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On the Radar - No 207: CHURCHES

Words: Bryan Duncan

The video doesn’t really reveal much. Beginning with static emitting from an analogue television, it bursts into an addictive cocktail of crashing drums, melodic synths, and blips of noise reminiscent of early Chicago House. It’s topped off with a distinctly Scottish flavour, courtesy of a soaring female vocal lead.

“I've never chosen a favourite band based on a single song because that'd be stupid. But... well... I? mean... this,” comments one anonymous user on YouTube.

So who are CHURCHES, the Scottish electro-pop evangelists behind 'Lies'?

If you know your Scottish music scene, you’ll probably recognise the names. The Glasgow-based band comprises Iain Cook (Aereogramme / The Unwinding Hours), Martin Doherty (The Twilight Sad), and Lauren Mayberry (Blue Sky Archives), who some may also know as a freelance writer who has contributed to Radar.

“The band started as a studio project between Iain and I,” says Doherty of the band’s fruition. “We've been friends for a long time and It was something that we always talked about doing.

“We finally found the time to get it off the ground in October last year. Iain knew Lauren from working with her other band and suggested her as a potential vocalist for the project and things moved pretty quickly from there.”

Judging from the song’s hybrid of hip-hop beats and melodic synth-pop, this project is a radical departure from their respective bands’ brooding post-rock soundscapes. But Doherty insists it came about naturally.

Influenced by acts such as Lil Wayne, Tubeway Army and Laurie Anderson - with a dash of 80s cinema - CHURCHES is a response to what music excites them most. “I do remember a drunken conversation between Iain and I where he exclaimed 'let's just make music that people can dance to' and I was in total agreement," says Doherty. "I suppose that's pretty deliberate.”

‘Lies’ is indeed danceable, but it’s not simply a case of ‘putting a donk on it’, as Bolton act The Blackout Crew famously attested in 2008. Doherty suggests their songs have developed organically: “All of our tunes so far have come from a simple seed, be it a strong melodic idea or instrumental hook or beat.

“We are self-sufficient in that we write, record, mix and master everything in a basement studio in Glasgow. This allows us to spend the time getting the material exactly the way we want it."

Since ‘Lies’ was posted online, Doherty says the amount of interest has been overwhelming. Word has even spread as far as Berlin.

What’s refreshing though is how CHURCHES haven’t over-exposed themselves. ‘Lies’ has stealthily grabbed the attention of a wide range of music fans online, without succumbing to the temptation of overusing the internet’s infinite resources.

So far, CHURCHES seems like an enigma. The band’s colourful logo stares out during the ‘Lies’ video, like a subliminal message. “A bit of mystery is always good," says Doherty. "It's never an enjoyable thing to see a band spamming everywhere with self-promotion or long winded biographies. Let the music speak for itself I suppose." 

The name CHURCHES might not speak for the music, but Doherty claims it was an arduous process: “It took us ages and ages to decide on one. In the end, we locked ourselves into a room with a bunch of booze and didn’t emerge until the three of us had settled on one that we all liked. It was a long night. The name CHURCHES suggests places of worship, dogma, devotion, enlightenment, all of which complex and interesting.”

With new songs about to be unearthed, an album on the horizon next year, and their soon to be announced debut live performance, CHURCHES are on a pilgrimage. To make people dance.

CHURCHES on: Facebook | SoundCloud | Tumblr

Posted by Nick Mitchell

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