Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Dress up for Chvrches show Saturday if you want to catch lead singer's eye

If you want to catch Lauren Mayberry's eye this Halloween, come to Jannus Live dressed as Lauren Mayberry. Or Taylor Swift. Or Elvis Presley. Or Gene Simmons. Or any of your favorite musicians, actually.

"Creative costumes, where you can learn something about the person from the costume they've chosen, are always good," the singer for the indie-pop band Chvrches said by phone during a recent tour stop in Kansas City. "If someone's dressed as their favorite musician, that probably tells you a lot about them. That would be my goal."

To the best of Mayberry's knowledge, though, she's never met a full-on Chvrches cosplayer. "Maybe one day," she said.

It might happen sooner than anyone thinks, considering how fast the Scottish trio has shot through the ranks of the indie-pop world.

First came electro-peppy singles like The Mother We Share and Recover, which turned Chvrches (pronounced "churches") into darlings at giant festivals like Glastonbury and Bonnaroo. In September, they dropped their empowering sophomore album Every Open Eye, which dials the driving energy of Chvrches' signature '80s-inspired synthesizers — think Erasure and early Depeche Mode — up to 11.

"At this point, we're really excited to have more than one album to play," she said. "By the time we finished touring album one, there's only so many ways you can reorganize a setlist of 12 to 14 songs. This time we've been able to focus more on the ebb and flow."

The big synths and mad-dash energy of Every Other Eye call to mind another big pop album: Taylor Swift's 1989. Mayberry said she didn't know Swift was playing Tampa's Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, the same night Chvrches is playing in St. Petersburg, but she isn't sweating it. While the two have never met, she called Swift a smart and talented artist, and said she even went to one of her concerts this summer in Glasgow.

Mayberry seems a little wary talking about the current queen of pop — "I feel like you just want me to say something bad about Taylor Swift," she says with a little laugh — but then again, she has long applied a very keen eye for how Chvrches is perceived, both as artists and personalities.

She owns a law degree and master's in journalism, and over the past two years has become an outspoken opponent of online troll culture, partly in response to negative comments lobbed her way on the band's social media platforms. It's a stance she doesn't back down from, but does tend to downplay.

"We never really set out to be — and I don't know that we are — the figureheads in an anti-trolling movement," she said. "We've done a couple of entries about it, and people tend to write more about what we've said than we actually talk about it. For me, it's interesting when people say that Chvrches took a stand on online misogyny, because we have a problem with all misogyny, not just the stuff that's online."

Intentional or not, the inspirational lyrics of Every Open Eye meshes well with Mayberry's Digital Age feminism. "Here's to taking what you came for, and here's to running off the pain," she chirps on Never Ending Circles. And on Playing Dead: "No more distractions and no more staying still / I am chasing the skyline much more than you ever will."

"It's nice when people come and talk to us at signings or shows or whatever, and say that the music means something to them, or how we conduct ourselves has resonated with them," Mayberry said. "That, to me, is more positive feedback than a review or criticism or something like that. Actually meeting people that listen to our music and go to shows, and getting feedback that way, is a lot more genuine."

Mayberry doesn't preach gender politics during Chvrches' live shows, instead letting the atmosphere of each night shape how she interacts with the crowd.

"That's the great thing about touring," she said. "Yes, you tour the world, you play a lot of shows, but every show is different. Every night, the front row is different."

That will be the case at Jannus Live, particularly if the front row shows up in costume. For her part, Mayberry is cagey about Chvrches' own Halloween plans. She'd like to dress up in costume, she said, but her band mates aren't yet on board.

"Negotiations," she said, "are ongoing."

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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