It was one of the most disappointing moments of Bay Area music in 2014.
Chvrches (pronounced Churches), an electronic pop trio out of Glasgow, Scotland, were scheduled to perform on the final day of the Outside Lands Music Festival, when, abruptly, word came that the group was marooned in customs on the north side of the Canadian border, and would thus be canceling their performance. (Strangely, another power-pop group with an affinity for misplaced V’s—Alvvays — experienced the same thing at this year’s Outside Lands.)
Fortunately for Bay Area music fans, Chvrches are set to return to the Bay Area (barring any unforeseen visa dustups) as part of the Treasure Island Music Festival. The group has received prime billing for Sunday, playing at the 7:30 time slot before headliners The National take the main stage to close out the night.
Chvrches are touring behind their second full-length album, Every Open Eye, which debuted at number 8 on the Billboard Top 200 on September 25. That strong showing was the culmination of three years of buzz for the group, which first started to receive notice in 2012, when they issued the single “The Mother We Share,” a dazzling burst of pop ingenuity. That first single established a successful template for the band — marrying irrepressibly-catchy electronic music with socially-conscious and self-aware lyrics, courtesy of the group’s vocalist, Lauren Mayberry.
While it doesn’t quite reach the heights attained by its predecessor, Bones of What You Believe, the group’s second album maintains their penchant for crafting perfect synth-pop tunes. Singles like “Clearest Blue,” and “Leave a Trace,” are beautiful, ethereal creations that capture Mayberry at her finest. She can range from frail to fierce in a matter of moments, and with the futuristic landscapes laid before her by sound manipulators Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, Mayberry could be singing Dr. Seuss books and still make Chvrches immediately engaging.
But that’s what makes the band so intriguing. Most of their songs wouldn’t sound out of place on FM radio stations. Yet Mayberry sings of disillusionment, abandonment, hypocrisy, betrayal and other heavy themes that separate Chvrches from their mainstream peers. The lead singer has been particularly outspoken about the misogyny and sexism that still permeates the industry, even in the realm of “indie music,” which has a reputation for being a progressive place of inclusiveness.
Chvrches’ sonic output may be the result of machines, but the group’s music is full of the messy emotions that only humans could produce. It’s an ineffable combination that makes for an amazing live experience, which will only be enhanced by the starry skyline of San Francisco looming over Treasure Island on Sunday night.