Like a once-ugly duckling suddenly noticing its graceful swandom, Chvrches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry was startled to hear how much her voice had matured on “Love Is Dead,” the trio’s latest third album. On sinister synth-rock tracks “Graffiti,” “Forever” and the duet “My Enemy” with The National’s Matt Berninger, co-producer Greg Kurstin practically frames her panoramic pipes in an iridescent rose window of gothic sound. “When we first started Chvrches, I wasn’t a professional musician by any stretch; I had day jobs and just sang in alternative indie bands,” she says. “But Greg understood that my voice had developed to the point where we could try those experiments.” She’ll push it even further at Outside Lands this weekend.
What did you learn about yourself, making “Love Is Dead”?
I used to think more about technically hitting all the notes and needing to sound like I could actually sing. Whereas now, I feel like the bit where your voice cracks or does something strange so you can play it like an instrument — those are the moments where you express a lot more emotion. Somebody said, “A singer should sing to serve the song, not themselves.” And that’s something I’m really conscious of now.
Kurstin is Adele’s go-to collaborator. What did he teach you?
What’s so cool about Greg is, he has this history and this language, and he understands big pop in a way that we don’t. But he also has this jazzy, alternative side, so one of the main things we learned was not to be so precious about everything. So this is the record that sounds the most live, in a lot of ways, because he would tell us to just jump in the booth and record a take. He said, “If you’ve got an idea, don’t waste time perfecting it or quantifying it — if it’s a sound you like, just get it down.”
You live in New York now. Have you gotten into the busy urban vibe?
Well, I’m not a coffee drinker, so I feel like I’m missing out on a huge chunk of New York right there. When you start singing, they tell you to stop all the caffeine — no caffeine, no cheese, no anything. Basically, all the stuff that’s good is bad for your voice. But we’d take the subway to our little writing studio every day and tinker around on synths and stuff. But New York is where I discovered soup dumplings, and now I go to the gym because I eat them. I wouldn’t eat them on a first date, unless there’s someone in your life that you’re comfortable with…
Like your reported boyfriend, the actor Justin Long?
Uhh… he enjoys soup dumplings, too.
IF YOU GO
Where: Lands End Stage, Polo Field, Outside Lands. Golden Gate Park, 30th Avenue at Fulton Street, S.F.
When: 4:55 p.m. Aug. 10
Tickets: $150 to $375 (per day); $345 to $795 (VIP)
Greg KurstinhvrchesLauren MayberryLove is DeadMatt BerningerPop Music