Interview White Lies: ‘It’s Good To Get Nervous’

White Lies are going prime time for ‘BIG TV’ and they’re holding their own.

The reason White Lies are big, it seems, is because they know what they’re doing. They know their music, and they know their audience. ‘I think it’s just the right crowd for White Lies’ music,’ a jetlagged Harry McVeigh explains of their excitement at playing the Main Stage at Reading & Leeds Festival for the first time. ‘Lots of young teenagers who are into rock music I suppose, and White Lies is essentially rock music.’

Of course, the frontman still has some reservations about it. “It’s very difficult to know what to expect. It’s one of the big festivals in the UK, so it’s always slightly nerve-wracking to walk out on a massive crowd like that, and you have to work that little bit harder to win everyone round. Hopefully we won’t get pelted off the stage with bottles of piss or anything.”

If the whole of new album ‘BIG TV’ is as good as the singles preceding it, they shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Well, apart from the fact that they can apparently only play half the record live. “We haven’t done too many interviews on this album yet,’ Harry laughs, ‘so I’ve still got lots to talk about,” which explains why he gives such great answers. They don’t sound pre-prepared or memorised; Harry really is just so excited about their new album that he can’t shut up about it.

“We worked on this album longer than we worked on any of our other records. We spent a year on it, all in all,” he says. “For the most part we’ve loved the whole process of it, making an album again. We’ve really loved making an album with Ed Buller again, who made our first album. When you pour so much hard work and dedication into a record, and enjoy making it so much, you just can’t wait for it to come out, to see what everyone’s going to think of it.”

White Lies might’ve gone back to an old producer, but that’s where the similarities seem to end between ‘BIG TV’ and its predecessors. They’ve done some growing up, as the well-spoken Harry explains. “I think we learned a lot from our first and second records. But I suppose it’s the same with anyone, growing up. The experiences we’ve had in the last four, five years are vast. We’ve travelled to so many different places and met so many kinds of people. We’ve grown up, a lot, we’ve matured, as anyone would from the ages of 19 to 25.’

There’s also a story element plays a big role in ‘BIG TV’, both in the album and the title-track, which doubles as the opener. “Lyrically that song sums up the album for me,” says Harry. “Charles came up with this concept for the lyrics that he wrote, which is basically the idea of this young girl leaving her home town. It’s implied that it’s maybe somewhere Eastern European, but basically, somewhere small and very rural. She leaves it for a big city, thinking that a lot of the problems she has in her life will magically disappear when she experiences the modern life and the opportunities of the big city.

“The song ‘BIG TV’ is a particular part of her story, and it’s about her longing… for a big TV, basically. She lives in a shitty apartment somewhere, and she doesn’t have any money, but she thinks that the ideal way to display what she perceives as her new status, or the ultimate object of desire is this big TV. So she buys a big TV, and has it in her crappy apartment. And then she realises, as everyone does, it doesn’t really mean anything.

“You see objects like that every day, it could be a flash car or a nice watch. It’s meant to impart status but it doesn’t mean anything. That whole idea sums up her whole story, and it’s such a great lyrical introduction to the record.”

You probably won’t see White Lies driving around in flash cars or sporting beefy watches any time soon then. But you might catch them scouring galleries and admiring art, as Harry explains the choice for the front cover of ‘BIG TV’. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a painting of an astronaut by artist Michael Kagan, called ‘Pilot 2’. “What it came down to, in a basic sense - it’s a very boring answer,” Harry warns with a laugh, “we all just really loved the image.

“Charles was away on holiday, earlier in the year. He was with a friend of ours who works for our management company in the US, and she was friends with the artist, Michael Kagan. At the time, we were banging our heads against the wall a little bit, thinking about what to do with artwork. We couldn’t come up with anything that we loved, and Charles suggested Michael. He showed us his website and these images just immediately jumped out at us.

But what does an astronaut have to do with a big TV? “If you think about the moon landings, other big events that happen in space, usually we’ve experienced that through the medium of television. When people think of the moon landings, or the first man in space, you think about the news coming through the TV, and seeing those images on TV. I think the two things have a very strong connection. But really, that’s just pretentious nonsense,” Harry admits. “Really we just chose it because it’s a great image.”

So ‘Pilot 2’ could be staring down at you from atop a stage if you catch White Lies at Reading or Leeds this year. The festival is very close to Harry’s heart, as well as other members of the band, as he notes, “It’s such a good festival, Reading. Well, Reading and Leeds, but Reading especially for us because it’s the first festival that we went to, when we were youngsters. I think we always had this thing in the back of our heads that it would be so great to one day play it, and we’ve played it a few times now and they’ve always been really amazing shows for us.”

It sounds as if they’re planning to pull out all the stops, using their pre-show nerves to deliver a top performance. “It’s good to get nervous,” Harry says. “It gets you excited, it gets you up for it and you can channel your nerves into a good performance.” However, he declares that he won’t be doing any dancing during their set, so that’s one thing that won’t be part of their performance. Harry admits to being “a rubbish dancer,” despite the video to newest single ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ making him “want to get up and dance.” We would pay money to watch him recreate the routine.

“I don’t know if you know the story behind this,” he says, “but it was based on a clip from a Bollywood film, this cheesy late 50s / early 60s dance routine. I’m sure someone will have found it on the internet and you’ll be able to find it somewhere. It was just such a weird idea for a music video that we just went for it. It was really fun making it, as it was the first time we’ve had a big dance routine with dancers, and they were all so brilliant.”

The little anecdotes and stories Harry throws in from time to time about his bandmates are cute, and prove how tight a unit White Lies are. It’s not difficult to imagine all of them being just as excited as the frontman about the release of ‘BIG TV’. And although the excellent ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ might not be typical of the album, it’s probably safe to safe the other tracks will be of the same high standard.

White Lies’ new album ‘BIG TV’ will be released on 12th August via Polydor.

Read the full interview in the new edition of DIY Weekly, available from iTunes now for just 69p.

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