WHITE LIES may be self-proclaimed pessimists but the trio have a lot to be happy about; having played sold-out arenas and built up one of the most loyal followings in recent memory, the band are stronger than ever. The West London trio have introduced disco and pop to their trademark melancholic, post-punk vibe while still retaining the attention of those they captivated over a decade ago. With the recent release of their self-produced fourth album, Friends, White Lies are soaring high; lead single Take It Out On Me is pure power pop meets post-punk, while Hold Back Your Love has a danceability about it that screams Pet Shop Boys, New Order and stone-cold festival anthem.
Alice Parsons sat down with bassist and vocalist Charles Cave ahead of their Sunday Sound City slot to discuss influences, working in Bryan Ferry’s studio and reading on the road. Citing Tears for Fears, Joy Division and These New Puritans as inspiration, what is there not to be intrigued about?
I saw you play in Liverpool as part of the 2009 NME Shockwaves tour, and then again at Sound City that year – back then, could you imagine the success you had ahead of you?
Yes and no. We are firm believers in hard work paying off. But at the same time [we] have always been great pessimists. We don’t feel undeserving of our success, more just pleasantly surprised.
You played some pretty intimate gigs at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen a few years ago – how do those smaller gigs compare to your epic festival slots?
You adapt and adjust as soon as you step foot on stage. There’s a big difference to someone’s eyes being a metre in front of you or 20 metres. Also, some songs that don’t work so well in a field work brilliantly in smaller venues, so it’s always nice to be doing both.
You’re almost ten years into the band now – will there be any other special shows lined up to celebrate the decade like the Hoxton gigs?
I bloody well hope so!
Since those gigs, you’ve released your latest album, Friends, using Bryan Ferry’s personal studio to record it – how did this change your process?
Bryan’s studio feels like more of an extension to a living room than a clinical workplace. It gave the process a comfort and an unpressurised quality to it that was great for our circumstances. We were very confident with the material and the people we have working with us, so the space, with all its charm and idiosyncrasies, was the right fit. Not many bands can say they got to use some of the synthesisers used on the first Roxy Music albums on their recordings.
You produced this album yourselves and it’s gone down a real storm with fans – are you planning to continue producing your future records?
We’ll continue to surround ourselves with inspiring people who can add real creative value to our work. That doesn’t mean a conventional producer, but it means that if we think somebody could help elevate our music to a place we can’t alone then we will ask them to do so. The roles of producer/mixer/engineer have all blurred in recent years. We made Friends in the way that was right for it – with a brilliant engineer, James Brown, a fantastic mix team, David Wrench and Marta Salogni, and our old invisible band member, Ed Buller, coming in to help with synths and vocals. I like putting together a team like that. I can’t say for sure, but I’m fairly confident that the band and I would be more than happy to make another record with this fantastic group of people.
You’ve said before that you hear the influence of bands like Tears For Fears in your music, who are some of your other big influences?
We’re influenced by so much music. I suppose in recent years the record that has had the biggest effect on me is Hats by The Blue Nile. I’m also forever inspired by These New Puritans – as a modern band. Only yesterday I listened to the new song 3WW by Alt-J – a band I wasn’t really into before – and was really inspired by that piece of music; they’ve done a wonderful job. It’s tiring listening to new music, because most of it is awful. But finding that 0.00000001% song every now and again is worth it.
You met at school, and I’ve heard a few interviews where you’ve cited luck for your success, but, for all those artists in the position you were in ten years ago, what advice would you give?
Set your standards high. Start collecting air miles immediately. Use a backing track and as few band members as possible. Design and print your own merch. Demo your songs crudely.
You’ve mentioned that you tend to read on the road – a great pastime for all travelling. What are you reading at the moment?
Right now, I’m reading some more Georges Simenon as part of a fiction-writing course I’m taking. I’ve just finished [John] Updike’s final collection of short stories called My Father’s Tears and that was brilliant. I’m really loving learning how to write from such great masters of the craft.
White Lies play the Atlantic Stage on Sunday 28th May.