Scottish trio Chvrches set for Atlanta return at the Coca-Cola Roxy

Scottish indie pop group Chvrches is touring in support of fourth album "Screen Violence," which includes a collaboration with Robert Smith of The Cure.
Courtesy of Sebastian Mlynarski and Kevin J Thomson

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Scottish indie pop group Chvrches is touring in support of fourth album "Screen Violence," which includes a collaboration with Robert Smith of The Cure. Courtesy of Sebastian Mlynarski and Kevin J Thomson

Just three months after delivering a blistering set on a sunny Saturday at the Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta, Scottish indie/ electronic pop group Chvrches (pronounced “churches”) returns to town for a show at the Coca-Cola Roxy on Friday, July 29. The trio’s touring cycle continues in support of their fourth album “Screen Violence,” released to acclaim in late August 2021.

“Screen Violence” follows 2018′s “Love Is Dead,” their most outwardly pop record thus far and the only one to include production from someone outside the band (superproducer and The Bird and The Bee multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin). Sophomore effort “Every Open Eye” (released in 2015 and a Top 10 album in both the U.S. and the UK) was buoyed by single and crowd favorite “Leave a Trace,” a song that highlights singer Lauren Mayberry’s shimmering soprano. Following the buzz generated by early tracks “The Mother We Share” and “Lies,” 2013 debut album “The Bones of What You Believe” introduced Chvrches to a worldwide audience and critical praise.

Mayberry and multi-instrumentalists Iain Cook and Martin Doherty (who went to the University of Strathclyde together) met in Glasgow, connecting via their various musical projects Blue Sky Archives, Aerogramme and Julia Thirteen, respectively. The three wrote well together, soon putting together the songs that would become the “Recover” EP and “The Bones of What You Believe.”

There’s a horror theme to the music and album art of “Screen Violence.” Calling from her current home in Los Angeles, Mayberry notes that “It’s a record that was about a lot of sadder themes as opposed to darker themes, and we just dressed it up with a lot of pomp and violent imagery.” The cover photo, taken by artist and filmmaker Lary 7, matches the musical feel as it evokes 1980′s horror films.

2020 found the band dispersed as COVID-19 set in, with Cook in Glasgow and Mayberry and Doherty at different spots in Los Angeles. Returning to the self-production that marked their first two albums, the three sent files back and forth as they demoed songs. A few of the songs that wound up on the record existed previously as rough instrumental sketches, but the rest of the material was brand new.

An album highlight is “Final Girl,” one of the last songs written for it and one that symbolizes the evolution of recordings as the group worked on them over time. “We had a synthier version of this,” notes Mayberry as she describes how with the time difference Cook added a catchy guitar part that transformed “Final Girl” quite literally overnight. “It’s really resonated live,” she adds, even though it “wasn’t a single or a focus track of any kind… (but the) second half of that chorus, people go quite mad for it.”

The virtual sessions also afforded the Glaswegians the chance to work with one of their musical heroes, The Cure’s Robert Smith. The legendary artist co-wrote what became second single “How Not to Drown,” also adding guitar, bass and vocal parts to a song that proves quite quickly the four are a musical match made in heaven. More recently, Smith joined Chvrches in performing two songs at the UK’s NME Awards Show, both “How Not to Drown” and classic Cure single “Just Like Heaven.”

Mayberry is still thrilled she’s gotten to know Smith: “It’s mad that that’s a thing that’s happened!” She raves about his humanity, noting, “It’s been a real lesson to me in humility and generosity. He’s been so incredibly kind to us, creatively and otherwise. The kind of person that remembers everybody in the crew’s names, says ‘thank you’ to everybody.”

The group took a small break during the “Screen Violence” writing/recording process to participate in one of the many Twitter album listening parties organized by The Charlatans singer Tim Burgess as a way to unite music fans online at a time they couldn’t see concerts or even go to record stores. In August 2020, the trio shared thoughts about “Every Open Eye” as fans worldwide listened to the album at exactly the same time.

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Glasgow band Chvrches Lauren Mayberry performing at Music Midtown festival Saturday. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC)

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Glasgow band Chvrches Lauren Mayberry performing at Music Midtown festival Saturday. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC)

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

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Glasgow band Chvrches Lauren Mayberry performing at Music Midtown festival Saturday. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC)

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

The current Chvrches live show is centered on “Screen Violence” and its visuals. Even Atlantans who saw the group at Shaky Knees will get a much different perspective in a dark theater than they had in broad daylight at a festival. The album’s first single “He Said She Said” kicked off the Shaky Knees set, with “Asking for a Friend” and “Final Girl” also featuring. In the full headlining set, “Asking for a Friend” has a special slot. “We play it right at the start of the encore,” says Mayberry, “and I really enjoy the juxtaposition of visually the most macabre section of the show happening in the song that is the quietest, the most vulnerable. That kind of sums up the themes of the record for me.”

Touring drummer Jonny Scott has also contributed significantly to the Chvrches live set-up since his addition in 2018. “Even though he’s using samples and triggers as well, and he’s merging a fully live kit and an electronic kit,” notes Mayberry, “just having the physical presence of a drummer onstage, especially for me as a singer, feels a lot more primal in a way, I think.” Admitting that economics were behind the group being drummer-less early in its existence, she adds, “I like that it’s been an evolution that we’ve been able to adopt and grow the live show and change it over the course of time.”

Mayberry, whose current playlist includes tracks by Kississippi, Sudan Archives and The 1975, is excited for the group’s return to Atlanta. Her Shaky Knees experience included getting to see parts of sets by Japanese Breakfast and Nine Inch Nails, and she enjoyed the lineup overall. Another local venue also brings back good memories: “I remember us having a really good show at The Tabernacle,” she says. “I remember enjoying that a lot as a venue. I would like to see a show there because when we were playing it felt like you could see everyone in the venue.”

The Roxy will be the site for what will certainly be the next memorable Atlanta/Chvrches event.

EVENT PREVIEW

Chvrches at the Coca-Cola Roxy

8 p.m. July 29. $37.50. 800 Battery Ave. SE, Atlanta/

Through July 24. $36-$109. Fox Theatre. 660 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 855-285-8499, foxtheatre.org.livenation.com/venue/KovZ917ACc7/coca-cola-roxy-events