Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches got emotional during her first gig of 2021, but it wasn’t by her band: “I cried!
A good number of musicians have had tears in their eyes at their first concerts of 2021 – after a 16-month shutdown of live events fueled by the coronavirus – and Lauren Mayberry is no exception.
But the concert that made this 34-year-old Glasgow native cry was not by Chvrches, the best Scottish synth-pop group she’s led in the past decade. And it took place in early October at the Hollywood Bowl, thousands of miles from his much less temperate homeland.
“I was expecting to have a foggy moment,” said Mayberry, a Los Angeles resident. “I braced myself to cry because I went to see Cat Power, Garbage and Alanis Morissette, who are all artists that I admire.”
How big is a cry?
“I was sobbing so much that a woman came over and asked me if I was okay,” recalls the blonde-haired singer, who performs with Chvrches on Monday and Tuesday at the North Park Observatory.
“I screamed all the way! Because it all felt very raw and overwhelming. I’m definitely enjoying things a lot more than before (stopping). I thought we would never see concerts again. Everything is now so impermanent, and we know nothing about nothing. It only reinforces how important music and art is for me, personally, to get away from it all. “
Blur the lines
Exactly how much escape music provides Mayberry is demonstrated on “Screen Violence”, Chvrches’ fourth and final album.
Released in August, it explores topics that are particularly topical during a global pandemic. Fear, alienation, loneliness, gender disparity, and a desire for connection and empowerment underlie the songs of the other two members of Mayberry and Chvrches, multi-instrumentalists Martin Doherty and Iain Cook.
There are also hints of horror movies, many of which seem less spooky as the Omicron COVID-19 variant spreads around the world while the Delta variant continues to surge. Blurring the lines between the real and the imaginary gives the lyrics to the best songs of “Screen Violence” extra weight, while the bouncy rhythms and brilliant melodies of the synthesizer counterbalance the often dark subjects on which Mayberry sings.
The result is music you can dance or rock to as you reflect on what inspired songs as dark but inviting as “Nightmares,” “Violent Delights” and “How Not to Drown” (which features Mayberry sharing the voice with one of his idols, Robert Smith du Curé).
“There’s a lot of terror to the record, but it’s also about perseverance, trying to hope and having something to put your emotions in,” she said, speaking at the time. from a recent Chvrches concert tour of Austin.
Mayberry was born in 1987. It was a decade of booming synth-pop, with guitar bands like The Cure. These influences are proud badges of honor for Chvrches in general and on “Screen Violence” in particular, although Mayberry’s musical inspirations also include American artists such as Tori Amos, Jenny Lewis and Whitney Houston.
“We are all very concerned about feeling like a British band,” she said of Chvrches. “So a lot of the references on this album are things like The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Prodigy and British dance music. Even now the dance music that comes from Great Britain is so different from that that comes from America.
“And I think there is a very specific narrative that comes from Scotland and Glasgow in particular. Maybe the people who come from Celtic countries have a deeper connection to folk song and literature, and you can feel it in the best art that comes out of those countries.
“A surrealist way to make a record”
Due to the coronavirus shutdown, the songs for “Screen Violence” were largely written and recorded from long distance. Mayberry was at her home in Los Angeles, while her band mates Doherty, 38, and Cook, 47, were at various locations in Scotland.
“It was definitely the most surreal way to make a record,” Mayberry said. “We named the album before we started writing it. We knew we wanted a concept to write off. It definitely helped us emotionally to have something to focus on.
As unaffected behind the scenes as she is charismatic when she performs, Mayberry is an unlikely rock star. Make him a considerably overqualified rock star, given his accomplishments in academia.
She received her undergraduate degree in Law from Strathclyde University in Glasgow, where she went on to earn a Masters in Journalism in 2010. Neither remained, and music became her career and life.
“I was working as a production manager for a TV channel, and I think I was going more in that direction. In college, I thought about (becoming) a research assistant, ”recalls Mayberry.
“After I started doing freelance art journalism, it kind of showed me that it’s not really my way of thinking about art. I’ve always been a huge fan of things and an admirer, and I don’t like having to write about things that I’m not as passionate about as possible.
Her entry into music came as a drummer, not a singer, after being inspired in the late 1990s by an “unauthorized biography” of former Nirvana Stickman turned Foo-Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.
Did Mayberry’s beginnings as a drummer influence the way she formulates her vocals or the cadences she uses to write the lyrics to her songs?
“Music is something I have never studied, but it is clear to me now that there is such a clear relationship between rhythm and melody if you push a note one way or the other,” she replied.
“There is one thing in common, in that they are both very physical. I’ve tried learning guitar so many times and I don’t feel like it’s part of me but more of an extension. The idea of sitting in front of a drums seems more primitive.
A fiery feminist, Mayberry is one of the founders of TYCI, a Glasgow women’s collective. She also supports the Rape Crisis Center in Glasgow and the Ally Coalition, which raises funds to support homeless LGBTQ youth.
“I’ve always been very honest, for better or for worse,” Mayberry said. “I don’t have big notions that anyone should care about what I think. But it shouldn’t be political to encourage people to be nice.
“I know it sounds cheesy. But why shouldn’t we try to be a little nicer to each other and think about what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? “
She laughed as she repeated a joke from Scottish comedian and actor Billy Connolly.
“If you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes then you have their (expletion shoes),” Mayberry said, laughing again, “so keep going!”
Chvrches, with Donna Missel
When: 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday
Or: Observatory North Park, 2891 University Ave., North Park
Tickets: $ 46 (general admission)
In line: livenation.com
COVID Protocols: All participants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have received a negative COVID-19 test no later than 72 hours before the concert.