Interview White Lies: ‘I Don’t Like Joy Division’

Metal music, touring Tibet and playing with Kings of Leon.

Back with a new album, new single and a new take on their trademark dark europhoric sound, White Lies have stumbled back on to our radar. DIY catches up with Charlie to talk metal music, touring Tibet and playing with Kings of Leon.

Congratulations on your return to the charts with the new album ‘Ritual’. How did you approach this record differently to ‘To Lose My Life’?
We approached this record with very little agenda or tangible ‘idea’. We hadn’t written a single note of music in two years so I think we found a lot of excitement from the thought of not being able to write anymore! However, after we sat down, made some coffee and opened a new folder on the computer, we wrote ‘Turn The Bells’. Then the next day, ‘Come Down’; then the next day ‘Is Love’. Five weeks later we loaded our equipment into a London studio with a fully written record and a very good plan of how to best record it. That whole process is as different as you can get from the first record where we were over-analysing everything and really very unprepared in the studio.

Harry said he started listening to metal music before writing the album. Which albums/bands were you listening to and how did that help your creative outlook?
I had always pushed metal on my band members and after many years, it was Harry who took the bait. We went to see Opeth play their Albert Hall show in London during the writing period. At the end of the day, we love heavy music, it does something different to you. It’s like dance music in that the response is hugely physical. You just want to hit things and smash your head into the car seat in front of you. We both got really into ‘Heavy Breathing’, which is an album by Black Breath. It’s sludgy, heavy and delicious.

How different would this album have sounded if Alan Moulder hadn’t produced it?
I think it would have sounded different but not a world away. We had very, very accomplished demos when going into the studio. We also had Max Dingel, our good friend and long time collaborator, engineering the album and producing too so we were always going to be safe.

The new record is called ‘Ritual’ and your last album had songs like ‘To Lose My Life’ and ‘Death’ - what do you think happens to us when we die?
I think we rot in the ground. BUT I think when you look at life as we know it on a sub-atomic level, everything is connected all the time. My arm is just as much another persons arm as it is mine really. So therefore I think the idea of reincarnation, if so you take it with a keg of salt, is probably the closest thing to what I believe in.

You were high school friends that formed a band. Where were Fear of Flying like in school?
I didn’t have many friends in my school. I don’t think anyone from my school ever saw Fear Of Flying. I hung out all the time with Jack and Harry who went to a different school and all my other friends were there too. To be perfectly honest I don’t think any of our friends thought we would ever be doing this now.

In previous interviews, you’ve talked about how your sound changed so you changed your name to White Lies. Does this affect the kind of music you put out under the WL moniker?
There is definitely some material created that we haven’t been brave enough to put under the White Lies name. I think I’d love to start some more bands, even if it is just with Harry and Jack. There’s no better time to have loads of projects going on than now. Musicians have been doing that for years.

You went to Tibet this year and wrote ‘Turn The Bells’ about your experiences there. What was the most fascinating thing about your trip?
Oh, everything really! It’s so hard to pinpoint anything out of such an incredible experience. I think I was most surprised however, by how unpeaceful Buddhism really is and how wrong Westerners understanding of it is. It’s really quite violent and fear-mongering.

Having recently completed a film shown on 4 Music, is soundtracking one of your ambitions as a band?
Sure, I am open to trying anything. Hook me up with Andrey Zvyaginstev and I’ll see what I can do.

You’ve toured with some huge bands (Coldplay, Kings of Leon, Muse) and shared a bill with Jay-Z. What was your best experience as a support band and why?
Probably our tour of America with Kings. We were constantly aware that most of the cities we played it, we would never visit if it wasn’t for being with them so that felt very special. They treated us very well indeed and just made the atmosphere as family-like as possible. That’s what we try and do with anyone who comes out with us.

In the past, you’ve mentioned that you’re not fans of Joy Division, Interpol or Editors. What is it about these bands that you are not so fond of? Why do you think people compare you to them?
I don’t personally like the ‘punk’ qualities to Joy Division much. I have never been a fan of punk music. My favourite Ramones album is ‘Too Tough To Die’, put it that way. And I have just never got round to listening to an Editors record. Loads of people seem to love them so I am sure they’re good at what they do. I think people compare us to them because Harry sings in a baritone and we are I suppose some of our songs and instrumentation is quite melancholic.

Which 4 songs would be on your Desert Island Discs? Talking Heads are a given.
I think I would go for Deus - Instant Street, Alicia Keys - Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart, REM - Perfect Circle, Seal - Kiss From A Rose

‘Strangers’, the new single from White Lies, is out on 21st March 2011.

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