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Interview: White Lies
Published on August 12th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
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Today sees the release of White Lies’ third album Big TV, so we caught up with the band’s drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown for a bit of a natter about it all…
How’s your summer been in terms of festivals? Could you name any particular highlights?
The last one we did, in Norway a few days ago, was absolutely sensational. Probably my favourite festival that we’ve played, even though it meant I had to miss QPR’s first game of the season! I’m very pleased that it was worth the trip.
It was a tiny festival out on the fjords but everything about it was amazing. We got a day off there so we went swimming in the fjords, running in the mountains, they’ve got helicopter rides to the festival over the ocean; it’s pretty spectacular.
I haven’t heard the new album yet but I’ve heard different things about it, like that it’s your most melodic yet, but also that it’s got heavy metal guitars on it. What’s your take on it?
I don’t think the heavy metal influence comes through too much. That was probably more Charles making a few funny comments!
It’s a classic White Lies album, definitely our strongest album. It’s aiming for what we were aiming for with the first record, which is a lot more energy and a lot less production.
So it’s quite a raw-sounding record, but at the same time there are pop songs all over it. There are probably three of the poppiest, most melodic songs we’ve ever written on there.
I’m pretty much happy with every song on the record at the moment, which is a nice way to feel about it.
I read some quotes from Harry where he was saying that you were aiming to write a song that could be on a karaoke machine in thirty years’ time. In your opinion, which is ‘the one’?
I think we all secretly hope that our next single “First Time Caller” is going to be something that people really connect with.
It’s definitely the most melodic song that we’ve ever written but it’s also quite a big sidestep for what we do in terms of releasing singles, because it’s really sort of a ballad.
Its melody is really catchy though, and it’s got big hooks in it so that’s probably what Harry was talking about when he said that: writing a song with a timeless meldoy.
If you can whistle it then I think you’ve got a great melody, and I think it’s got a very whistlable chorus.
Is it true that there’s a narrative running through the album? Something loosely following, and I quote: “a couple who leave an unidentified provincial European area for a bigger, more glamorous city”.
Yeah, that’s true. It’s funny; since Charles explains that, it’s been lauded as a bit of a concept album. In a way it is, but at the same time I think if Charles hadn’t mentioned that then no one would have picked up on it because it’s not a complete narrative.
It doesn’t start at the beginning and end at the end: each song is a little snapshot from this concept which he had, a little fragment from that story. So it is conceptual, but it’s not quite a prog rock album!
I think it’s a nice way of writing, though; it means that all the songs are linked and are part of the same story, which in some way ties the album together.
What was the thinking behind titling the album BIG TV and styling it all in capitals?
We just wanted to have a bit of fun with the title more than anything. It’s also the title of the first track on the album and it’s probably one of the most exciting songs on the record. It also touches on all the lyrical themes that we wanted to touch on, so it suits it in that respect.
We just wanted a title that stood out but that at the same time was quite ambiguous. Every person I’ve spoken to about the record has asked me why it’s called BIG TV, and that’s sort of part of the reason why: it’s a really intriguing title.
There’s something quite ’80s about it; it’s quite a pompous-sounding title, I think.
Why did you decide to go back to working with Ed Buller?
We wanted to work with Ed again because on the last record, Ritual, I think we decided that we spent too much time working on production.
If you listen to that album, the sound is incredible – it’s one of the best-sounding records I own, I think – but I think what it lacked was that some of the songs were not quite up to scratch.
Ed is a fantastic composer and songwriter – he’s got that in his arsenal – and we wanted to work with someone who wouldn’t let a song on the album if it wasn’t up to standard.
He was a really useful person to have as a sounding board; he was involved right from the start and he’d tell us whether he thought a song was up to scratch or whether we had to go back to it and work on it for a bit longer.
He never let us put a song on the album unless he felt it was as strong as we could manage.
In 2010, yourselves and Twisted Wheel were the first high-profile bands to play at Peter Hook’s FAC251 club. How did that come about?
I remember that, that was weird! We just got asked if we wanted to do it by whoever it was that bought up the venue and put it back together. We said, “Yeah, we’ll definitely do it, but our production is quite big so will we be able to fit into the venue and on the stage?” They said, “Yeah, we’ll make sure it works.”
We decided to do it because we love playing shows in Manchester – it’s one of the best gigs in the UK, Manchester shows – then as soon as we signed up to do it there was a ridiculous amount of ticket applications.
It blew our minds, actually; I think there were over thirty-five thousand people that applied for tickets for it, and the venue’s capacity was only 450. So we thought it was a good decision to play as there’d be people there who really wanted to be there.
We treated it like we treat any of our shows, really, except it was much, much smaller. We’ve been enjoying doing that recently; we did a few tiny shows in London to promote the new album, and it’s been a great experience to play when you’re face-to-face with the audience and you can see every person in the crowd. It’s a good feeling.
Finally, which have been your favourite albums of 2013 so far?
I was thinking about this the other day. There have been a few that I think are really good. Phosphorescent’s Muchacho album is one I’ve listened to a lot, and the new Austra album is really good. I think they’re great.
There’s an album by a guy called Damien Jurado that I thought was really nice, singer/songwriter kind of thing, and also the new John Grant album is very good. John Grant is someone that we look up to massively, he’s definitely influenced some of the songs on this album.
Jack Lawrence-Brown, thank you.
BIG TV is out now on Polydor Ltd.