Perhaps it’s superstition, but Iain Cook says that his band, Glasgow’s Chvrches, will have a tough decision to make once the trio heads back to the studio to record a follow-up to the critically and commercially acclaimed The Bones of What You Believe.
It was always the plan for Cook (guitar, bass, synths), Lauren Mayberry (lead vocals, synths) and Martin Doherty (more synths) to return to the basement studio where they created magic the first time around in 2012. Cook has worked at the same studio for seven years, and it has become a home of sorts. Another musician who calls it home has a little cat, which everyone loves.
“We were planning to go back to that same place and the same sort of set up and try to do it over again,” Cook says.
Yet, at the same time, Chvrches is no longer a trio of friends just having fun. The studio’s quarters are tight, and there’s no room for guests. They’ve grown by leaps and bounds since then — and that presents unique problems.
“We want to build something for the future we can call our own, rather than have something that is makeshift,” Cook says.
It’s been a whirlwind three years for the electronic band, which will be playing Sunday at the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival. Prior to coming together to make music in 2011, Cook played with Scottish bands Aerogramme and The Unwinding Hours, and wrote music for film and TV projects. Doherty was a touring member of The Twilight Sad. Mayberry played in various bands, but her full-time career was writing about music as a journalist.
The story goes that Cook and Doherty were tinkering around in the studio, but it was not until hearing Mayberry’s haunting voice that they knew they were on to something. A single was made available for download in May 2012. In January 2013 they signed with Glassnote Records, and an EP was released two months later. Bones followed after six months. Its five singles helped it reach No. 12 on American alternative rock charts.
Cook, who spoke from Minneapolis, says he was proud that the band — huge Prince fans — can now claim to have sold out First Avenue in that city (where Purple Rain was filmed) three times in five months. It wasn’t until their last run through the States, when they played at the Fox Theater in Oakland, that they realized just how quickly their popularity was growing.
“That was our best show of that capacity up to that point,” he says. “The whole building and the dressing rooms and everything — it was so palatial. It was certainly not what we were used to at that time, and it felt like a really important moment for us.
“Oakland — we’ve got a little bit of a soft spot for that place.”
The band have yet to make it to Golden Gate Park, and are “gutted” that they’ll be forced to miss most of Outside Lands due to other commitments, such as a show in Seattle. If they had free reign, they’d be looking forward to the Flaming Lips, Courtney Barnett, Warpaint, Tegan and Sara and Kanye West.
“(Maybe we can) hang out with the Haim girls again,” Cook says. The two bands got to know each other at a festival in Sydney in February. On a day off, they, along with Frightened Rabbit and Daughter, hired a yacht to take them out on Sydney Harbor.
“Absolutely carnage, as you might imagine,” he laughs. “A bunch of drunken musicians on Sydney Harbor. That was a really fun day, which ended badly at a weird karaoke place, where the owner tried to steal someone’s mobile phone. It was really ugly. But (the day) started so, so well.”
Besides shenanigans on tour, the trio enjoys some more traditional hobbies, like good coffee, craft beers, video games and film. Cook is an especially big horror movie buff. The seeds were sewn, unusually, during a screen of Disney’s animated 101 Dalmatians, when he was 6 years old.
“This was before trailers were rated in the way that they are now,” he says. “So I was sitting with my popcorn ready to watch 101 Dalmatians, and they showed the trailer for The Shining. It was the one with the (Krzysztof) Penderecki music, (in the scene where) where the elevator doors open and the blood comes out, and it’s all like, ‘Oh my God.’”
Following their summer tour, the band will finally have to return to a studio, where they will surround themselves with as much technology and electronic instruments as possible, and try to bang out some tunes. That’s what worked the first time, after all.
The band also has a handful of song ideas started during their initial sessions that were never finished. Some of those may eventually see the light of day as songs on the second album, Cook says. There are also those that sound nothing like the material on Bones, and Cook says those are not appropriate to how Chvrches developed.
Nor should fans expect for the second album to be a drastic departure from the sound that made them successful, he warns. Once they play out all of their ideas, a time will come to morph, but not yet.
“It’s not very likely that we’re going to suddenly have a dramatic left turn at the light and end up playing a completely different musical style,” he laughs. “I feel like that would be career suicide.”