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IN CONVERSATION: White Lies (Part One)

Since breaking through in 2009 with their Number One debut album, To Lose My LifeWhite Lies have quietly gone about the business of releasing another four Top 20 albums and amassing a devoted fan base who will no doubt be awaiting the release of the band’s excellent new album As I Try Not To Fall Apart, which hits record shops and streaming services on 18th February.

Harry McVeigh (vocals / guitar), Charles Cave (bass) and Jack Lawrence-Brown chatted to God Is In The TV about the new record, being back on stage and…Trevor Horn.

GIITTV: It’s been three years since your last album, Five; is that because of all the stuff that’s been going on in the World, or would it have been three years anyway?

CC: I feel like it would have been two years probably; I feel like we would have had something out by the beginning of 2021, if we’d had to…if we’d have had a tour booked in, we would have got it done.

Have you missed being on stage?  I know you did some gigs in the end last year…

JL-B: Only in the last few months have I really felt that I do miss it, doing the live shows, but I think that’s probably because now the album feels more real now it’s finished, there’s so much chat in our emails about what single’s next, how we’re going to get vinyl because of the great vinyl shortage – it makes you just want to put all that shit to one side and just go and play some music and not have to constantly think about logistics, which is the stage we are at at the moment. I think we’ve had a lot of these songs now for so long, I feel a bit desperate really to see if people like them on the stage. I always feel that half way through a White Lies tour we really hit our stride and the whole process becomes a lot more enjoyable.

Was the actual recording of the album interrupted by the pandemic at all?

HM: I think it definitely forced us apart a bit at the beginning in a weird sort of way, even though it didn’t really have to – you get into that kind of mindset. Before the lockdown, it would have been no problem for me to go to Charles’ place for example; it’s half an hour on the train, but then after lockdown your mentality changes. First of all you’re thinking “Should I be doing that?”, travelling on the train, and it takes a little while to get out of that mindset. I feel like before we went in to record anything, we were kind of forced apart a little bit more than we’re used to.

We did the first session in September 2020, we were sort of thrown into the studio, but at a time when we thought we were five or six months from touring again, so we were a bit under the cosh thinking we had to get an album ready, get it done. I’m not sure we’ve ever really been in that situation before – even though we have been under pressure to make music before, in the past I feel like we’ve always been more prepared than we were on this album. But then the tour was pushed back six months and then another six months, and we had some budget left so did another batch of recordings. So the album is like a tale of two halves, even though the songs are all mixed up together. There’s a lot of variation on there and a lot of different feelings, different vibes, for want of a better word.

Is there anything left in the vaults for the expanded edition?

CC: There’s a few bits, yeah, a few bits that are unfinished that we will probably finish at some point.

HM: I think we came away with fifteen tracks didn’t we, actually recorded?

CC: Yeah, there’s a few extras. Labels are always really keen to do that ‘special edition’ type thing, and they always want to do it six months down the line, because it gives the album another life and I kind of get that, but I don’t know how much that really works! I feel like it might be more interesting for us to choose those off-cuts that we like the most and then maybe write a couple of new things as well and do an E.P. or something like that. I don’t know if we’ll get the chance to do that but it just feels a little more intentional than ‘let’s throw all the vegetable peelings back into the dish!’A couple of the tracks at least were contenders for the album, we actually found ourselves a little constricted by the vinyl run time. 

If you hear the album on vinyl there’s actually less silence between the tracks, as we had to jam them all together to fit it on the vinyl, even as it is with the ten tracks. There was no way we were going to fit any more songs on the vinyl, so it would be weird to have the vinyl as one album but then have two extra songs on the CD, so we made the best possible ten track record and will assess the other material later on.

As a consumer, I quite like a ten track album…

HM: An album doesn’t need to be longer than 50 minutes anyway…

CC: I agree – I always go for a walk in the evening, it’s usually about 45 minutes long and I listen to one album usually, that’s my walk – one regular length album and then I’m done!

HM: With very few exceptions, it’s hard to write an hour and a half’s worth of music that’s all really good quality.

I think that the new album is the most varied White Lies album yet; ‘Blue Drift’ reminded me a little of a-ha.

JL-B: Yeah, it’s a bit ‘80s film sound track’

HM: It’s not a million miles away from something like ABC as well…a completely different vocal style, but the backing is quite ABC, I think!

Would you consider getting Trevor Horn in to do the next album then?

CC: Didn’t we meet him once?

JL-B: We met Trevor Horn once before, making Friends maybe…it was an interesting meeting and he’s an interesting guy and he has a wealth of knowledge but I don’t think that we really clicked with him to be honest.

CC: I seem to remember him talking about one of our songs from the second album, and saying “I’ve just been listening to this song from your second album and really think you’ve got something here and could re-work this” and we were like “What? It’s a five year old song!”

HM: I think it’s more like there would have been a clash between him and us. He’s made some incredible records, some moments have resonated in pop music history, but he likes to work on his own agenda; he’ll take a little crumb of a song you’ve written and turn it into this epic pop song, but you won’t really have anything to do with that, and maybe perform on it a little bit and that will be it! I don’t think that would have really worked for us.

When you make tracks from the album available on streaming platforms ahead of the album’s release, do you consider those tracks as ‘the singles’?

JL-B: I think singles just depend on what the label wants to push, really.

HM: Singles have no relevancy to a band like us.  We try to put out a good taster for the album. It’s not really about getting on the radio any more. Or climbing the charts.

CC: ‘I Don’t Want To Go To Mars’ isn’t a single, is it? Our label don’t call that a single. It’s just semantics, it makes no difference, surely!

JL-B: The weird thing about that is that ‘I Don’t Want To Go To Mars’ was not considered a proper single, but of the tracks we’ve released it’s the one that’s somehow been picked up for radio play in Italy of all places. I’m not going to say it’s a hit, but it’s the track that’s got proper traction over there.

HM: It’s not just in Italy either, I don’t think, it’s Poland and the Netherlands!

JL-B: When we release music on to the internet, our first thought is “Will our fans like it, what’s the response from our fan base going to be?” If it has a little moment somewhere and jumps across into general consciousness in a country, then we might get lucky with that. The UK radio stations abandoned White Lies a long time ago, and that’s, by the way, absolutely fine, it’s never mattered less to artists like us, I think.

Part 2 of this interview will be published in the coming days.

As I Try Not To Fall Apart  was released by PIAS on the 18th February 2022.
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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.