Take 'em to Chvrches

ANDREW PENKALSKI | Updated 9/4/2013

White-hot Scottish electropop act headlines First Ave on Monday.

From left: Martin Doherty, Lauren Mayberry and Iain Cook are Chvrches.
Photo by Eliot Hazel

It’s been hard to discuss Chvrches in terms other than those of their influences. When the three Glaswegian pop romantics released survivalist ballad “The Mother We Share” last September, most discussions tended to start and stop with their position as charming expropriators of the Knife’s wooded lyricism, slinky synths and championed anonymity. But as Chvrches’ Martin Doherty puts it, that early mystique was never intended to be a long-term gambit.

“We never deliberately tried to put people off, and we weren’t deliberately secretive about it,” the 30-year-old keyboardist/producer said ahead of Monday’s anticipated stop at First Ave. “We were just aware that we’d all been in bands before, and we wanted the music to be judged — at least on a local level — just for what it was”

The trio appears markedly transparent during a big 2013. They’ve been one of this year’s festival staples. They played the opening slot for a slew of dates on Depeche Mode’s “Delta Machine Tour.” They also inked a deal with Virgin Records in the U.K. before this month’s debut LP, “The Bones of What You Leave Behind.” U.S. distribution is being handled by Glassnote — the North American home to fellow little-big bands Mumford & Sons and Phoenix (plus local Jeremy Messersmith).

“We love that label, and [Glassnote executive] Daniel Glass was so charismatic the first time we met him,” Doherty said. “With people that act genuine like that, it’s not until time develops that you realize that everyone was telling the truth.”

While the band is now on record as never real­ly fancying themselves as reclusive, what still remains intrinsic is control. Power struggles tend to function as the framework for Chvrches’ subject matter. Frontwoman Lauren Mayberry works within a fairly demure vocal range, but her cadence and songwriting realign the group’s airy pop as something more aggressive. On “Gun,” Mayberry leaves the gate with the words, “You had better run from me with everything you own / ’cause I am gonna come for you with all that I have.” Chvrches’ lyrical vantage point can feel unquestionably feminine, but Mayberry never hits on commonplace woes like broken hearts.

“[Lauren’s] really passionate about things like equality. She runs a feminist collective here in Glasgow, and she’s very focused on how we’re portrayed in the media. Because so many times over the years, you see groups like us treated like ‘two producers and then the singer,’ ” Doherty said. “She’s a very assertive person.”

She also seems to serve as muse. Doherty and fellow Chvrches member Iain Cook were attempting to construct an electropop act before Chvrches, but they scrapped everything after Mayberry entered the picture.

“There’s places that we’ve gone with the production that we never would have been able to do without Lauren’s voice bringing balance to things,” Doherty explained. “Even from a basic scientific level, working with someone with a voice in the higher register affords you all this extra space, whereas a male vocal gets buried down among the production.”

Speaking with Doherty, there seems to be an earnest affection for the duality that a woman such as Mayberry brings to the table. More telling, though, is when he eagerly divulges an urge for Chvrches’ upcoming gig at First Ave. After mentioning that he may have to “whip out the ‘Darling Nikki’ solo,” Doherty concedes that it’d be more interesting if “Rihanna hadn’t done it already on her tour.” It’s one of the more chauvinistic Prince tracks, sure.

But not unlike the Kid himself, the two guys in Chvrches succeed when they surrender to a stronger woman.



When: 8 p.m. Mon.

Where: First Avenue.

Tickets: $18-$20.