CHVRCHES

The Scot­tish pop trio feels op­ti­mistic about the im­pact of # MeToo on mu­sic By SA­MAN­THA EDWARDS

NOW Magazine - - CLUBS & CONCERTS - saman­thae@nowtoronto.com | @SamEd­ward­sTO

CHVRCHES as part of NXNE at Yonge- Dun­das Square ( 1 Dun­das East), Satur­day ( June 16), 9: 15 pm. Free. nxne. com.

De­spite the big pop sound Chvrches de­liver on their new al­bum, the Scot­tish trio is re­mark­ably down to earth.

As soon as they walk into the small lounge of a down­town of­fice where I’ve been cor­ralled for the past 30 min­utes, the band apol­o­gizes re­lent­lessly for their tar­di­ness.

“We are re­ally sorry,” says key­boardist Martin Do­herty. “It’s em­bar­rass­ing… we’re Bri­tish.”

“Yeah, be­ing five min­utes late is okay….” adds vo­cal­ist Lau­ren May­berry, im­ply­ing any­thing longer than that is un­fath­omable.

You’d never know that this is the same band that just put out Love Is Dead ( Univer­sal), their first un­abashedly bom­bas­tic pop record, chock- full of glis­ten­ing synths, punchy drum beats and sin­ga­long cho­ruses.

Lead sin­gle Get Out is a fes­ti­val main stage-ready an­them– fit­ting, since their NXNE Fes­ti­val Vil­lage ap­pear­ance be­gins a sum­mer of head­lin­ing fes­ti­vals across Europe and North Amer­ica. On Mir­a­cle, May­berry’s crys­tal- clear voice is de­con­structed over big EDM beats.

It’s a de­par­ture from their 2013 breakout The Bones Of What You Be­lieve and 2015’ s Every Open Eye – which paired May­berry’s fierce, mul­ti­fac­eted vo­cals with moody elec­tron­ics. Or as May­berry once de­scribed it, “Emo with synths in it.”

They feel Love Is Dead is the most ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of who they are as a band.

“We’ve al­ways felt like we strad­dle two dif­fer­ent worlds: hook- driven pop mu­sic and dark elec­tronic,” says key­boardist

Iain Cook, who rounds out the trio. “Tread­ing that line is quite a pre­car­i­ous thing to do, and on this record we’ve man­aged to make our pop­pi­est mu­sic, but also our dark­est and weird­est, too.”

The band wrote it in a small New York City stu­dio and then recorded mostly in L. A. with Greg Kurstin, who pro­duced Adele’s Hello and has worked with Te­gan and Sara, Kelly Clark­son and Sia. It was their first time work­ing with an out­sider pro­ducer, an ex­pe­ri­ence that en­er­gized the creative process.

“Some peo­ple have re­ally lengthy ca­reers do­ing the same thing, but how bor­ing would that be?” Do­herty says. “We found a very spe­cial rhythm work­ing with Greg. It was this new kind of high.”

While Love Is Dead is Chvrches’ most main­stream ef­fort, even de­but­ing at num­ber 11 on the Bill­board all- genre chart, it’s also their most po­lit­i­cal.

On the de­cep­tively up­beat Graves, May­berry evokes the refugee cri­sis as she sings “they’re leav­ing bod­ies in stair­wells and wash­ing up on the shore, you can look away while they’re dancing on our graves” over shim­mer­ing, arpeg­giated synth lines.

The dreamy Heaven/ Hell is about her ex­pe­ri­ences as a woman in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

“As a fe­male in any in­dus­try, you have to be faster, tougher, smarter and bet­ter,” says May­berry. “Now that we’ve reached a cer­tain level of suc­cess, peo­ple speak to me with more re­spect at ra­dio sta­tions or in stu­dios be­cause they think I’ve earned that, and that’s not how it should work.”

Not that this is a new con­cern. Long be­fore the # MeToo move­ment, May­berry was call­ing out misog­yny in the mu­sic in­dus­try. In a Guardian op- ed that came out shortly af­ter their debut al­bum, she wrote about re­ceiv­ing a bar­rage of rape threats through Chvrches’ Face­book page.

“I ab­so­lutely ac­cept that in this in­dus­try there is com­ment and crit­i­cism,” she wrote. “What I do not ac­cept, how­ever, is that it is all right for peo­ple to make com­ments rang­ing from ‘ a bit sex­ist but gen­er­ally harm­less’ to ‘ openly sex­u­ally ag­gres­sive.’”

These days, May­berry doesn’t take any ha­rass­ment thrown her way per­son­ally. “It’s not about me as a per­son, but about a woman ex­ist­ing in a space that makes peo­ple feel un­com­fort­able.”

And as the post-# MeToo and # TimesUp reck­on­ing con­tin­ues, she’s start­ing to no­tice small, in­cre­men­tal changes in her own life.

“Two years ago, there were a lot of male jour­nal­ists who would have asked me to please ex­plain my­self or jus­tify these strange opinions,” May­berry says. “Now they’re the types who are like, ‘ Let’s talk about # MeToo. What’s changed?’ What’s changed? Well, you’re ask­ing me that ques­tion.”

Al­though May­berry is aware of the hypocrisy that ex­ists within mod­ern fem­i­nist move­ments – she points to peo­ple wear­ing “fem­i­nist” T- shirts on the red car­pet but con­tin­u­ing to act­ing in ways that are op­pres­sive to women – she re­mains op­ti­mistic about the im­pact of these con­ver­sa­tions.

“At least in this mo­ment, it’s mak­ing peo­ple have to be more con­scious and aware. These things come in waves,” she says. “In 10 to 15 years, what’s hap­pen­ing now will make it bet­ter for the next gen­er­a­tion of mu­si­cians.”

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