Lauren Mayberry Promises CHVRCHES’ New LP Is Not A Breakup Album
Get out of here with those assumptions
Lauren Mayberry is one hell of a lyricist. Over the span of CHVRCHES' two albums, she's written some of the most compelling songs about the games we play in love ("Make Them Gold"), romance's ennui ("Tether"), and the sacrifices we make when in a relationship ("Down Side Of Me"). Sure, most of the songs she and her bandmates, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, put out as CHVRCHES document the breakup process, but to say that's all CHVRCHES does is to not see the whole picture.
"In my mind, I've only ever written about three songs that were about a breakup," Mayberry says. Understandably, she's been asked if this month's album, Love Is Dead, is a breakup one. Point blank: It's not. There are, she says, two songs that directly deal with a personal relationship. "The rest of it, I think, is more about growing up and feeling differently about people and not really knowing what to do when you don't feel like that much of an optimist."
The result is Love Is Dead, a culmination of CHVRCHES’ five years in the public eye—the trials, the triumphs, and the labels critics and industry folk put on them. For whatever reason, CHVRCHES became the sounding board for nasty, misogynist internet trolls who were quick to lay into Mayberry’s looks and lyrics a few years back. It’s an experience Mayberry says she and the band never intended to have but are grateful for. “We were quickly labeled as an outspoken feminist band, which I’m totally fine with,” she says. “We’re a band that’s never been okay with the status quo. In a way, it’s allowed us to be more open and confrontational in our music.”
This exposure, however, put Mayberry in a peculiar situation. “I wanted to go and be left the fuck alone, to be honest,” Mayberry recalls. “It ultimately brought us closer together and forced me to become the person 16-year-old me would want to see on stage and look up to.”
“Who is that person?” I ask.
Mayberry pauses before saying, “Uncompromising.” She goes on, “I was like, ‘If I hide and if I make myself blend in and make myself disappear, then [the trolls will] leave me alone.’ But then that didn't work, so I realized I had to make a decision: Do I want to fuck this up for myself and the band because I’m scared of people and let these people take it all away from me? No. That’s now how I feel at all.”
Looking back, Mayberry feels a bit of sadness that she was so anxious. “I don't want to be held to a different standard than the guys. I don't want to be told what my fucking problem is and what’s wrong with me,” she says. “I don't want to have my personal life pored over because I've angered this subsection of people. But, at the same time, what's the alternative? Being meek and polite? No.”
That frustration comes out in full force on Love Is Dead. Mayberry has turned her sights outward, writing to the current political climate, because the personal is political, after all. She’s also looking to adolescent heroines, like Alanis Morissette, to inform her work. “Jagged Little Pill [by Morissette] touched on romantic things, but it was so much more than that; she touched on identity, faith, and growing up in ways I never heard a woman do before,” she says. “She wasn’t trying to be cute and she wasn’t trying to be pretty.”
“If we've learned anything in the last five years, it’s that, if we are honest and we are truthful and we stick to your guns, eventually people are gonna catch up,” she says.
So, they’re doing what they do best: write songs that contain multitudes. “Never Say Die,” for example, could be read as a breakup song, but, on a deeper level, speaks to our culture post-2016 election. "Wasn't it gonna be fun and wasn't it gonna be new?” Mayberry sings. “Wasn't it gonna be different and wasn't it gonna be true?”
“I don’t want to write the same song over and over again,” Mayberry explains, laughing that she, in her mind, wrote a record about being scared of the unknown. It’s the unknown, though, that drives her and the band. Love may be dead, but death paves the way for new forms of life. “We’ve reached a transitional moment in our society where we get to decide the kind of world we want to live in. That gives me hope.” So, in a way, yes, Love Is Dead is a breakup album only not of the romantic kind. It’s a breakup with our current status quo, a breakup with tradition. Now, we rebuild. To quote a CHVRCHES’ song off Every Open Eye: Bury it and rise above.