The rise and rise of Glasgow trio, CHVRCHES over the past year has not been without its pitfalls for feminist lead singer, Lauren Mayberry. But she took to the newspapers to tackle the misogynists, as Jane Casey ﬁnds out.
From underground hipster favourites, to one of the hottest festival bands this season, Scottish synth-pop trio CHVRCHES have come a long way in the past few months. After touring the world off the back of their Recover EP, the release of their debut album The Bones Of What You Believe, last September has lead to a whole new level of popularity. It’s something lead singer, Lauren Mayberry stays humble about.
“We try and keep our heads out of the press stuff as much as possible,” she tells me as she sips camomile tea out of a pink and yellow ﬂask, in a backstage room at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. The group will play their ﬁrst headline show here tonight. The gig has been sold out for months and tickets are like gold-dust – a far cry from the last time they played the venue: as an opener for Passion Pit.
“It’s great to come back here and judge by ticket sales and crowd turn-out, as opposed to reading things online,” Mayberry says. The band refused to read reviews of their album too, and Mayberry is resolute. “We obviously knew that the reception was good when the album came out, I think that is all we need to know – but beyond that we try not to focus on it too much. As soon as you start writing in order to please someone else, you will just get confused.”
A Glasgow native, Mayberry had a promising career as a journalist before meeting bandmates Iain Cooke and Martin Doherty and turning to music. Having once been on the other side of the dictaphone, it’s not surprising how long it takes her to warm up to the situation. “I feel more suspicious of journalists,” she explains. “I know what it’s like when you go to those meetings and your editor tells you to get a certain thing from an interview.” It’s also no surprise, then, that she has certain rules when it comes to interviews. “No page three redtops and no individual interviews with women’s magazines,” she asserts.
Wide eyed, pixie-like and soft spoken, Mayberry is arrestingly beautiful and equally modest – and has become the centre of attention in the band when it comes to both press and fans. However, she has little interest in the limelight.“I am probably the one that wants to be looked at the least out of the three of us. I don’t think that there’s any danger of me wanting to ‘bask in the glory’ or anything like that! I am a very anxious person. I’d probably spontaneously combust out of fear.
“And anyway, it’s a three-part thing. Everyone has been in it from the ground up, so that’s why we kind of went on the offensive with the media stuff at the start, just to make sure that we maintained that sense of ourselves.”
On a daily basis, CHVRCHES’ Facebook page receives messages from Lauren’s male fans, ranging from marriage proposals to full blown rape threats (“This isn’t rape culture. You’ll know rape culture when I’m raping you, bitch,” being one charming proposition). Lauren, who still mans the bands social media, posted a screengrab of one such message and asked fans to stop.
The Guardian Online picked up on the story and asked the 25 year-old to write a piece about the treatment of women in the music industry, which was published with the title: ‘I will not accept online misogyny’. “Each time I’d post things and I’d get those comments it would annoy me a little more,” she says. “The Guardian gave me a chance to write about it and to take the argument out of the social networks, which I think was helpful. I think that anything that can start a discussion on a more mainstream platform is really positive. Plus we certainly get less direct abuse.”
Mayberry is a member of a feminist collective in Glasgow called TYCI, and she’s outspoken when it comes to issues around female representations in the entertainment industry. When I ask her what she thinks about other female musicians who may not exactly adhere to traditional feminist ideals, she is surprisingly diplomatic. “I think that everyone’s brand of feminism is different, and that’s great,” she says.
“I actually hate it when women tell other women what to do and how to be – it allows people to focus on that and say, ‘Look, the women are ﬁghting again’. Feminism on blogs and on Twitter is really powerful, but a lot of the focus is on people disagreeing with each other. You are just giving ‘them’ something to discredit you with.”
Chvrches play Longitude Festival in Marlay Park this July 18 – 20.
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