It feels like CHVRCHES have been around for years. That’s a testament to the immediacy of their synth-pop - it evokes an instant familiarity and a kind of euphoric connectivity that’s rare in today’s inattentive music climate.
However, the Scottish trio only came to light relatively recently – after they debuted their first demo online in May 2012. Since then, they have managed to effectively straddle both the indie blogosphere and mainstream chart territory, becoming social media darlings (unlike 99% of bands, they actual manage their own profile) and cementing singer Lauren Mayberry as a cherished social commentator (she penned an inspiring article on online misogyny for The Guardian). Although tonight’s show is confusingly declared both an NME Awards show and a Goodbye Records label launch – the label started by CHVRCHES of which (the mighty impressive) support act Soak is signed to – in actuality, this is simply a rare chance for fans to see the band in an intimate setting, ahead of their large scale UK tour next month.
Taking place with minimal production in the gritty confinements of London’s Scala, CHVRCHES overcome jetlag and a typical Monday night crowd to deliver a set of stunning pop music at its very rawest. From the opener of ‘We Sink’ to the encore of ‘By The Throat’, CHVRCHES display an element of vulnerability usually absent from their slick headline shows – and the band are all the more captivating because of it. Iain Cook and Martin Doherty’s handling of their synth and sampling equipment is not always smooth tonight, but they skilfully enhance all the subtle electronic flourishes that are easily overlooked on record; such as the jittery New Order-esque production of ‘Science/Visions’, the moody Tears For Fears undertones of non-album track ‘Now Is Not The Time’, and the warped, instrumental hip hop of the ‘Night Sky’ outro.
Aside from when Doherty takes over lead vocals for a surprisingly spirited rendition of ‘Under the Tide’, all eyes are naturally on the enthralling Lauren Mayberry. Her pitch-perfect voice is sweetly ethereal yet delivered robustly, and although her stage presence lacks confidence early on, her wildly infectious melodies are confidently executed, taking the focal point of every song.
Increasingly known for the inventive cover songs, the spritely frontwoman is quick to shoot down a heckler’s request for one, asserting that though they are humbled by the fact that people like their reimaginings, it’s the radio stations that force the band to record them and that tonight’s show will focus on original CHVRCHES material.
Although Mayberry’s mic regrettably cuts out for the climax, the thrilling ‘Tether’ remains a highlight. The other highlights come courtesy of the massive electro-pop singles ‘Gun’, ‘Recover’ and main-set closer ‘The Mother We Share’, all of which sound mighty in these modest and dingy club settings. With two sold-out shows at the sizeable Forum next month, it’ll be a while before CHVRCHES appear at a London venue of this size. A very special night indeed.
Now Is Not the Time
Under the Tide
The Mother We Share
By the Throat
Below: Exclusive photos of CHVRCHES and SOAK live at The Scala, London