suppose, what is a self-conscious urge behind that? It’s to try and figure out — revision and revision — how to make something that will stand the test of time, something that will be there when you aren’t anymore."
With Mayberry's pithy, sky-high ballads summing up the horrors of patriarchal societies, the trio has made razor-sharp feminist music disguised as one blood-pumping banger after another, and the new record is no exception.
Fans feeling slightly deflated by the newest project aren’t completely without reason: The band has never had quite as many arena-rock anthems on a record, and working with American producer Greg Kurstin has obviously baked a more mainstream appeal into the sound — a nightmare for any listener allergic to radio hits.
But this is no case of "selling out." A crossover into the mainstream for CHVRCHES is less a leap from one side of a canyon to another and more of an ascension up a ladder. There is a natural progression to the band's catalogue of records that shows off growth between each release and an ability to avoid sounding stale.
"If you did make the same record over and over and over again, I don’t think that you’d engage with people. I don’t think it’d connect with people the correct way," says Mayberry. "And how boring would it be, especially as a lyricist, if you just said the same things repeatedly?"
Mayberry has been an outspoken feminist artist since day one, and she's finding that people are becoming more receptive to her message.
"It’s interesting for us to be doing press on this record, because it’s almost like the press angle has finally caught up to what we were saying when we were talking about women’s rights and equality on the first album," says Mayberry. "People would ask me questions, and it was definitely in a much more please-explain-to-me-why-you-think-this kind of way; whereas, to me it’s just common fucking sense, and it has been common fucking sense since the 1950s.
"Now, in a post-#MeToo-era world, people are asking questions about [my opinions], but in a slightly different way," Mayberry adds. "I don’t know what that means or if it’s going to change long-term, but the fact that you can see a positive change in conversation already is a positive thing to me."
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Fandom can be tricky, particularly when a band bursts onto the scene the way CHVRCHES did in 2013 with its debut album, The Bones of What You Believe. People fell in love with that music. So what happens now that the music is changing?
"I think all you can do is block everything out from the outside and do what you feel is honest and feels authentic and doesn’t feel cynical and focus-grouped within an inch of its life," says Mayberry. "You can’t really control whether other people like it or not; you can only control trying to make something that’s genuine."