The last time Scottish multi-instrumentalist Iain Cook played the Independent in San Francisco was in 2007 with his old outfit Aerogramme, and it was a total disaster.
“There was nobody there, only 30 people in a 500-capacity venue, the support bands were fighting, the drummer got angry and walked offstage — everything was just horrible,” he recalls. Back at his hotel that night, he and keyboardist Martin Doherty had a summit meeting. “We sat down and made a pact that someday, in the near future, we’d do something that people really wanted to dance to,” he adds.
It took them four years. But once they recruited angelic vocalist Lauren Mayberry, the team arrived at a brilliant little synth-pop trio they dubbed Chvrches, with a Roman-styled ‘U’ that makes them easier to find in Web searches. And they return to the Independent today in buzz-band triumph: The show sold out weeks ago.
“I was working with Lauren on one of her demos, and Martin and I decided to finally get together, like, ‘Let’s see what happens — no road maps, no guitars, no drums,’” says Cook, 38. “But pretty soon we realized that we wanted to get a girl in to sing backing vocals.”
Doherty was Chvrches’ original lead singer. But when they muted his voice on early experiments such as “Lies” and “The Mother We Share,” and punched up Mayberry’s, they were stunned at the difference.
“We were like, ‘S***! This is dynamite!’ And it’s been going pretty well since then,” says Cook, who’ll be touring with three analog synths and a laptop, backing Chvrches’ OMD-frothy new EP, “Recover,” for Glassnote.
In their windowless basement studio in Glasgow, the musicians have just put the finishing touches on a full-length debut, slated for release in September.
Cook chuckles at his dated, ill-fated Aerogramme mindset — “beardy 30-something indie guitar-rockers who stand around stroking their chins.”
He survived in the interim by scoring Panasonic and Minute Maid commercials, he admits, plus several U.K. TV series and cult films like “Senseless,” wherein a greedy corporate executive is kidnapped, then brutally deprived of his senses.
“I was trying to get the sound right for the torture scene where they rupture his eardrums, and the person living with me at the time was freaking out over the noises coming from my studio,” he says.
Cook won’t over-analyze Chvrches’ sudden success. “But I’m really grateful for it, because I know what it’s like being on the other side, when no one cares,” he says. “So we’re keen to get out as much music as possible, while people are still interested!”