CHVRCHES have featured prominently in two of the UK’s most influential 2013 Polls. The impressive electropop trio, who comprise of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, have come 5th in the ‘BBC Sound Of 2013’ but more importantly, have come 2nd in ‘The Blog Sound Of 2013’. Run by Robin Seamer from Breaking More Waves and Andy Von Pip from The Von Pip Musical Express, the poll asked 49 UK music bloggers what 5 emerging acts they were particularly excited about. The poll wasn’t intended to criticise the ‘BBC Sound Of…’ list, but to simply represent the tastes of the voting bloggers. The Electricity Club is pleased to say it was invited to participate in ‘The Blog Sound 2013’ and that CHVRCHES were one of its choices.
The result is significant for electronic music in general as both blog and mainstream media have now featured CHVRCHES. This is extremely positive as when media attention focuses on one act from a niche genre, then others in turn will benefit from the domino effect. After a few years where R’n’B and soul based acts have taken the limelight, CHVRCHES are the first electropop act to have gained such acclaim since DELPHIC and HURTS in 2010, and LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX in 2009. But of course, featuring highly in these tastemaker polls can be a curse. Of those four mentioned, only LA ROUX and HURTS achieved any great success internationally with LA ROUX notably winning a Grammy while HURTS have been the toast of Europe.
History has unkindly proved that when an electronic act wins a ‘BBC Sound Of…’ poll, the backlash starts. ‘BBC Sound of 2009’ victor LITTLE BOOTS suffered under the weight of expectation while ‘BBC Sound Of 2005’ winners THE BRAVERY virtually sank without trace despite a major support tour with DEPECHE MODE and an impressive debut album. In both cases, they were overshadowed by rival acts (namely LA ROUX and THE KILLERS respectively) while there was the usual tiresome real music debate within the media and their own labels which led to LITTLE BOOTS watering down her sound to become KYLIE MINOGUE with a keyboard while THE BRAVERY ditched the synths altogether for their forgotten 2nd album ‘The Sun & The Moon’ which their UK label Polydor then refused to release anyway! It’s interesting to note that when an artist perceived as electro by the wider public succeeds worldwide such as LADY GAGA, ELLIE GOULDING and MARINA & THE DIAMONDS, they offer an electro flavour which is governed more by modern production techniques rather than actually delivering a pure full-on synthesizer experience.
As TEC’s Jer White put it in his review of their Scottish National Gallery gig in September: “Not since LA ROUX has a retro synthpop band made so many mainstream waves”. CHVRCHES’ trump card is their ability deliver dreamboat pop with a leftfield slant that includes artful and inventive arrangements. This has certainly been obvious in their live set which features songs such as the catchy but progressive ‘Night Sky’, the piercing beauty of ‘Lungs’, the affected off-kilter anthem ‘Recover’ and the pulsating hynotism of ‘Science & Vision’. Their most immediate number ‘The Mother We Share’ really does sound “as if TAYLOR SWIFT had been based in Berlin instead of Nashville, and had the artistic nous of being nurtured on a diet of ‘Black Celebration’…” while ‘Lies’ is rousingly edgy but accessible electro.
Lauren Mayberry told the BBC: “My vocals are kind of quite sweet. If the music was produced in a certain way, it could be horribly saccharine and awful. The fact we have that sweetness in the vocals means you can go a bit further – making it a bit darker, a bit dirty”. So with LA ROUX’s Elly Jackson allegedly disowning synthpop and Lauren Mayberry being technically a far superior vocalist, there is a now a gap to be filled for a 21st Century avant pop group along the lines of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, SOFT CELL, YAZOO or PROPAGANDA to subvert the marketplace. With CHVRCHES’ key musical ingredients, the crossover potential is enormous!
What will be interesting now is when CHVRCHES are signed (and it will be just a matter of time), how much their label decides to interfere with their sound. With influences such as ROBYN, LAURIE ANDERSON, THE KNIFE, PURITY RING, PRINCE, KATE BUSH and DEPECHE MODE being name dropped by the trio, their championing by the media can only help break down barriers in the mainstream and allow other synth inclined bands to hopefully join in the party.
CHVRCHES tour the UK in Spring 2013, dates include:
Manchester Ruby Lounge (25th February), Bristol Thekla (26th February), London ICA (27th February), Glasgow Arches (2nd March) – TICKETS ON SALE VIA VENUES and USUAL AGENTS on 11TH JANUARY 2013
‘The Mother We Share’ is available as a download single via National Anthem / Create Control from iTunes and Amazon
Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Vikki McCraw Photography
3rd January 2013, updated 4th January 2013