CHVRCHES and THUMPERS at Shepherd's Bush Empire
We joined the congregation for two of the UK's most exciting live acts...
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We know this is going to make us sound old, but, what's with bands these days and irregular naming conventions? Both CHVRCHES and their support act THUMPERS at Shepherd's Bush Empire insist on being spelled-out in full capitals. And that's before we've even begun on that rogue "v". Regardless of how they choose to be named, they're still two of the most exciting UK acts we've seen in a long time.
You might recognise THUMPERS if you know your indie 101, formed in 2012 by Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr, from the ruins of late-noughties buzz-band Pull Tiger Tail. Tonight the duo are flanked by a few friends on keys, vocals and trumpet. The teaser tracks we hear from their forthcoming debut LP due in the spring are all built on a strong foundation of five-part harmonies, euphoric chord sequences and handclaps. What's not to love?
It's a rich, full sound, at times akin to Crystal Fighters on a comedown, while at others like Volcano Choir after a bit too much Bucks Fizz before a night out. They know their way around both melodies and a decent pop hook, which is a surprisingly rare combination these days. You'd think if the entire shoegaze genre woke up on the right side of the bed every once in a while, then it might sound a bit more like THUMPERS. We're already picking them as ones to watch in 2014, and we're seriously urging you to get onto Google and SoundCloud right now to find out a bit more about them for yourselves.
If there's one band who knows about being hotly-tipped, though, it's CHVRCHES. Musos and industry insiders have been throwing their name around as a statement of "cool" pretty fragrantly in the past 12 months. But while most bands in CHRVCHES' position don't have the songs to back up the hype, the Scottish electro-pop three-piece already have a top-ten album in the bag and a handful of singles which should feature on a fair few best-of-the-year lists come December.
On record, CHVRCHES make intimate electro-pop, with beats and melodies pulsating under the twee vocal innocence of singer Lauren Mayberry. But on stage, it's something completely different. Mayberry cuts a delicate silhouette, flanked by her band mates Martin Doherty, on synths and samples, and Iain Cook, who alternates between synths, guitar and bass. The electronic soundscapes sculpted by the three are deep and rich, with each layer revealing something different to the last.
At times it's dark seduction, and at others it's joyous optimism. Ok, so they don't have the best stage presence right now, but that's the kind of thing that comes in time. What's more important is that they have songs which connect with the audience. Plus, they've brought along a light show with them that's so artistically creative, it's enough to make Gaga completely throw Artpop away and try again.
CHVRCHES have a refreshingly-organic exuberance, and extraordinarily beautiful melodies which appear so simple on the surface, but become more complex with each listen. As far as we're concerned, as long as they keep this coming they can call spell their name any damn way they please.
Words: Ryan Butcher: @ryanjohnbutcher