This article is from 2009.
With a hit album under their belt and a successful tour in full flow, the future looks bright for indie unit White Lies, as Henry Northmore discovers
Despite its grand themes of life and death, To Lose My Life or Lose My Love was the first album of 2009 to go straight in at number one. Not bad for a debut album and a cracking start to the year for London trio Whites Lies. Having begun life as punky Technicolor pop outfit Fear of Flying before announcing: ‘Fear of Flying is DEAD … White Lies is alive!’ the trio paved the way for a new direction of dark literate indie. As they tour the US, The List catches up with bassist and lyricist Charles Cave at the Hollywood Heights Hotel; a set at the iconic Coachella festival making an epic close to their American dates.
How important was changing from Fear of Flying to White Lies?
We started Fear of Flying when we were at school and when you’re that age you’re constantly changing your style, your favourite band: you change from week to week. For us the name was one of the last things to change – it was more a mentality, a new way of thinking which was far more important.
Does having known each other for so long have a bearing on the band’s dynamics?
You become very comfortable in each other’s abilities, especially musically. You can also open up more, we’re very much in touch with each other.
You write the lyrics and hand them over to Harry McVeigh to sing. Were you ever tempted to sing yourself?
No, no, no [laughs] for one I’m not a very good singer. I’d much rather have Harry sing. I think I’d feel a bit awkward getting up there and performing my own words, it feels less personal when someone else is doing it.
What do you draw on for the often dark subjects you cover?
Everyone remembers when something really sad or tragic happens. Sadness is a more powerful emotion than happiness. I’m not saying we’ve had a particularly bad life or anything of the sort, far from it, but I find it’s something that stays with you.
How did it feel to go straight in at number one in the album charts?
Really, really very strange. We didn’t anticipate it. We knew the album was good and lots of people were coming to our shows, but it just came out of the blue. We were in northern Russia filming the video for ‘Farewell to the Fairground’ when we found out. It was very surreal but it was also nice to be alone, just the three of us who had made this record and gone to number one together, something we’d never expected, in the freezing cold in the middle of nowhere.
How does it feel seeing your tours selling out and dates being upgraded to even larger capacity venues?
It feels great; it feels like a huge compliment to know people are so interested in seeing you. It’s funny because the album seemed to get such a range of reviews from one star to five stars in different magazines and there didn’t seem to be any pattern but it seems the people who liked it genuinely loved it.
It’s felt like a very fast rise; how has it felt from inside the band?
It has been quick. A lot of people come up to us and say, ‘It’s all happened so fast,’ but we work 350 days of the year and not many other bands of our level do that, it’s been quite stressful and a lot of hard work. We take our music and the whole aesthetic – the videos, the artwork – very seriously: we put everything into it.
Do you feel a lot of pressure for the second album especially with the first one doing so well?
There’s always pressure on the second album. They say bands have a lifetime to write their first album but only six months to write the second. For us, we only had five songs then we were told we were going straight into the recording studio to make the album, so we had to write another six or seven on the fly, on breaks, over lunch: that was a really intense pressure. So for the second record I’d like to do it in a similar way.
Will it be hard to mine the same emotions when so many positive things have happened to you in the last year?
I think we’re still very much in touch with that part of ourselves. Without putting a downer on it, touring is filled with loneliness, which none of us had ever really experienced before.
What do you think of media accusations that you are overly serious?
When you do serious music you end up with serious photos, videos and art work. We do take the visuals and the music very seriously. We really care about the band, but in reality we’re just normal people and we like to have a laugh. We love what we’re doing and we’re trying to create something beautiful.
Which do you prefer – the song writing process or performing live?
It’s a very different thing; we take recording very seriously. It’s an art, but it’s a very scientific art for us, it’s very cathartic writing a song. We’re very interested in arrangements and the recording process. And when we play live it’s much more emotional and physical.
How does it feel when people write you off as Editors/Interpol/Joy Division copyists?
You just try and ignore it. People who write that about us probably write it about other new bands. You sometimes wonder if they even like music, they seen too busy drawing Venn diagrams of who sounds like who. But it can be offensive when people say you’re influenced by these bands – we’d never even heard Editors before. As for Joy Division, I respect their place in musical history but I’m not actually a big fan, I think a lot of their recorded work was a bit unformed … we draw influences from everyone from Queens of the Stone Age and Iron Maiden to Talking Heads.
What can people expect from White Lies live?
Euphoric is probably the best word; it’s certainly not depressing. I find it a little frustrating when we get all these bleak and depressing adjectives, because when I look out every night, at however many hundreds of people, and all I see is smiles and joy.
Are you looking forward to playing Scotland again?
Definitely. The Barrowland is such a great venue. We played with Glasvegas a few months ago and it was fantastic. And we’re back after this tour for T in the Park, which was our first ever festival and even though we were on a tiny stage, really low down the bill, the reception was amazing. But I also think a crowd is only as good as the show you play.
White Lies play Barrowland, Glasgow, Mon 4 May and HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, Sat 23 May.