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Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Thursday 24th September, 2015 2:45PM

It's been a jam-packed couple of years for Glasgow group CHVRCHES. The synthpop trio, which is made up of Iain Cook, Lauren Mayberry and Martin Doherty, released their debut album The Bones of What You Believe in September 2013 and it was met with a wave of favourable reviews from critics and gathered the group fans from around the globe.

Despite a hectic touring schedule in the wake of their album's success, the three-piece managed to put aside five months to write and record their follow-up album Every Open Eye that is set to drop tomorrow - almost two years to the day since they released their debut. UnderTheRadar caught up Ian Cook for a chat about the new record, critic's reviews, working with Lorde, and their upcoming appearance at Laneway...

IC: [answers phone] Hello Danielle, how are you?

UTR: Hi! I'm not too bad! I'm still waking up because it's still relatively early in New Zealand. How are you doing?

I'm good not too bad thank you.

Where are you at the moment?

I'm at home at the moment, in Glasgow. Sunny Glasgow. Though probably not as sunny as it is in New Zealand right now. It's nearly summertime, right?

It's the beginning of spring now, but because Auckland is an isthmus between two harbours the weather is very changeable. It changes rapidly throughout the day.

Crazy. A bit like Scotland then.

So, are you having a bit of a break? Are you having some time off at the moment?

Not really. I'm at home, but it's not really time off. We just finished production rehearsals for the album tour which starts pretty soon. So we are off to Berlin tomorrow for the very first Berlin Lollapalooza, which should be a fun weekend.

Oh cool. Are there any acts there that your keen to check out?

Ahhh, you know what. I haven't even got around to looking at the line up yet [laughs].

Fair enough, it sounds like it's been a busy couple of years for you. How are you feeling with the second album about to come out?

I'm feeling really excited and just a tiny bit nervous. Last time I remember quite clearly that feeling, almost two years to the day, that we had put some stuff out, and we knew that there were people who liked it, but we didn't know if they were going to like a whole body of work, you know. That was a scary moment. But yeah, I'm glad to see that it went down pretty well [haha], so we did a lot of shows. And here we are back at the start again.

So that same feeling of apprehension has returned?

Yeah I guess so, you just don't know how it's going to be received. It's not something I think about too much, like what critics and stuff are going to say about it. But obviously I want people to like it, and I want the fans to like it. That's the main priority really for us, is the people that were onboard for the first record, we want it to touch them in the way the first one did.

Yeah. Do you read critics' reviews?

I tend to not read reviews of our own stuff. I read a lot of music reviews of other people's stuff because there's so much music out there it helps to get an idea of what's happening. But in terms of our own stuff I tend to try not to, but it's really hard. You just want to know what people have to say. And it's one of those things as well, like, when you get a bunch of positive stuff it's like "cool, cool, cool" and then you get *one* bad one, and it's all you can focus on like "that bastard, hated our record!!" [laughs].

Have you developed a thicker skin as a result?

A little bit yeah. I feel like you have to develop a thick skin, but it's something that takes time, you don't get it straightaway. But after you realise that there are people out there that like what you are doing, then you get a bit more relaxed about it like "oh they don't like it, that's cool, someone else will like it". If everybody came out and said it was crap, then that would be different [laughs].

I was interested in your working background, you used to music for film. Is that something you still do or has CHVRCHES taken over?

CHVRCHES has taken over everything in my life, for better or worse. But mostly for better [laughs]. No that stuff was just a job for me at the time. It was good fun, and I think it is something I will go back to in the future, and try and hopefully get some bigger jobs. But most of the stuff I did was animated stuff for TV, which was fun but at the end of the day it wasn't massively fulfilling. Once you've written the first couple of episodes or whatever, then you have to stretch it out for 50 more episodes and sort of re-hash the things you've already written. The first bits fun and challenging and then it's "oh god here we go again" [laughs].

So it's something you'd like to go back to if you could be more selective about what projects you are working on?

Oh definitely, that would be so much fun. I'd love to do it with my band at some point, because a lot of our music is influenced by film music and by film, and it's something I'd like to investigate because I think we could do something that works well for film.

You guys actually did the track for The Hunger Games soundtrack that Lorde curated, right? What was the brief Lorde gave you for that project?

It was actually quite an open brief. It was basically "Do you know what The Hunger Games is?", "Yes, we've seen the first two films". And she described that she wanted - something quite dark but quite epic. She gave us some stylistic guidelines but they were very sparse, it wasn't very descriptive like she was telling us what to do, you know, because she asked us to do it because she likes what we do anyway. So we sent her a demo and she was like "that's cool, that's great". And we were like "oh, okay!". We were kind of expecting a list of tweaks and amendments to pore over. But yeah, she just really liked what we did.

So it was a good experience?

Yeah, it was great fun. It was one of those things, because we'd been away from the studio for about a year, so when you have these big gaps there's this growing sense of anxiety like "oh god, can we still do this or was that just a fluke that happened?!?". But it was fine. We did it in two days and we were happy with the results.

Only two days... you spent five months working on your new album in the studio, right? Can you explain a little bit to me about your studio set u

It's a basement studio just outside of Glasgow. I had been working in there myself before the band, I've been there since 2007 so all my stuff is in there. We did the first album in there and then when we were discussing where to record the second album we decided that it would be good to go back to where it all started and recapture that vibe and that atmosphere. But we were able to get a bunch more keyboards and synths and equipment.

Cool, more toys to play with...

More toys! That's exactly what it feels like. You spend 3000 pounds on something you always wanted since you were a teenager, and you're like "woah, this is actually my job". It's not just something I'm buying because I want to, it's how I make a living. It's a weird and novel feeling.

Looking at your current situation through the eyes of your teenage self is always kind of eye opening, because it's really easy to get caught up in the daily grind...

That's exactly it. Sometimes it's easy to lose perspective because being in a band means a lot of downtime, and there is a lot of boring repetitive stuff. Present company excluded, we get asked the same questions all the time like "do you feel a lot of pressure with the new album coming out" or "how did you guys meet", and then there's the whole touring thing. But being on stage and playing shows is the best thing, being on stage and connecting with the people who love what you do. But all the other stuff, sitting around in dressing rooms or sleeping in a bunk in close proximity to 12 other people, you know, it's can be so monotonous. There is good stuff about it too, of course. But it's just about trying to keep your brain ticking over and not lapse into the rituals of drinking and partying and doing unhealthy things to your body.

Do you maintain a good balance... do a bit of yoga or something?

Yeah, we're pretty good at that. Lauren really into yoga actually, she does a bit of that. And eats really really healthily, which is quite impressive. She a bit of an inspiration for us to get our shit together because it's so easy to slip when you are in America or somewhere where there is fast food everywhere, and not just fast food but the best fast food in the world. It's difficult to resist it, like a really high end pizza or some bar-be-que, but you have to or you'd end up massive.

Speaking of touring, you will be here for Laneway in the new year...

Yeah, I can't wait to come back! Laneway is the best fun ever. It's probably my best touring experience ever.

That's awesome to hear. Looking forward to seeing you then. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak today.

Thanks Danielle, see you soon. Bye!

will be appearing at next year's Laneway Festival in Auckland, head over here for the full line-up and details.


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