Interview: Chvrches

More than just those female vocals.

You’ve all heard the news. CHVRCHES (Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, Martin Doherty) are headlining at Laneway Festival next year and it’s going to be a blast. They’ve just released their sophomore album, Every Open Eye, and they want to specify that it’s not a break-up album. It’s about moving on to better things. We caught up with Lauren to chat feminism, media portrayals and Laneway memories.

You studied undergraduate law and a master’s in journalism. Why the switch?

In my second year of doing the law degree, I wanted to merge it with something else. My eventual goal had been to work in documentary film, so I figured multimedia journalism and law was quite a good combo. When we started CHVRCHES, I had been working as a freelance journalist, but also did production assisting for film and television.

You founded and run a women’s collective called TYCI. Why?

I started TYCI in 2012. I was trying to make a difference in the local music community. I played a lot of terrible unsigned band gigs in Glasgow and I was often the only woman playing. It’s insane because I know so many talented women who are in bands. I thought it would be nice if we had a network where people felt supported and had a platform to talk. 

We started it as a monthly club night where we’d book female-focused bands and DJs and then it expanded into a blog, radio show and podcast. We’re aware of the negative aspects of being a woman in society and creative industry, but if you just talk about negativity and don’t try to put anything positive back into the community, I don’t think anything productive will happen.

What does TYCI that stand for?

It’s a phrase on Urban Dictionary that stands for “tuck your cunt in”. I think the definition is taking charge of your own situation and getting shit done. The female version of manning up. It’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

Your article in The Guardian in 2013 about online misogyny and inappropriate messages made quite an impact. Do you think it made a difference to the types of messages you receive now?

I don’t think so. The difference we’ve seen is more in the fan community and people that we talk to. I don’t ever think we’re changing the minds of people who send threatening messages to women but if it can make a difference to people who are following your band, then that’s good.

Do you think it has changed the way the media portrays you?

I’m yet to read an article about our band that doesn’t refer to the fact that I am female. They should basically write a sentence that says, “The female woman girl vocals of the female girl Lauren Mayberry.” When people talk about the fact that I’m female, they normally talk about that in relation to feminism but people are still defining you. Now I’m a feminist musician. I am a feminist and I am a musician, but we don’t make feminist art necessarily. But I would rather have that than what we were getting previously, which was people writing about the elvish tiny floaty girl vocals. I’m not an elf. I remember Grimes wrote that she was fed up with the industry and the media infantilising her because she wouldn’t allow them to sexualise her. It feels like women still need to fit into certain boxes.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you on tour?

At Laneway Singapore last year, I remember walking to the toilet and hearing a bunch of teenage girls screaming for Martin as he was walking past. That’s as close to Beatlemania as it’s ever going to get for us. I think he quite enjoyed it to be honest.

CHVRCHES are playing at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in February 2016. Every Open Eye is out now.


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