“How Not To Drown” by CHVRCHES & Robert Smith

The origins of “How Not To Drown” date back to very depressing eras in the respective lives of Lauren Mayberry and Martin Doherty.  And having overcome such, as implied by the title the lyrics are intended to be reflective of what they have learned along the way in terms of overcoming such a disposition. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for CHVRCHES's How Not To Drown at Lyrics.org.

So first off, just to get this out of the way, let it be stated the titular ‘drowning’ is not of the literal variety. Rather said metaphor is akin to being submerged in depression.

So with that in mind, the first verse alludes to the vocalist, Lauren Mayberry, being a successful singer alright. Or perhaps she isn’t talking about singing in particular but rather is using the term “sing” as an analogy. Either way, she is apparently speaking to succeeding at some type of endeavor nonetheless. But now, after being on top for a while, “is the first time” she is beginning to feel as if she no longer “want(s) the crown”. 

And that’s because her label or whoever it is she works for is seemingly trying to exert too much control over her. But overcoming this ordeal has also revealed to the vocalist just how resilient she is.

And based on what Robert Smith also puts forth in the second verse, it is very much possible that both he and his collaborator are speaking to moments in their lives when they “grew to hate” being music stars.  And apparently those feelings would have something to do with the way they were treated by others. 

But whereas in the first verse Lauren makes it sound as if such individuals are industry executives, the wording of Smith’s verse is more general, perhaps pointing to some fans being the problem also. And such a notion, of some unspecified ‘they pulling down’ the narrator’, is also what highlights the bridge.

But the chorus is a lot more ambiguous, if you want to put it like that. And we can say that what it, as well as the entire song ultimately leads us to is an idea like it’s better to stay strong when it feels like the world is against you, as opposed to letting others or perhaps even your own inner fears and doubts take precedence.

Lyrics to "How Not To Drown"

Indeed at the end of the day, all lyrics considered this is perhaps one of those types of songs that the less we try to really analyze it, the better. What we do definitely know however is that it is premised on depression. 

And even though there is no actual instruction therein on how to overcome this emotion, we know that such is the primary idea the piece speaks to, as in not letting yourself be overcome with negativity, especially when it is being thrown your way by outsiders who perhaps intentionally want to make you uncomfortable.

Facts about “How Not to Drown”

This is Robert Smith’s first collaboration with Chvrches. Smith is a musician from England who has made a name for himself primarily as a member of The Cure, having been down with the band since its inception in the late-1970s. He is also a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, as part of The Cure, being inducted in 2019. 

And despite possessing such an ordinary, plain-sounding name, Robert is actually a punk rocker with a very-unconventional fashion sense. And perhaps relatedly, he actually responded to Chvrches’ request for a collaboration by submitting his own vocal demo to the band on Halloween.

Meanwhile Chvrches is a band from nearby Scotland, though being a more recent musical phenomenon, having been active since 2011.  Up until the release of this track, which transpired on 2 June 2021, they have released three studio albums. And in fact How Not to Drown is the second single from their fourth full-length, which is entitled Screen Violence (2021) and is being put out by Glassnote Records.

Chvrches’ band members Iain Cook (instrumentalist), Martin Doherty (instrumentalist) and Lauren Mayberry (vocalist) are credited as the writers How Not to Drown alongside Robert Smith. And Chvrches are also the producers of the track.

How Not To Drown

This song originated via a demo that Martin Doherty put together, which was originally entitled “Piano Drum Ting”. Also it was apparently his idea to team up with Robert Smith, with Doherty being a big fan of The Cure.

In fact in that regard he went on to imply that it was actually The Cure’s music which inspired him to become a professional musician in the first place. And he called this collaboration his “proudest moment” as a musician, as in it representing his come-up from earlier days of struggling to make it.

Concerning Martin Doherty’s and Lauren Mayberry’s aforementioned depression, on Martin’s part he didn’t elaborate too much on what he was going through, as in the cause. But he did say that resultantly he felt “depressed, anxious [and] isolated” but found relief via “the only thing that could bring (him) enough equilibrium to get through the day and play the show”, which is making on (his) laptop”. And as for Lauren, it was such that for a while she even wanted to quit Chvrches and “disappear” from the music scene altogether.

CHVRCHES' Lauren Mayberry discusses "How Not To Drown"

3 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    The way the author describes musical legend Robert Smith makes them sound like a 12 yr old who has never heard of The Cure, been influenced or moved by them. What does his “ordinary, plain sounding name” have to do with anything? That’s all you’ve got to say about a rock legend?

    • Peter M says:

      You have the right to your opinion, but you sound like one of those fans that Robert would most like to cut off. Robert does not like to be treated like a monument or placed on a pedestal. I have already forgotten the fact that this article is not about Robert, but about the CHVRCHES song, so why would we be reading here the entire biography of Robert and a peany about how great he is?

  2. Billy R says:

    Great article. This is my favourite Chvrches song, seems to get better the more I hear it. Also a big fan of The Cure, both groups focus on the more serious side of life which should never be underestimated, as it helps those who listen deal with their own problems.

    I just can’t fathom how Chvrches haven’t made the mainstream, so many great songs!

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