White Lies, Interview
Contactmusic caught up with Charles and Jack from White Lies backstage at the Leeds Academy before their NME Shockwaves Awards Tour performance in Leeds on February 8th 09. With their debut album 'To Lose My Life' recently entering the UK album charts at number one we spoke to the band about writing and recording as well as plans for 2009 and how they're dealing with the increased attention.
CM: You are in the middle of the NME Shockwaves Awards Tour - how has the tour been going?
Charles: Brilliant, really brilliant. I think it is better than we all expected. We're playing really well as are all the other bands. We're finding that we want to go and watch everyone, every night. We were saying earlier that we've never got on with a band better than we are doing with Florence and her band; we also get on famously with Glasvegas and Friendly Fires who we've toured with in the past. The whole energy behind the tour is exciting and really positive.
CM: You are getting some heavyweight attention right now - are you comfortable with that?
Jack: You have to learn to take it for what it is. It's really important, for us as a band, that people are interested in our music. It's not something that we necessary expected but it's really positive and will help our profile grow. So it's something you deal with when it comes to you but it doesn't really affect the way you think or act. It's not something you can control and you shouldn't try to control it either.
CM: The album sounds great - tell us about recording it?
Charles: We recorded the album last May and June; most of it was done in Belgium simply because we found a really great studio in Brussels. We wanted to do it residentially so we could isolate ourselves and get it done. It was a really intense period of time, partly because we had to write five of the songs whilst we were doing it. We didn't have all the time in the world to record the album but it was brilliant, we worked so well under that pressure and clearly delivered an album we are just immensely proud of. We are starting to have thoughts about recording the next album now.
CM: Would you approach the recording in the same way again?
Charles: We aren't the kind of band to write half of the next album on the back of the tour bus. So we suppose the record label will give us a time limit they'll come and say "you have 2 months to record the next record" in that allocated 2 months we'll put 500% into doing that and I don't think any of us will look back after doing that again and say "we could have done it better" because I know we give our all to everything we do but when it comes to writing that's business to us.
Jack: For us, most of our songs are finished in the studio because of the way they're written. When writing new songs Harry will be playing the keyboards and singing and obviously live he plays guitar so usually the thing that is added last to our process is the guitar parts and that usually doesn't occur until we get into the studio. "Death" was built up over 6 months and some of the final sounds and layers weren't added until the final recording sessions.
CM: You are busy touring for the foreseeable future and have some great gigs coming up, including American dates, Coachella and UK festivals in the summer. How's that feel?
Charles: Brilliant. It's great to be going over to America we've been over there twice already but not in the same way at all, just the odd show here and there where as this time it's a pretty intense tour. I don't see America as a place where you can have any kind of instant ripple effect it is such a big place and most Americans have a set taste in a certain style of American music. Although, there is a lot of great music fans that are already aware of us and lots of other British and European bands. We see touring America as "the next step" in at least trying to make some kind of ground out there. In terms of the festivals Coachella just looks amazing we've heard so much about it and are really excited to be playing there. All our girlfriends and friends are coming out for that one.
CM: The album stands out as a very strong debut album - one to equal the debuts by some great bands down the years - what bands have been essential listening for you - and what bands have been integral to the writing and recording processes of the White Lies project?
Charles: We don't really tend to take influence from other bands when writing and recording. That said the quality of music made by other bands inspires us to keep being musicians. We all have different tastes in music and favourite bands. I guess at the moment we like listening to Blonde Redhead, The first Secret Machines album (speaking of great first records) and some Nick Cave stuff we've been playing recently. There's no denying that subconsciously that you do get steered in a certain direction be it musically, lyrically or just with the atmosphere of the song you're creating but it certainly isn't a conscious thing for us.
CM: You are a band that can really play - the song writing and musicianship is of a high standard. How did you start out and how have you evolved as musicians and what advice would you give to fledgling musicians just starting out?
Charles: We started out about six years ago so we have really been at it for a long time now. We've always been in a band, even when we couldn't really play we had a band - even when playing in bedrooms and stuff. For that reason we're a very tight gang of musicians - we really know how each other plays and we've seen every stage of our evolution as musicians and now we're a bunch of talented guys. What has also come from playing with each other for so long is you learn one of the most important musical lessons and that's self restraint. Whether it's when you start learning an instrument or when you start a band there's always a tendancy to show off a bit - we've learned now that understated is better. If Jack and Harry are writing a song and they tell me the track doesn't need any bass for the first two and a half minutes I'm perfectly happy with that, there's no egos with our musicianship - we're completely dedicated to crafting a brilliant song and if that means sacrifice of instruments, parts or sections of the song we liked you have to go "you know what? the song will be great without it" and let the space do the talking. It's taken us six years to get to that point.
Charles: As far as advice for young musicians goes - my advice would be "don't get your hopes up" I know that sounds morbid but I think it's good to start out with little expectation of what commercial success your music will bring you. Good music is a very personal thing and every songwriter wants other people to enjoy their music but it is really about enjoying it yourself.
Jack: Learn to take your time with these things - it doesn't happen overnight. If you think you've got to a stage where you should be playing your music to record labels you should really wait for them to contact you. Forcing somebody to get into your music is one of the most off-putting things and if your band is ready - you will be discovered. This way you can stay in control and it's your career so protect it.