The only direction for Chvrches is up right now. The Scottish synth-pop trio -- vocalist Lauren Mayberry; Iain Cook on synthesizers and guitar; and Martin Doherty, synthesizers -- released perhaps the most infectious non-Top 40 pop record of 2015, "Every Open Eye."
The praise for the band's sophomore album was across the board, from Pitchfork to Billboard and Rolling Stone. Its immediacy and danceability not only come in a package that's perfect for a generation in which electronic dance music is a massive part of the culture, but it's lyrical urgency speaks to an entirely deeper level. It's a record that demands to be heard by anyone who considers themselves fans of classic 80's synth rock -- a la Depeche Mode -- or anyone who loves all the glitz and charm of modern radio pop. It's the best of both worlds.
Before the band performs with Death Cab for Cutie at CMAC on Wednesday, June 8, City spoke with Iain Cook to discuss the latest record and the band's upcoming endeavors. An edited transcript of that conversation follows.
City: Was the energetic, faster-paced change from the first album into the second a result of how you guys were feeling personally?
Iain Cook: It really wasn't conscious at all. It was something that we talked about, and we didn't really know where we were going to take this new record. There was a lot of excitement to get back into the studio after touring our previous record; there was a lot of momentum going back, so I guess it just happened by itself. Every day there was a new song, and we did this all very quickly; it took only five months. That energy is what may have come through.
Were there themes, both personal and social, you wanted to capture with the entirety of "Every Open Eye"? A vibe?
In terms of production and songwriting, the only thing we talked about was to achieve more with less. We had a lot more synths on this record, but we only made them do one thing at a time. Everything has its place. I think the theme, lyrically, is something that emerged retroactively. Each song really comes from where Lauren was at the time when she was writing them, but looking back at it there does seem to be a story there, just not on purpose.
Even your verses and pre-choruses have the hook of a chorus. Are you guys, when you write, always in this constant state of thinking about hooks?
Well the melody is everything really. If there isn't a hook, it's impossible to draw people in, especially on first listen. The thing about great pop music, which is what we're aiming for, is that people hear it and then they sing along. There's something about that spontaneity. If we find something, we sing it to each other, and we stick with it if we like it. It's what we do.
You recently composed the theme song for Mirror's Edge Catalyst. Is getting involved with other types of media something that the band is interested in doing more in the future?
Absolutely. It opens you up to a whole different world of creative minds. Getting to work with people like that is inspiring. There can be a clash of ideologies at times. When you step into someone else's world, there can be some tension, but the act of creation is an inspired process. I'd love to get more into movies with the band. Movie scores and movie themes would be awesome, we're all big fans of those sorts of things.
Synth-pop has really reached such a large audience in the past few years in my opinion. What other artists do you think are joining you in waving the banner?
To be honest, I don't really listen to a lot of new music. It is always good to be aware and inspired by your contemporaries, but I am a massive fan of Depeche Mode. We played with them a few years ago. They say you should never meet your idols, but that was out of this world. I feel that working with these people though may not be what I hope to be. We can admire them from a distance.
The record has gotten a ton of awesome praise. Do you use that to fuel creativity going forward? Or do you cast it aside and start from scratch?
It's hard to know where we're going to go. There's been preliminary discussions about it. I think that we'd like to continue what we're doing, but bring in more of a rock element with live drums, live guitar, and more bass. Taking it darker and weirder is something we'd like to do as well, but not at the expense of the hooks or big single tracks. That's a big part of who we are as a band.