Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry on the importance of live music and why she thinks women should be front and centre at festivals

Words Fiona Shepherd    

Glaswegian electro pop trio Chvrches may have started life as a studio project, quickly creating an international splash when they released their first tracks online in 2012,
but they have developed into a lean, mean touring machine over the ensuing years.

“We’ve gone around in the van and done the whole bit,” understates singer Lauren Mayberry. “When we first started, we were lucky enough that people knew about the band from the internet, but we didn’t have any kind of budget to put on a big live show so it was the three of us,
the computer, and some spotlights.”

Synth players Iain Cook and Martin Docherty are the other points in the Chvrches triangle but Mayberry is the focus, developing from the timid, static stage presence of their early days into an energetic, empathetic frontwoman who can see her teenage self in the kids who populate the front rows of the band’s many concerts.

“Live music is one of the few places where people come together in public anymore,” she says. “You can celebrate with other people and forget about all the bullshit in your life for ninety minutes. Most other forms of entertainment can be really solitary, but you can’t really recreate the feeling of watching live music with any other kind of technology, so it’s always been important to us to make sure it’s a live show and a live band,
not just a glorified playback party.”

Now Chvrches have created such an impressive fusion of booming, melodic synth pop and retina-scorching lightshow that they are one of only a handful of bands with female members who are currently deemed bankable enough to top the bill at a mainstream music festival.

For Mayberry, one of the most articulate activists in pop music, this is not an acceptable state of affairs from an industry which often does not celebrate – or even cultivate – its own diversity. She is one of a number of leading female musicians who have backed initiatives such as Keychange, which asks festival organisers to sign a pledge to achieve gender-balanced bills by 2022.

“Signing up for something like that holds people accountable in a different way,” she says. “Generally I do feel that people giving up money and privilege and making small concessions is what’s going to make a difference in the long run. It shouldn’t just be the same artists who are disadvantaged – and I don’t include us in that because we’ve been very lucky.”

Mayberry is a veteran of concerts in Princes Street Gardens, though Mayberry is hoping for a contrasting experience when Chvrches headline Edinburgh Summer Sessions six years after performing at the city’s Hogmanay celebrations. “That show was amazing but it was freezing, so it will be nice to come back at a different time of year,” she says.


Chvrches, Edinburgh Summer Sessions at Princes Street Gardens,
11 August, 6pm From £38.50.

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