“We wanted it to feel more live, rougher around the edges…” - CHVRCHES open up about new album Love Is Dead
Things are a little different in the CHVRCHES camp for their third record Love Is Dead.
For the first five years of their career, the Scottish trio, singer Lauren Mayberry and multi-instrumentalists Iain Cook and Martin Doherty have been fiercely self-sufficient. They’ve produced themselves, recorded in their own studio space in Glasgow and provided every sound for their live sound, but for their new album Love Is Dead, which arrives today (May 25th), they’re opening things up.
Most obviously they’ve upped sticks from Glasgow. All three now live in Brooklyn and they recorded the vast majority of the new LP in Los Angeles. They’ve allowed in outside help too, with hitmaker supreme Greg Kurstin, the man who has helped P!nk, Adele and Kelly Clarkson craft some of their biggest hits, producing 12 of the album’s 13 tracks. The other track has been produced by Olly Murs/Ed Sheeran frequent co-writer Steve Mac.
Finally, when the band take this new album out on the road, they’ll no longer be a three with long-time friend Jonny Scott joining to provide drums for the band.
As Love Is Dead hits shelves, we spoke to Doherty about how it all came together and why they decided it was time to shake things up…
Things are a little different this time around, you’ve left Glasgow and you’ve got in outside producers, was that a conscious choice or the way things worked out?
“Being out of Glasgow was more about logistics. Iain and Lauren were both living in New York at the time, so we had to decide whether they came to Glasgow or I went over there and I went over. We shipped our studio to Bushwick and started working from there.”
“The producer conversation was different. We feel like we’ve established enough of an identity to entertain the prospect of an outside collaboration. It could have very easily happened that we tried a bunch of people and decided that it wasn’t for us, but it worked out.”
You’ve done the vast majority of the record with Greg Kurstin, what was it about him?
“Working with him gave us this creative energy and a spark that really reminded me of the way we felt when we first started working together, just pure excitement. Greg has a real basement vibe, wires everywhere, pedals plugged into pedals plugged into synths, just a really creative environment. We felt he really understood what we were trying to do and there was an immediate connection, right from the first day. All three of us got extremely excited and cancelled everything else and pursued him to do the whole record.”
Did you have a goal in mind about how you wanted this album to be different?
“We wanted it to feel more live, that was the main thing, rougher around the edges. We wanted to celebrate the two sides of the band, the direct, poppy, side of us and the darker, more twisted side of us. We wanted to bring them both into focus and see if they could live on the same record.”
Has how you write songs changed over the years?
“It works in the same way. Lauren likes to scribble in her notebook and then bring to the table later on and me and Iain make demo after demo and some of them turn into songs. We tend to work best writing in a room together, working to a blank page, that’s how we worked with Greg, everyone was confident enough that they could bring the best of themselves.”
You’ve got Matt Berninger from The National on the album, how did that come about?
“He’s a really solid human and we sent him the track. We thought it could work as a duet, but we didn’t ask anyone else or have anyone else in mind. Lauren messaged him and he recorded it less than 12 hours later. He had some guy come round his house and they cut the vocal. That was it. I was expecting a collaboration like that to have lots of people to go through, but it was very easy.”
You recorded with Dave Stewart from Eurythmics too...
“The sad thing is none of those cuts made it onto the album. They felt very different to the finished record. By the time we were done recording, we had over 40 songs and the tracks we did with Greg really felt like they belonged together in a body of work. Dave was still very influential on the record, especially with Lauren, he helped her unlock another level of creativity. He’s a legend.”
Did you find it difficult to cut 40 songs down to 13?
“It was really easy. We recorded eight or nine songs we’d done with Greg and they sat together really well. We had three of our own and then we have one with Steve Mac, which is ‘Miracle’, which was such a big tune that we knew we had to have it on the album. There are three very different CHVRCHES records in there.”
Different in what way?
“We spent a year recording. There’s a very guitar record in there, a very electronic, very weird record and there’s the super poppy record. Every facet of what we do was explored to the fullest.”
Lyrics are obviously Lauren’s department, but do you get a sense of what kind of record it is in lyrical terms?
“I’ve lived with it through her and with her. I hear a lot of frustration and I hear how frank she’s being with her politics. More than anything though I think it’s a hopeful record. I know when you call an album Love Is Dead you're inviting a lot of discussions, but I think it’s more a conversation, more unpacking the state of the world, it’s more a death of idealism, waking up and really the world isn’t as rosy a place as you thought.”
Was the album always called Love Is Dead?
“It was the clear frontrunner from early on, we all loved it, it killed all other titles. We usually stick to the idea of finding a song lyric and using that as a title, but we didn’t this time. I think it works, it sums up the body of work really well.”
You’ve now got three records, officially hitting the point where you can’t play everything in your live set anymore, how’s your live set coming together? Are you having to drop old favourites?
“It’s coming together nicely, we’re a band who want to give people what they want. To me, a ticket is a contract with fans to get them the songs they love and celebrate the most. We’ll play the hits, I think this show will be a lot more engaging, we’ve got a drummer and he’s bringing a whole new dimension to the shows.”
Why did you decide to become a four in your live shows?
“I wanted to become a four live since the end of the first album, but it didn’t feel right. I’ve always wanted to take it there and I always had Jonny in mind. We’ve been friends since we were 17, he’s the best player and most musical drummer I know. The timing hasn’t felt right, until this record, everything feels live, there’s more bass, there’s more power, it’s the right time to add more to the mix.”