A few weeks ago “FIVE” released the newest album of the White Lies. Before their concert in the Cologne canteen, bassist Charles Cave and drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown told us a lot about new and old songs, their current tour through Europe and the importance of the radio for their success. Whether White Lies throw an optimistic look into the future, you will also learn in our interview.
96s.info: Hello you two, what are your memories of Cologne, after you have already have been here quite often?
Jack: Also here in this hall we have played before, on the last tour … Since we had a really good show, on the tour it was one our favorite shows in Germany. It was really fun. Germany is such a big country, because you get a very different audience in different parts of the country. It was really, really good here. I also did a really nice long run along the Rhine the last time we were here.
96s.info: Yesterday you were running again.
Jack: Yeah, yesterday I did it again. This is a nice place here! Charles looked at the cathedral …
Charles: Yes, my experiences in Cologne are rather limited. I always do the same! I go to Museum Ludwig, then I eat a whirlpool in the café and then I walk up to the cathedral. Then we go to a bar or have dinner. I really like Cologne, I have been there quite a lot already. Here lives someone who is a kind of friend of mine, whom I once visited on vacation. I must have been in Cologne fifteen times. As Jack said, last time we had a great show. I hope it will be the same today.
96s.info: Do you go jogging regularly to stay in shape on tour?
Jack : Yes, it’s very easy to gain weight on tour. But I also do it for fun. I do not want to preach too much there, but for me, for my sanity, that’s very good in any case. It devours one to one and a half hours a day, during which I just do not look at the phone or on any screen. You just have to be pretty involved, but you can also fall into a nice little trance if you walk very far. In a sense, you also find a slow rhythm, in which you can also drink a beer, so that it still gets a good … You see, we are offered here a lot of high-percentage alcohol. Because you can easily drink too much and eat. Cheese and meat …
96s.info: I also see a lot of chocolate.
Jack: Oh yes, and chocolate, but chocolate too good for your sanity. (both laugh) We love chocolate.
96s.info: You’ve just played a big, sold-out show in Brussels.
Charles: Yes, wonderfully, many shows are sold out on this tour, which is very encouraging. In the past, here in Germany, we have actually realized that there is such a culture that tickets can not be bought in advance. People like just passing by spontaneously, which is quite disturbing, or at least worrying in the past. If we get the ticket details one month before the show and see that only fifty percent of the tickets are sold, we are very worried. This time, however, all buy the tickets. I suppose because they see that they are sold out elsewhere in Europe, which causes them panic. Which of course is great … (Jack laughs) Yeah, so in Brussels we played a big, sold-out show. We’re also likely to play a sold-out show in Aarhus and Copenhagen.
Jack: Hamburg on Sunday is sold out, Bochum tomorrow night will be sold out. Germany supports White Lies on this album very well!
96s.info: The Dutch also seem to like you very much. Since almost every concert is sold out. Do you think that they have a certain preference for the type of music you do with the strong use of keyboards, for example?
Charles: I honestly do not believe that , Perhaps one could now use some anthropological theories of how certain cultures react to or appreciate different types of music. In the end, I think it’s very much down to the people who have worked really hard for us over the years. Even before the release of our first album we played at a festival in Groningen in the Netherlands, where Eurosonic, which takes place every year. This is a kind of big meeting place for many European bands from everywhere. I think we just met a really good team of people working for Universal Records back then. We got along very well with them. When we were there, we got a lot of good promotion and that has continued. They liked us, we liked them, they knelt down. So we have built a career there. So it is in Belgium, in Denmark, in Germany, in all places in Europe. We actually had really hard-working people who simply believed in our music. In France, we are not doing so well. We’re just playing a show in Paris. I would say that success always depends on hard work. There is no band that suddenly, just because of the culture in this country, is huge. That’s not how it works.
96s.info: That would be too easy.
Charles: Too easy. It would also imply that in the Netherlands you only play for Dutch people, which is not the case: there are people from all over the world. Actually, everywhere in Europe, to be honest … I think, for example, that a large proportion of the public in Berlin certainly does not live in Berlin, possibly not in Germany.
96s.info: Do you think that you are currently maintaining or even gaining some status regarding your reputation and your success?
Jack: That’s a good question that’s hard to answer. I think that in some countries we certainly will grow faster than in others. If we come back and play in the same venue as on the last tour, maybe selling the same number of tickets as on the last tour, then in Germany, for example, it feels like progress, because the last album might be in 45th or But the new one is now in 18th place. For us this has been the first Top 20 album in Germany for a long time. So in that sense, it feels like a real progress. Your career has been going for ten years and suddenly you jump the half charts, compared to the last time. I think some things are progressing, others are about the same. It has probably gotten worse in some places, but where we have worked really hard for it, we are making progress. I still have that little assumption in my head that in some countries, like Belgium or the Netherlands, White Lies might one day be able to headline a big festival.
Jack: And that will never, I’m almost sure, happen for us in the UK. If we do not have a crazy pop hit on the radio, we’re not going to headline Reading, not Leeds or Glastonbury … But I think it’s not strange to assume that White Lies, with probably two more albums, suddenly topped Pinkpop or something like that Plan could stand. It’s possible.
96s.info: I saw you on stage for the first time at Pinkpop 2011. The performance was incredibly good, the sound was very clear, Harry’s voice very strong. Later I read a review, probably from a Dutch radio station, which turned out to be anything but good. “White Lies are dead,” it was said, in the sense of “lifeless.”
Charles: Well, back then we were still very young. Many people have told us on this tour how much more relaxed we are. I think that took a long time with us. As individuals we are self-confident people, but we are definitely not exceptional show-good. It sounds silly, but I, like Jack, undoubtedly struggle with the ego
to even post a photo of myself on social media channels. I think, “Am I a fool to do that now?” (Both laugh) There are people who do this ten times a day, all day long. I believe the self-confidence we have now is very authentic, a very honest consciousness based solely on the experience of making music for ten years. Of course, there are many new bands that jump out onto the stage right away, with this kind of leather jacket charisma, which is admirable in a way. It is theater, they play a role. But we never could. So I certainly think that in the early days, when we were not very self-confident musicians, we probably looked very nervous on stage, we were very worried about just playing a good, correct show.
96s.info: Did you feel uncomfortable with a bad review?
Charles: Not very much. For me the only really annoying part is reading bad reviews, knowing that some people who read them have not yet properly dealt with us in their own minds … we are all, just like the journalists, just people with opinions. It is a fact that the criteria for a job in journalism are much lower than a few years ago. There is no real quality control in writing, for the journalists. Of course this applies to all kinds of jobs in the media sector. You can become a professional photographer without being a really good photographer or understanding anything about photography. The same goes for music. So the problem is all that horrible writing out there that’s called journalism. People read that and look at the scores: “This guy gave White Lies’s album one out of ten …” If this reader read the review carefully now and wondered if it was a well-done review by a smart one Person who can write, then maybe he would say, “No, that’s not really it. I probably should not trust this opinion. “Unfortunately, that does not really happen. I think that every person working in the creative field will find recognition for well-done work. If there is a really brilliant journalist I would like to yell at for giving bad reviews, it would be meaningless because he is a good journalist. So it is with us: if we make really good music, we will be successful. We do not really need the consent of influential individuals to feel empowered.
The current album “FIVE”.
96s.info: You were very successful with your debut album. The song “To Lose My Life” was played on German radio all the time. It looks a bit different with your current material, which I have not noticed on the radio yet. Do you think that with a debut that sounded more like “FIVE” you would have had a similar success back then?
Jack: First of all, I do not want to discredit the first album, since it definitely has a special style and a sound of its own that I have never replicated on any of the other albums. I think that our record label put a lot of money in this album. They contracted us for quite a bit of money and then said they should succeed accordingly. It became a priority for Universal around the world, so it was wonderful for us. Three nineteen-year-old guys basically said, “This album is going to be a hit! No matter what, we make it clear that the songs you have become hits. We’ll put all the money into the promotion … “
Charles: Record labels can look like a hit before it’s a hit.
Jack : Yeah, so they spent more money on it than ever for anything else we did. That’s absolutely fine, we had that moment after all. You did that for us, it paved the way for the next five years. It’s trickier to say what it would be like if people spent that money on our new album, because that’s not how it works. You have your moment at the beginning, you never get that moment again. You’re just a new band once … then you just give the best you can. I like what we’ve achieved in the last decade, that we have not been lost, even though we never got as much support as for the first album. I think a lot of bands that came out at a similar time dropped off. Their careers have been over for five years. I believe that through good, hard work and good music, we have managed to leave out things like the radio, so to speak. Especially in the UK, radio is just not that important today, because people listen to your music on Spotify anyway, if they want it. The concept of young people listening to the radio is pretty dead in the UK. As much as Radio 1 tries to make people listen to their stations, they are losing more and more listeners … children do not listen to the radio, they just go online and do it your own radio station.
96s.info: Are you looking to expand your compositional skills and playing techniques with your new songs?
Charles: We always try something, we always learn when we make a new album. But we never do any thing just for its own sake. For example, we would never just use a particular style of music or technique because we think we should do it or because somebody did it before. Our Songwriting is based on intuition, which sounds good and feels right. For the song “Time To Give”, the first on this album, there was always the plan that it would be a four-minute song, with a fade-out at the end, in this instrumental part. The more we worked on it, the more our intuition told us that it should be a really long song. In the beginning there was definitely not the plan to write a very long song in this respect, it was not said that would be a cool thing – absolutely not! That should be a short song. The more one listens to other music, the more one builds up a kind of encyclopedic knowledge of what can potentially work. We listen to a lot of very different music. Of course Harry and I like a lot of prog rock and stuff like that. In some ways, a fairly repetitive dance music also makes the potential of a repetitive passage aware of how something can work, how to make it work … We’ll never be that band that just says, “Oh, let’s do that kind of album Every song is unique.
96s.info: One of your favorite songs from the new album is “Finish Line”. What makes this song a particularly good White Lies song?
Charles: I believe that many of the White Lies songs we and all our fans love are the ones which include slightly surprising arrangements. “Death” was our first really popular song on the first album. The song is clearly unconventional in its structure. The first and the second stanzas are somehow different, have a completely different mood, then there is this kind of interlude with the keyboard, the last chorus has a different chord progression: things like these that are not really conventional in pop music these days … With ” Finish Line “is the same thing. It’s a song that has verses and chorus, things like that, but it does not move in a predictable way. He is quite narrative in the lyrics, but also narrative in how the music is composed. We feel really good when we write such songs, it’s a small kick when they work. It’s a lot harder to get it than just writing songs like “To Lose My Life” or, on this album, “Believe It”. We like them, but they are very straightforward, very direct.
96s.info: What challenges that have nothing to do with music itself do you have to master on a regular basis?
Jack (laughs): Doing the dishes! I cook a lot at home and often allow the dishes to be stacked. So that’s a really regular challenge for me. I also try to buy a house … But all in all, life is good.
Charles: I think that in many creative industries, people work together with people who are able to occupy high posi
tions but have zero qualification. If you are a doctor, nurse, or teacher, then there is a level of trust among colleagues because you all have undergone similar training that enables them to handle a certain level of workload, while it is very common for the boss a record label in the UK or anywhere else that is actually someone who has not gone to college or really has no business background. They just like good music and in the late ’90s they saw a good band in a club, signed them … This band got huge and made them look like geniuses. Of course this is not true for everyone, but I find it rather frustrating that it often feels like we are working in a world full of amateurs. We are amateurs ourselves, we are not really professional musicians, at least we do not see each other that way. For us as amateurs it’s going very well, but none of us has learned to be a musician. We learned by simply cheating on ourselves, teaching ourselves. Sometimes it’s frustrating to work with people who did it that way, but ended up in a more critical business function.
96s.info: Do you have a positive or positive one? negative view of the future of the White Lies and the future of the world itself?
Jack: That’s a big question! In the world of White Lies, I’m a natural optimist, Harry, our singer, enjoys pessimistic thinking about things. But even he enjoys the shows so much on this tour that he actually starts to get a little optimistic about White Lies. He keeps trying to retire, but we will not let this happen. I think the White Lies – World is generally very optimistic at the moment, because the tour is honestly so much better than I could have hoped. I’m always incredibly nervous about the whole situation in such a tour, but then the UK tour was so great, actually all the shows so far, in Europe there were only three. They were all really great. Yes, I have a very good feeling for the White Lies world. As for the rest of the world, probably less … (laughs)
Charles: I think we have to take a good look at all the bands that existed when we started, those who have also released debut albums … so many of them are gone as if they had disappeared from the earth. For some it is still going well, for example “Foals” … “Florence + the Machine” exploded properly, of course. But it’s not common.
96s.info: Most will never release five albums.
Charles: Exactly … I feel right I’m really optimistic about White Lies because I think we’re in such a strong position right now. As Jack said, we have grown in a way. “Underground” would be the wrong word, but I think that it looks to the public as if we were less present than before, because we are not played a comparable amount on the radio. We’re not necessarily next to the pop music people suck in these days.
96s.info: But you’ve probably gotten more fans to stay loyal to you for a long time.
Charles: Yes, that’s just what it proves time and again that we’re selling night after night concerts for thousands or even thousands of people all over Europe. We have really good fans. On this tour, the audience sings our song “Tokyo”, our current single, louder than “Death” or any other song! We did not release the song until four or five weeks ago. At first I found it really scary: what’s going on here? I think for a band whose career has been going for ten years, one can only be optimistic about this effect. Basically, that means we still have it!
You can buy the album “FIVE” here. *
Tickets for the current tour can be found here.
That’s what it sounds like:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
White Lies live 2019:
15.03. Munich, Neue Theaterfabrik
16.03. Leipzig, Werk 2
18.03. Wiesbaden, slaughterhouse
21.07. Cologne, Amphi Festival
Tickets are available here.
The rights to the album cover are owned by PIAS, the rights to the cover image are owned by Steve Gullick.
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