White Lies
Live @ Oxford Zodiac
October 6, 2008
Interview & Photography: Steve Bateman

“I love the feeling when we lift off…” is the opening line from White Lies’ second single, Death, and it could well turn out to be the most prophetic lyric that the West London trio – Harry McVeigh (guitar / vocals), Charles Cave (bass) and Jack Brown (drums) – ever write!

Because the band are well on their way to solidifying their status as the new ‘emperors of the elegiac’, following in the hallowed footsteps of doom and gloom forefathers, Joy Division. Portentous alternative ‘80s torchbearers / pioneers such as The Cure, The Teardrop Explodes, Echo & The Bunnymen and Tears For Fears. And the modern day sepulchral ‘Goth’ and pining restlessness of Interpol and Editors.

For if you were to place each of these pivotal acts’ individual, maudlin musical elements into a frothing test tube concoction, in the right hands, the results could only lead to one possible conclusion. That this is a formula which is going to provide someone – in this case White Lies – with the perfect nucleus for greatness! But make no mistake about White Lies’ authenticity, for with a distinctly dark aesthetic and black blood slithering through their veins, the group’s “very natural” and magnetising musical odysseys, are punctuated with McVeigh’s pensive, baritone vocals and joined at the hip with sombre, sorrowful and forlorn words.

To summarise then, every last dramatic grain that you’ll see and hear from White Lies, is an efficacious and thunderous tour-de-force, with grieving guitars, shadowy synths, brooding bass and disconsolate drums all spinning on a pop axis. Which verifies that the band are bona fide kindred spirits who respect how things were and are, but dream of how things could be!

Formerly going under the guise of Fear Of Flying – "an experimental growing-up passage in getting to White Lies" – the catalyst for change, or turning point if you will, came when the three friends (since school) wrote Unfinished Business. And if they ever needed any kind of reassurance that they’d made the right decision, the song in question, saw them welcomed with open arms by a number of important British music publications and impressively, also made Music Week's ‘Top 10 Tracks Of 2007’.

Although these favourable column inches helped generate thousands of MySpace hits, in reality, they became a double-edged sword, as some people were quick to denounce White Lies as a mere ‘buzz band’ submerged in hyperbole. Speaking to Contact Music at the time, chief lyricist Charles mindfully retaliated, “On our MySpace page we were conscious about giving very little away about the band; none of the individual members' names are listed, there's no biography or history, only two songs on there and no photographs. That's why I think it's fair to say any hype about the band has been created purely on the music, nothing else.”

Now signed to Fiction Records, White Lies have everything in its right place to become international contenders, with the group’s name chosen as “white lies are common, but quite dark” – which is how they see themselves. Currently on their first major UK Headline Tour (with support coming from another of my favourites, The Joy Formidable), I sat down with Harry at White Lies’ Oxford Zodiac pit stop and later met Charles and Jack, just before the affable and loquacious trio, graced the stage in regulation black uniform and played an awe-inspiring set!

The band’s debut album, To Lose My Life Or Lose My Love – a serious statement if ever there was one – is slated for release early next year, and with a momentous appearance on Later… with Jools Holland already under their belts, there’s no question that throughout 2009, the name on everybody’s lips will be White Lies.

And to think, they’re not even yet in full-bloom…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.NME Radio was recently launched and after topping a readers online poll, Muse’s Knights Of Cydonia was the first track to ever be played – but if the decision had been yours, which song would you have launched the station with?
“Wow, that’s a big question to start with (laughing)! I would go for (pausing), it would have to be a big radio hit I guess, as it’s starting a new radio station, so I… God, I don’t know (long pause + thinking)? Radio Ga Ga by Queen (jokingly)! No, Knights Of Cydonia is a really good choice actually (long pause + thinking). Maybe The Killing Moon, because we’re all big fans of Echo & The Bunnymen.”

2.What’s guaranteed to make you turn the radio up… and off?
“Well, collectively as a band – and they’re a band who are played on the radio all of the time – we don’t really like The Wombats that much. If The Wombats came on the radio, that would be something that would make me turn it off (laughing)! But turning it up, Kings Of Leon - Sex On Fire, I think that song’s fantastic!”

3.Some people believe that ‘necessity breeds the greatest creativity’ – be it a need for escapism, or a need to express their innermost thoughts and emotions – is this something that you would agree with?
“Yeah! I think definitely at the moment, there’s nothing else that we could be doing with our lives at all, so it is definitely a necessity that we make music. I mean there is literally nothing else that I could think of, that I would really want to do. So, I suppose it is a necessity at the moment. Yeah.”

4.Why did you hire Ed Buller and Max Dingel to produce your debut album, and did you feel any pressure writing / recording songs for it?
“Ed Buller and Max Dingel were good friends of ours – very good friends of ours! We recorded a lot of demos with both of them actually, early on with White Lies and even further back than that. Obviously Ed was a very renowned producer – especially in the early ‘90s with Suede, and Max Dingel is a fantastic engineer – it was his first production job actually on our album. We just thought we’d put them together, as sort of two sides of the coin. Ed is a very, very creative person, he’s got very wild ideas and is very ambitious, and then Max is the same, but more to do with the actual sounds of everything, and that’s something else that we’re really interested in – creating amazing sounds and making everything sound incredible! It was a very enjoyable experience, because we’re all good friends with each other, but it was also very hard work and obviously at times, you have the odd argument, because you’re in a very confined situation and space when you’re recording, and you can get on each other’s nerves very easily. But overall, it was a very enjoyable experience, yeah!”
*The revered Alan Moulder (The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smashing Pumpkins, NIN, Marilyn Manson) mixed White Lies debut album*

5.Was the record planned in your head and how important is studio technology to you?
“We had 5 songs finished before we went in to record the album, that we’d demoed with Ed and Max earlier on in the year and the year before. So, we had to write most of the album while we were in the studio – it’s a 10 track album – so we had half of it ready and we had to write and prepare the other half (pausing), we had a few bits and bobs, but most of it was written in the studio. Some of it was very planned and then using what we’d planned for that, and the sounds we used for that, we took that to the other songs and made everything as coherent as possible.”

6.One of the most outstanding aspects of White Lies’ music, is your extraordinary voice – but which vocalists do you find inspiring?
“Thank You very much (smiling). I’d say Scott Walker is one of the singers that I most admire.”

7.Of all the records you own, which have you played the most?
“At the moment, we obviously listen to a lot of Echo & The Bunnymen – that’s something that we always listen to a lot. But The Secret Machines’ first album (Now Here Is Nowhere), is probably the one that I’ve played the most through the years since I’ve owned it. I always go back to it and I listen to it every now and again. So yeah, that would be one that I listen to over and over.”

8.MySpace Music has just gone live in the USA – with the UK version set to launch very soon – and the new service enables artists and bands to upload and stream their entire back catalogues on their profile pages, with links to amazon.com to buy songs etc. Do you think this is a positive step?

“That’s a fantastic idea (excitedly)! That sounds like an amazing idea! It’s great to be able to listen to music online (pausing), I don’t know if you know about the website The Hype Machine (www.hypem.com)? That’s fantastic, but obviously on MySpace, it would be amazing to just go through and listen to artists’ and band’s whole back catalogues! I mean the only danger is that people might be able to get their hands on songs without paying for them, but I don’t think there will be too much of a problem with that. It’ll be really cool to be able to do that – I mean you’ll be able to properly MySpace DJ then, you could do a whole DJ Set! It’ll be great!”

9.For me, the name of a band has always been important and I think White Lies is one of the very best! But which groups do you think have striking names?
“Echo & The Bunnymen is a fantastic name for a band, it’s very strange and that’s why it’s very striking. Again going back (pausing), it’s all our favourite bands really (laughing), they’ve got great names! I mean The Secret Machines is a fantastic name for a band, Interpol is a fantastic name for a band, Joy Division is a fantastic name for a band – it’s not something I listen to as much – but yeah, there are a lot of striking names out there.”

10.And in reference to your band name, what’s the biggest white lie that you’ve ever told?

“Oh, we always get asked this (laughing). I don’t know? I don’t really tell that many lies to be honest. But a white lie, would have to be something like when someone gives you a present that you don’t really like and you just say, “Thank You very much, I really like it, it’s great!” And then you chuck it away the next day or something (laughing). But that’s just normal. No, I’m not a big liar (laughing).”

11.Do you have any hobbies outside of the band?
“Well, there’s a difference between being at home and being on tour. On tour, we just try and keep ourselves (pausing), not busy, but we try and do loads of different things. I don’t know, like you go bowling one night, or you Go-carting or something. You have to keep doing different things as a group, otherwise, you end up getting into the same routine everyday, and it gets really demanding and you start to sort of fall out with each other and stuff. So we try and keep ourselves very busy when we’re on tour. I guess when I’m at home, I just listen to music and occasionally, I might go to an art gallery or go to the cinema.”

12.What is the one thing that you couldn’t live without?

“I don’t know (thinking)? Probably my hearing, but I think every musician would say that – I think that would be my worst nightmare, if I lost my hearing. A material possession would probably be my guitars – I do love my guitars (smiling)!”

13.There was a recent discussion about how so many different musical avenues have now been explored, that there may never be another innovative musical movement. Would you agree with this?
“No, I think that’s complete rubbish! I think most musical movements have revisited something in the past anyway – you can always trace things back to their roots. It’s always been done before in various different ways, so I think that’s rubbish! With technology being what it is, music is always moving at a faster and faster pace and in new directions, so who knows what’s going to happen in 10 years time? It could be very strange, and I think that will make a big difference on the music in the future.”

14.Some people also feel that the significance of lyrics is being lost through downloading, due to a smaller number of music buyers looking at CD booklets, or incorrect words being posted on websites. Are lyrics important to you?

“Lyrics are important to me, but that kind of thing can depend on the space in a song, and with our songs, we do try and leave a lot of space, so that the lyrics can actually come through and people can hear them clearly. And that’s something that I aim for when I sing as well, to try and get the lyrics across as clearly as possible. For some bands though, lyrics aren’t as important as the music, so then, it doesn’t really matter whether you hear them or not.”
*I ask Harry if he likes the Manic Street Preachers, saying that I think they have some really great and interesting lyrics in their songs*
“Yes, they do.”

15.Do you have an opinion on ‘careerism’ in music and what would you say the ratio is, between musicians who make music for love and musicians who make music for money?
“I think that if you don’t love the music that you’re making, then you’re less likely to make money – I think the two probably go hand-in-hand. You won’t have a career in music unless you love doing it, and you’re not going to make money unless you love doing it! I think the band who makes loads and loads of money, without being passionate about what they’re doing, is a myth.”

16.Do you think indie music is now beginning to return to its independent roots?

“Yeah! I mean labels like Domino, are an example of a big independent label competing with major labels, especially with new signings. So definitely, and I hope it continues, because it’s definitely a good thing! It spurs originality – from the way bands are marketed, to the way that they look and even sometimes, to the way a record sounds. It’s a very important and good thing! Maybe indie music will steadily return to its independent roots, who knows?”

17.What posters did you have on your bedroom walls as you were growing up?

“None of them were bands actually, most of the posters that I bought, were for art exhibitions. That’s going to sound really pretentious – I’m going to sound like a real loser (laughing). My Mum was a big influence on me in that way and when I was really young, she used to buy me posters and I put them on my wall, and I’ve never taken them down. I’ve got a Gilbert & George poster on my wall – they’re fantastic – and various others (laughing). I can’t remember all of them!”
*I ask Harry if he likes Mark Rothko*
“I do, yeah, but I wouldn’t buy a poster I don’t think – it’s not the same unless you go and see the originals in real life – they’re amazing!”
*I mention White Lies’ artwork and how it reminds me of Peter Saville’s sleeves for New Order*
“Yeah, we collaborated with a design company (Big Active) who came up with the art direction for our sleeves.”

18.Who was the last band that you obsessed over?
“I think I’d have to say, that the band I’ve been most obsessed with in my life – I don’t necessarily listen to them as much anymore – is probably Queens Of The Stone Age. I remember when I was a younger teenager, 14, 15, 16, I used to listen to them a lot! I used to buy all of their albums and I used to try and get to as many shows as I could. So yeah, Queens Of The Stone Age are probably the band who I have been most obsessed with in my life at a particular time. Josh Homme is a legend!”

19.As a music fan, what’s the furthest distance that you’ve ever travelled to see a gig?

“Um (long pause + thinking), God, I don’t know? It’s not far actually, because we’ve been in bands in various forms since we were like 16, 17 and we started to pick up tours when we were 18, 19. So when you do that, you see bands all of the time anyway – when you start getting into it properly. So maybe when I was younger, because I made the trek to Reading – which for me, was a big deal because I was pretty young when I first went to Reading Festival. I really enjoyed sleeping in a tent when I was younger (laughing), but now, because of this Summer – I did it once – we played at Latitude Festival and went down a day early and stayed in a tent overnight, and it wasn’t as good as I remembered it being. It was kind of uncomfortable, cold and wet (laughing).”

20.In order to warm-up an audience before a group takes to the stage, what songs should the ultimate pre-gig Mixtape have on it?
“We tried a few songs actually earlier on this year, and one of them was Portishead - Machine Gun, I think that’s a great song for setting the mood (smiling)! It’s really pounding and almost quite heavy, even though it’s just drums, a few synth bars and the vocals. Um (thinking), it depends what band you’re setting it up for. I would go with – not for us – but maybe for another band, Queens Of The Stone Age - Go With The Flow. Or The Secret Machines would be a good one, even for us, because you can really feel their music! But yeah, it would really depend on the band.”

21.Some of White Lies’ songs have already been remixed by acts such as Crystal Castles. But if you could handpick any artist or band to remix one of your tracks, who would it be and would you like to return the favour?

“Oh God, that’s a good question! It would have to be a band or artist who’s good at remixing I think…”
*I say to Harry that I really love Crystal Castles’ remix of Death*
“Yeah, I think that’s great! It’s weird, because before we started the NME New Noise Tour and toured with Crystal Castles, it was suggested and I was a bit edgy, because I had never really heard of them before and what I had heard of them by word of mouth, was something completely different to what they’re actually like. And when we got that remix back, I thought it was amazing! It’s a fantastic adaptation of that song, how they’ve changed it, and I think they’re a great band now as well, after seeing them live on that tour – they’re fantastic! Who else would I like to remix one of our songs (thinking)? I don’t know (laughing)? A huge breakthrough song at the time I think, was the song Windowlicker by Aphex Twin – hearing what he did on that song is incredible! The use of those electronic sounds, was something that had never been done before – it was completely original and amazing to listen to! I don’t think he’s ever really done remixes, so I would be honoured and I’d be very interested to listen to a White Lies remix done by Aphex Twin. But, I couldn’t return the favour (laughing), I couldn’t even start – I’ll leave it to him (laughing)!”

22.Are there any musicians that you admire, who have told you that they’re fans of your music?
“I don’t think we’re actually big enough as a band yet for that to happen – we’ve only been around for a year and we haven’t released our album, so there’s nothing for people to grasp onto really. So no, we haven’t really, but I hope that it will happen!”

23.If you had the opportunity to interview another artist or band, who would it be and why?
“Um (thinking), Josh Homme would be one person that I’d love to interview, and Jack White would be cool. I listened to both of those bands around the same time and around the same age. I think Jack White is incredibly talented – he’s a really cool guy and a really cool guitar player and The White Stripes are a really cool band as well! So yeah, it would be one of them and I’d probably ask, “How do you do it?” But, I don’t think I could do it, I’d be too terrified (laughing)!”

24.Of your musical peers, who do you think are most likely to have longevity?

“There’s quite a few I think. I hope Glasvegas make it properly and have a proper career out of it, because I do really like their first album and also, I think they’ve got so many more directions that they could go in after it – I think they’ll do amazing and I’m just looking forward to hearing what they do next. We’re also supporting them at the end of the year, so it will be nice to see how well the tour goes down, and how they’re received by the people who come to see them. But there are loads of bands that I would love to see make it, Post War Years is one of them, The Joy Formidable obviously – they’re the two support bands who we’ve taken on tour with us, and they’ve been amazing every night! It’s been really cool (smiling)!”

25.Ultimately, what are the most important elements that you would like White Lies’ music to have?
“I definitely see it evolving, I just don’t know what into yet – we’ll just see what takes our fancy. At some point – if we get to this point obviously – the third or fourth album, I’d like to do something very lush with strings, similar to Echo & The Bunnymen - Ocean Rain kind of thing. We’re all really into Scott Walker as well, and I think the string arrangements on that are incredible – it would be really cool at some point, to be able to do something like that! I mean obviously that’s a long way down the line, it’s a pipe dream at the moment, but maybe one day…”

26.Lastly, chips or cream buns?


A very special thanks to Harry, Charles and Jack, to White Lies’ Tour Manager Giggsy and to Carl @ Coalition, for all of their time and help.

Oxford Set List

Farewell To The Fairground
To Lose My Life
Unfinished Business
From The Stars
A Place To Hide
50 On Our Foreheads
The Price Of Love



“You’ve got blood on your hands and I know it’s mine
I just need more time
So get off your low and let’s dance like we used to”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?