The past year has been a massive one for Chvrches – the Scottish synth-pop group has gone from toiling away in cold, rainy Glasgow to the international festival circuit on the strength of songs like the crystalline and beautiful ‘Recover’. It’s been a rapid rise to success, but keyboard player Martin Doherty is determinedly keeping a cool head about it. “In the old days, a band like ours would’ve slowly gotten big in our hometown, then moved on to the UK, and then taken other countries step by step. These days, the internet creates a situation where bands can come to people’s attention all over the world, all at once. That makes for a hectic tour schedule,” he says with a laugh, “but you’ll never hear us complain about it. It’s a real privilege.”

All three members of Chvrches are products of Glasgow, and I ask Doherty if the chilly city has any direct influence in shaping their particular brand of synth-pop. “Well, it certainly shapes us as people, and informs us as to where we go musically and creatively,” he says. “Glasgow has a very rich history of successful bands and musicians – you’ve got bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Belle and Sebastian, and Mogwai, right up through to today where you have really successful electronic producers like Hudson Mohawk. We love all of those people, and I think more than anything, watching people on career paths like that has been a source of inspiration.”

One particularly Scottish trait inherent in Chvrches is a refusal to take themselves too seriously – listen closely to the majestic pop of their debut, The Bones Of What You Believe, and you’ll hear quite a few odd musical jokes mixed in. Take a song like ‘Recover’. “That one has a bit of an emotional punch to it,” Doherty explains, “so we decided to put a proper ’90s trance synthesiser in the chorus. It’s contextualised in a certain way that it fits, but it’s very silly. We’re not afraid to have some fun. We take the music seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously, and I think that’s important. We’ve all seen the po-faced electronic bands who wear all black, who ignore the audience and do their thing and walk off.”

Another very Scottish aspect of Chvrches is their willingness to swear – the first few tracks on their debut are peppered with f-bombs, which sound all the more naughty when delivered in singer Lauren Mayberry’s sweet voice. “I don’t know if that’s entirely down to us being Scottish!” Doherty laughs. “I think it’s just Lauren, because she’s not afraid to go for that. It makes for interesting situations when it comes to performing on live radio. You find out how many different, creative ways people have of masking swear words. I guess you guys don’t have that problem in Australia – or at least on triple j. In other places, people are very strict.”

All three members of Chvrches had played in other bands, to varying degrees of success, before getting together, and Doherty says these experiences taught them a lot – specifically, the importance of not repeating their same mistakes. Doherty himself was a live member of indie rockers The Twilight Sad, and playing with them gave him a dose of perspective. “When I was younger, I did a lot of heavy drinking on the road. I think with Chvrches we’ve all realised that we’ve got a big chance, and it’s by no means a done deal – most of the hard work is still ahead of us if we want to truly make a success of the band. We’re working as hard as possible, because it would be terrible to look back on this in five or ten years and think, ‘Well, if I’d have only been sober or had a better work ethic, things could have really changed for the better.’ I don’t want to end up saying that.”

Chvrches received a very warm reception when they arrived in Australia for a brief tour earlier in the year, charming everyone in their path. “I had the absolute best time down there,” Doherty says. “Those shows were amazing – just the thought that we could be playing to such big crowds on the other side of the world was incredible.” They also spent a decent amount of time catching up with old friends around the country. “A mate of mine has a boat and one day he took us out on Sydney Harbour, almost all the way out to the sea, and at that point, I had a wee moment – I really felt like I was a long way from Glasgow, you know? That stuff’s grand.”

Chvrches will return to Australia next year for Laneway Festival – they’ve experienced the country in the cooler months, but I ask Doherty if he’s prepared for the scorching summer heat. “I absolutely am!” he insists. “I’ve spent every January of my life in the freezing temperature of Glasgow, so I can’t say how excited I am. I’d love to just chase the summer around all year. I come from quite a grey, depressing place, so I’d definitely say I prefer the sunshine.”


Chvrches play St Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2014 atSydney College of the Arts, Rozelle on Sunday February 2.The Bones Of What You Believeout now through Liberator Music/Goodbye Records.

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