This post is about three things. Marketing, Engaging and vanishing youth subcultures. But mainly it’s about Chvrches, who had an incredible success as a consequence of perfect handling all of these things.
The first trick was all capitals, but internet isn’t case sensitive and in the social networks commenting on capital letters is the equivalent of shouting, it doesn’t look nice.
Than it was to remove vowels. I believe SBTRKT started it and (even my favourites) Japandroids for a while went as JPNDRDS, thankfully this seems to be vanishing. It looks bad, it’s hard to spell and harder to tell.
Then the V in the place of U arrived. Despite the fight of who started it, CHVRCHES and MVSCLES are the first two bands out there with it in the name. I haven’t searched if there’s more.
Why they do this? Unless you are Italian, where the original Ancient Roman Latin fonts were recycled during fascism and are still used by neofascists, the V looks cooler than U. Especially written in all-capitals as is in CHVRCHES.
It gives access to a plethora of unused social networks nicks, web addresses still available and so on. It is still readable and more pronounceable than a word without vowels.
There are more advantages. It guarantees a unique answer when enquiring a search engine.
Try searching google images for ‘churches’ and you will find hundreds of images of catholic temples.
Then simply replace the ‘u’ with a ‘v’ as in chvrches, the outcome is only images of the band. It doesn’t get dispersive, no contamination, no undesired hits.
Lauren Mayberry is Chvrches singer and the recognised band frontwoman. Iain Cook (earlier with Aerogramme and The Unwinding Hours) and Martin Doherty (with Twilight Sad when The Twilight Sad were wonderful) are two experienced musicians.
Part of Chvrches success is the personal way they (and mainly Lauren) have been engaging with their fans since the beginning and still doing.
Chvrches are not only present on social networks. Anyone nowadays is and it is a must-have, if you’re in the entertaining business.
Chvrches engage personally with the fans… and even with the haters.
Being on social networks to say “buy new single it’s out now”or “Tickets for Leeds gig available” sounds very detached to fans. It is like someone paid in a third world call-centre feeds the twitter account with no connection to the band beyond a monthly TC meeting with the PR office.
On the contrary, when messages come from band members and when band members interact with their audience the magic ingredient of the indie culture which is to give the feeling of belonging, being part, spices up the recipe to a successful dish.
It’s today’s news of this fans made video being praised by the band itself. News makes Pitchfork, Pitchfork is without doubts the most influential music site for the online community whether you agree with this list or not.
Lauren Mayberry brought this to a whole new level last September when, in an appreciated rant of active feminism, she confronted her own audience being sexist, with a passionate article on the Guardian.
Her letter against online misogyny addressed a big issue of online vileness: people attacking (mainly women) artists with sexist and violent insults giving women no options rather than ignore. The letter has bounced on everywhere from Rolling Stone to, again, Pitchfork achieving several things with one single go. Awareness. Education. Politics and last but not least good publicity to the band.
Youth Subcultures. Where have they gone?
On a brilliant piece on the Guardian, Alexis Petridis recently wrote about the shift of youth subculture.
It is very nice read that tries to analyse how the 80s groups, divided mainly by the music they listened and the clothes they wore, is shifting to the point that aren’t recognisable anymore. There are few ways to analyse this but I tend to agree that the principal reason has a very simple name: Internet.
Since web 1.0 fashion and trends have been moving to fast for people to find an identity that would not change in a couple of seasons.
The arrive of the web 2.0, with Facebook and SN, has moved our physical identity to an online identity. “It doesn’t happen in the street anymore, it happens online” is the sentence that goes straight to the point.
Chvrches happened online. They say it, they were a web based band. Their Lies single appeared about 2 years ago on a music blog post titled Skin + Bone (thanks to Geoff for spotting the error and letting me know in the comments). From there it has been a virtual climb to the peak of the online mountain.
Fans of Chvrches are all over the world, because the web doesn’t have borders. With the exclusion of some big and silly countries (looking at you China still blocking this little innocent blog) their online music is accessible everywhere. You cannot shape a unique identity through cultures of people living on 5 different continents. So the best solution is to stick to what you are, do what you believe and play what you like.
With this in mind I needed to see them live. I missed the launch of The Bones of What You Believe at Birthdays in London, thir debut album which I regretted for about 2 months to not go there (to have the chance to photograph a whole Chvrches set will not happen again soon).
I join the band at their sold-out 2014 tour in a very sold-out Cambridge Junction date.
Fans are young as you would expect but even in a fashion coded city, full of posh students, there’s variety. There’s not a dress code, there are people into indie, into electronica, into dancing. Some hipsters and some pop boys and girls with a crush for Lauren. Few are out for a teenage date trying to get a forbidden drink.
The three of them comes to a symmetrical stage lit to redesign the album cover logo. Lauren Mayberry takes the centre and the vocal duties for most of the set. There’s no drummer, I knew this, still I find difficult to click with a live band with e pre-recorded drum machine operated by a synth. It’s my personal taste, I know, but gives me an unstable feeling. I should be more open-minded.
Lauren is funny and chatty as the Scottish people are. I know they are Scottish only because I read it. The lack of a Glaswegian accent keep them among the worldwide-web bands without a clear geographical base. No idea if they’re proud or even wishing Scottish independence, if it was me I’d cancel borders altogether rather than building more. I like the freshness of their universality.
The gig lasts about an hour, playing the album in full in mixed order and leaves me with a feeling of freshness despite their synth pop electronic tunes are far from my favourite listening.
Towards the end of the set one of the boys in the band (don’t ask me who’s who, the one on the right!) moves to vocals, with Lauren taking keys at his board.
I must admit I enjoyed this. The song has a “street” feel which works.
I understand how important is for the image of the band to have a clever and gifted girl at the centre stage, but if I were them I would consider more tracks with the guy singing on them.
It is a very strict three songs rule, which means no photos not even from the back of the venue. No camera in sight and a guy in the front row with is big DSLR keeps shooting the whole gig but us, the photographers are kicked out.
I’ve been photographying music regularly every week for the last 10 years so nothing surprises me much (even if Tool photo release made me laugh out loud) but I regret having missed the album showcase in Dalston last year. There is no pit at Birthdays an no one would have cared of me covering the whole thing.
Point is, Chvrches live are one of those bands where the good photo can come every second and it goes at the same speed.
Lights change fast and go with the song, so anticipation is the key.
My uncle used to tell me during war, when prisoners escaping a prison through a sniper’s monitored point the third is the one more in danger. The first attracts the sniper attention, the second allow the sniper to point at him and the third gets shot.
At gigs photography during song follows the same pattern. First moment a verse appear (and the light with it) attracts a photographer attention, second time that verse happen you get ready for the lighting and the third time you can take the pictures. Listening to the music, understanding its architecture helps a lot music photography.
Just remember many songs don’t have the same verse or chorus three times and in that case you have to converge the second to measure exposure, frame and shot all in a blink of an eye.
Still… I don’t burst shoot. I never do