CHVRCHES-EVERY OPEN EYE.
CHVRCHES-EVERY OPEN EYE.
It was 10.30pm, when there was a knock at the door. The old couple from up the stairs stood there almost embarrassedly. “Could you possibly turn it a wee bit. We’re trying to sleep?” This actually happened to Chvrches during the recording of their new album Every Open Eye which was recently released on Virgin.
Chvrches were laying down some drum loops for a track on Every Open Eye. As often happens, there’s the temptation just to increase the volume slightly. Usually, that’s okay. Especially if it’s a luxurious, custom-built studio on the outskirts of town. However, that doesn’t describe Chvrches’ studio. It’s a basement flat, situated on the South side of Glasgow. To passers by, it’s just another Glasgow tenement. However, that’s not the case. Instead, it’s been Chvrches’ headquarters since they formed in 2011.
Their rented basement flat was where Chvrches recorded their debut album The Bones Of What You Believe. This was the album that transformed the fortunes of Lauren Mayberry, Ian Cook and Martin Doherty. It was released on 20th September 2013, and was hit Britain, America, Europe, Japan and Australasia. After selling over a million copies worldwide, Chvrches’ thoughts turned to recording their sophomore album.
Many who had charted the rise and rise of Chvrches, presumed that they would head off to one of the major studios. There’s plenty to choose from. How about Sunset Sound in Los Angeles or Electric Ladyland in New York. Closer to home Abbey Road is just a shuttle flight away. However, Chvrches chose to forsake the splendour and dare I say expensive of these legendary studios. Instead, they returned to their basement studio in the Southside of Glasgow. This was where the story began.
Ian Cook and Martin Doherty, who was a member of The Twilight Sad when they played live, were working on a new project. They needed someone to lay down some vocals. Neither Ian nor Martin saw themselves as lead vocalists. Ian suggested a singer he had encountered recently Lauren Mayberry.
They met came about when Ian was producing an E.P. for Blue Sky Archives in September 2011. Their lead singer was Lauren Mayberry. Ian had been impressed by her voice. It was only when Ian and Martin started discussing bringing onboard a vocalist, that he remembered the Blue Sky Archives singer. So, Ian told Martin about Lauren, and they decided to ask her to sing on one of their demos. A phone call was made and Lauren agreed to add a vocal to Ian and Martin’s demos.
Little did Lauren realize what she’d let herself in for. Ian and Martin it seems, are perfectionists. That proved to be no bad thing. They spent eight months in a basement studio, working on their new project. Eventually, it was finished. It had been such a success, they decided to transform this studio project into a live band, that became Chvrches.
The newly named band released its debut single in May 2012. Chvrches did this in an unusual way. People were able to download a free copy of their debut single Lies, via the Neon Gold label’s blog. This somewhat unorthodox release worked.
Soon, people were talking about Chvrches. They were fast becoming an internet sensation. Before long, the press and media were taking notice of Chvrches. One of the first publications to do so, were The Guardian. Quickly, others followed. Momentum was building. What helped was that Chvrches were a great live band.
Throughout the summer of 2012, were honing their live act. Quickly, word was spreading about this new Glasgow band. September 2012 it seemed, was the right time to release their sophomore single.
Chvrches found two free days in their increasingly hectic touring schedule. Somehow, they wrote and recorded The Mother We Share in just two days. Little did they know that these two days would transform their nascent career.
When The Mother We Share was released in September 2012, critics were falling over themselves to heap praise on Glasgow’s newest band. This classy and classic slice of glistening, ethereal electro-pop, had made an impression on critics. It would also make an impression on record buyers.
Across the world, The Mother We Share was introducing Chvrches’ music to a much wider audience. It reached thirty-eight in Britain, and was a hit in Belgium, Germany, Japan and most importantly for a new band, America. The Mother We Share had reached number twelve in the all important US Alternative charts. Things were looking good for Chvrches, and were about to get a whole lot better.
At the end of 2012, various blogs, magazines and radio stations publish their best of 2012 polls, Chvrches name loomed large. The NME, BBC and Huffington Post praised Lies and The Mother We Share. This new band had made a big impression. However, this was just the start of Lauren, Ian and Martin’s big musical adventure.
By February 2013, Chvrches were ready to release third single Recover. Just like The Mother We Share, Recover was released to widespread critical acclaim. Not only was it a hit in Britain, but in Australia, Belgium and Germany. With every release, Chvrches’ fan-base was growing. Every concert sold out and record buyers awaited the release of their debut album. So Chvrches got to work.
This meant time spent in their basement studio in the South side of Glasgow. That was where Ian wrote and recorded his music for films and television. Compared to many studios, Chvrches studio was almost minimalistic. There were just two synths, samplers, drum machines, guitars and bass. However, this was more than enough to record an album. Especially given Chvrches combined talents and determination. This wasn’t easy.
For much of the spring and summer of 2013, Chvrches had a busy touring schedule. So when they had time, they recorded their debut album The Bones Of What You Believe. Once it was completed, Chvrches headed back out on tour. There were still parts of the world where Chvrches’ gospel hadn’t been heard. Agnostics had to be transformed into believers. This was working.
In July 2013, Chvrches released their fourth single Gun. It was a tantalising taste of Chvrches’ debut album. Critics hailed Gun the finest single of their career. Record buyers agreed. Gun was a hit everywhere from Britain, to Belgium and Japan. Chvrches were on a roll. This was perfect timing for a band about to release their debut album.
Two years after Chvrches first recorded together, they released their debut album The Bones Of What You Believe on 23rd September 2013. It had been released to widespread critical acclaim. By then, Chvrches had had been on a coast to coast tour of America. Just like everywhere they had been, they had been winning friends and influencing people. This became obvious when The Bones Of What You Believe was released.
When The Bones Of What You Believe hit the shops, it reached number nine in Britain and five in Scotland. Across the Atlantic, The Bones Of What You Believe reached number twelve in the US Billboard 200 and topped the US Alternative charts. That wasn’t the end of the story.
Elsewhere, The Bones Of What You Believe was a hit in Australia, Canada, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Japan and New Zealand. Chvrches debut album had been a huge success. The icing on the cake was when The Bones Of What You Believe was certified gold in Britain. Chvrches were riding a roller coaster.
It was showing no sign of stopping. That was the case through much of 2014 and 2015. Chvrches seemed to have continually toured the world. They’ve undertaken coast-to-coast tours of America, before crossing the border to Canada. Then they’re off on their travels again. There’s been tours of Europe and concerts in Japan. That’s not forgetting the festival circuit.
Recently, Chvrches have been familiar faces at the biggest festivals in the worlds. Scotland’s finest have played at SXSW, Canadian Music Fest, The Great Escape, T in the Park, Electric Picnic, Reading and Leeds Festival and the V Festival. Despite this punishing touring schedule, Chvrches still found time to record their eagerly awaited sophomore album.
The recording of Every Open Eye began in January 2015. That was just six weeks after they had finished touring The Bones Of What You Believe. So Lauren, Ian and Martin returned to where it all began, the basement studio on the South-side of Glasgow.
They had decided that rather than move from their old studio, they would upgrade the equipment. Using some of the royalties from The Bones Of What You Believe some new synths were installed in the studio. This meant Chvrches were no longer having to rely on just two synths. Now they had banks of synths to deploy. While the synths were mainly for Ian and Martin, Lauren had a new room to record her vocals.
Next door to their studio, was another room. That studio was occupied by engineer David Simpson. Chvrches were needing anther room. So they made David an offer he couldn’t refuse. If he gave up his studio, Chvrches would employ him full-time. He accepted the offer, and proved invaluable over the next five months.
Much of David’s time was spent in his former studio. It had been given a makeover. A vocal booth was installed, and Lauren laid down her vocals. They were recorded by David Simpson. He was kept busy.
When the recording sessions began, Chvrches had written thirty demos. A total of twenty-one were recorded. The way Chvrches worked, was Ian, Martin and Lauren recorded a backing track. Then Lauren had to write the lyrics and record a vocal. It could’ve been very different.
Unsurprisingly, various people had offered to cowrite songs with Chvrches. Chvrches decided to continue to write the songs themselves. It had worked well so far. So for the next five months, Chvrches worked six hours a day, five days a week. They proved a potent partnership.
The three members of Chvrches are multi-talented, multi-instrumentalists. Ian played guitar, bass, synths and added vocals. Martin added synths, samplers and vocals. Lauren added lead vocals and played synths and samplers. After five months, the three members of Chvrches had written, recorded and produced Every Open Eye. It was then sent to mixer Mark “Spike” Stent. He applied the finishing touches to Every Open Eye.
Once Every Open Eye was mixed, it was scheduled for release on the 25th September 2015. This was fitting, as it was nearly two years to the day Chvrches had released their debut album The Bones Of What You Believe. A lot had happened since then. Not all of it pleasant.
Over the last year of so, Lauren had been threatened on social media. Vile and explicit threats were made against her. Although the other members of Chvrches put a protective cordon around Lauren, it must have been a difficult time for Lauren, and her family and friends. After all, how was she to know that these were idle threats? Something had to be done about this situation.
The last thing many people in this situation would’ve done, was expose and confront the perpetrators. However, they had picked the wrong lady to threaten. Lauren Mayberry is no shrinking violet. She exposed the threats on social media, and has spoken spoken and written about them. With all this going on in the background, writing, recording, producing and promoting Every Open Eye can’t have been easy.
Somehow, though, Lauren and the rest of Chvrches have managed to write, record and produce an album that won the approval of both critics and record buyers. Every Open Eye was far from the difficult second album. It was released to widespread critical acclaim, and commercial success. Every Open Eye reached number four in Britain, one in Scotland and number eight in the US Billboard 200. Elsewhere, Every Open Eye has reached the top twenty in Australia, Germany, Ireland and New Zealand. That’s despite Every Open Eye only being released a couple of weeks ago. Every Open Eye, which I’ll tell you about, looks like surpassing the success of The Bones Of What You Believe.
Never Ending Circles opens The Bones Of What You Believe. It’s the perfect way to start Chvrches’ sophomore album. Banks of the new acquired synths play a big part in the arrangement. A bass synth buzzes, while crystalline, chirping synths join rattling drums. They provide the backdrop for Lauren’s urgent vocal. It’s tinged with sadness and anger on this relationship song. Soon, her vocal is feisty, as ultimatums are issued. There’s a degree of uncertainly though: “cut off, I’ll go my way, if I’m going at all…I will try and find my feet and go.” Lauren’s vocal plays a starring role on this hook-laden, anthem. It’s sure to be a favourite of as Chvrches continue their never-ending tour.
Almost otherworldly synths open Leave A Trace. That’s until the buzzing, mesmeric synth and drums that crack usher in Lauren’s vocal. It’s full of emotion and anger. Soon, there’s relief in her vocal at the thought of leaving a failing relationship behind. By then, her vocal grows in power and passion, before reaching a crescendo. Then at the breakdown, the arrangement becomes wistful before this emotional, and sometimes ethereal sounding roller coaster sweeps you away.
Briefly, a vocoder makes its presence felt on Keep You On My Side. Then the arrangement explodes into life. Synths and drums propel the arrangement along. Atop the arrangement sits Lauren’s diva-esque vocal. She doesn’t so much sing the lyrics, but lives them. It’s as if she’s experienced them, and survived to tell the tale. By then, it’s obvious that this track’s been designed with the dance-floor in mind. Elements of electro-pop, Euro pop, Euro Disco and even trance-influenced synths are deployed by Chvrches. Together, they create a track that’s guaranteed to fill any dance-floor, anywhere.
Shimmering synths and thunderous, urgent drums are at the heart of the arrangement to Make Them Gold. That’s until Lauren joins the fray. She delivers a dreamy, joyous vocals. Behind her, the arrangement seems to have been influenced by electro-pop, Euro pop, Euro Disco, Hi-NRG and house. Again, it’s an anthemic dance-floor friendly track. It’s truly irresistible.
Briefly, the tempo drops on Clearest Blue. That’s until Lauren’s vocal enters. It’s pensive, melancholy and tinged with hurt and heartbreak. Behind her, banks of synths drive the pulsating arrangement along. Later, Lauren’s vocal is needy, as she sings: “so please say you’ll meet me, meet me half way.” Briefly, when the vocal drops out, Martin and Ian go through the gears. The tempo increases and there’s an injection of urgency. Stabs and jabs of synths punctuate the arrangement, before poignantly Lauren asks: “will you keep it, half-way?”
Crystalline, shimmering synths open High Enough To Carry You Over . They’re joined by drums and the vocal. Surprisingly, it’s not Lauren. It’s an eighties, yacht rock influenced vocal. That, by the way, isn’t a bad thing. Needy, rueful and tinged with sadness, the line “if I only hadn’t given you up” will be one that resonates with many people.
Lauren returnson Empty Threat. Her ethereal vocal seems to march to the beat of the drums. Gradually synths play a bigger part in the arrangement. As Lauren delivers a powerhouse of a vocal, the synths and drums match her every step of the way. She delivers a needy, desperate vocal. At the breakdown at 2.07 it sounds as if her vocal has been pitched up. This adds to the urgency and emotion. Especially as Lauren sings: “take it back with no regrets, I was better at your side.” From there, the arrangement rebuilds and the drama builds, before reaching arrangement swaggers to a crescendo.
Spacey sci-fi synths open Down Side Of Me, before Lauren’s dreamy vocal enters. Harmonies accompany her, as the arrangement to this ballad becomes floaty and dreamy. A very different side of Chvrches is unfolding. It suits them. Their trusty synths provide the perfect backdrop, veering between floaty and dreamy, to big, bold and sometimes, dramatic. It’s one of the highlights of Every Open Eye, and has single written all over it.
Filters are added to the chattering synths as Playing Dead unfolds. Briefly, the notes run into one another. In doing so, they’ve gotten your attention. So does Lauren’s delivery of: “no more excuses and no more playing dead, there are no silver linings in anything you said.” Her vocal is impassioned, defiant and powerful. Later, that defiance shines through as she sings: “you can tell me to go move and I won’t go.” Like the lyrics to others songs, the way they’re delivered seem personal. Aided and abetted by an arrangement that’s big, bold and not short of hooks, it’s Chvrches doing what they do best, delivering anthems.
Stabs of a bass synth open Bury It, before Lauren accompanied by a shimmering synth and drums begin in another journey into anthem territory. By then, emotion and power are being combined by Lauren. Chvrches aren’t a one woman band. Ian and Martin play their part. They lay down the synth lines and program the beats. They add occasional backing vocals, and knowing that a classy slice of electro-pop is unfolding, whoop in the distance. They’re like lottery winners as they realise they’ve just won the jackpot.
Afterglow closes Every Open Eye. It’s another ballad. Just slow, washes of synths accompany Lauren’s tender, ethereal and heartfelt vocal. The minimalist arrangement is the perfect accompaniment. Even when the vocal briefly drops out, Chvrches resist the temptation to overload the arrangement. Instead, it’s a case of more is less. This is perfect for Lauren’s beautiful, soul-baring vocal. It’s like a cathartic unburdening, as she cleanses herself of all the hurt and heartache. This had to be the final track on the album. Not only is it the best track on Every Open Eye, but it’s the most beautiful and poignant song Chvrches have written and recorded.
Chvrches set the bar high with their debut album The Bones Of What You Believe. Many critics felt it wasn’t going to be hard to surpass its quality. Oh ye have little faith.
With its mixture of anthems and heart wrenching ballads, Open Every Eye is almost flawless. From the opening bars of Never Ending Circles, right through to the closing notes of Afterglow, it’s a emotional and musical roller coaster. The music veers between anethemic, beautiful, dreamy, ethereal and joyous, to dramatic, haunting, poignant and rueful. Elements of Euro pop, Euro disco, Hi-NRG, house, and pop are combined with Chvrches’ unique brand of electro-pop. It’s music that tells a story.
Unlike so much modern day music, this isn’t throwaway pop. Lauren Mayberry is an intelligent and educated young woman. Her lyrics are bound to resonate with many people. They speak of heartbreak and hurt. Other times, hope and joy shines through. Sometimes there’s a poignancy and ruefulness. Occasionally there’s a defiance. Combined with hook-laden arrangements, it’s proved to be a potent and successful musical partnership.
Proof of this is Every Open Eye, an album full of dance-floor fillers, anthems and beautiful ballads. The five months Chvrcges spent recording Every Open Eye was five months well spent. Every Open Eye is a stunning album, and almost flawless album.
Undoubtably, Chvrches’ sophomore album feature heavily on the best of 2015 lists. It deserve to. Then when the awards for the best British album of 2015 are dished out, Glasgow’s talented trio Chvches are sure to be a contender with their triumphant return Every Open Eye.
CHVRCHES-EVERY OPEN EYE.