Three albums into their career and showing no signs of slowing down, White Lies have conquered the Brit rock scene and are now spreading their brand of gloomy euphoria to the rest of the world. Catching drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown backstage after their vivacious set celebrating the launch of Burberry Brit Rhythm fragrance for men at Wheeler’s Yard in Singapore, JUICE spoke to the beat-keeper about their progression to their current sound on Big TV and what to get at Newton Food Court.
How would you describe your music?
I would say that White Lies make melodic rock music. You would find us filed in the ‘Rock/Pop’ section of your nearest major music seller and I think that is about right!
That’s a pretty modest response. Critics have described your music as “dark yet uplifting”…
I think that is a really good description. I like the contradiction. Music elevates emotions and although there are dark themes to some songs, the music often builds and reaches a crescendo that can feel quite euphoric. This is something that some bands I admire do really well, like the first couple of Arcade Fire records or Now Here Is Nowhere by Secret Machines. I am glad this sort of uplifting melancholy is something White Lies have achieved in some of our own music.
Your band was known as Fear of Flying before this. How different is it now as White Lies?
Although we were making music as Fear of Flying up to 8 years ago, there are elements that remain the same. Same 3 people making music together, same attitude towards music in general, and still enjoying it. We have probably lost a lot of our naivety in regards to how the music industry works. We have realised that it important to have a very clear direction with the music you want to make these days and it is important not to compromise in that respect. Also, our musical knowledge and collection of music that we are able to reference when making music of our own is now infinitely bigger, which helps us to be much more creative. Playing as White Lies for the last 6 years has helped our performance improve a huge amount too, and the live show we are now able to put on in either a 300 person club or a 8000 person arena is at a level that we are very happy with, although we will of course aim to constantly improve it moving forward.
Your debut album To Lose My Life was one of JUICE’s picks for best album in 2009, how has life changed since then?
I think the main difference between where we are now with our album BIG TV and where we were with To Lose My Life is a lot to do with our aims. With To Lose My Life we were very young, and didn’t really have a clear vision with the album we were making, although luckily we ended up with a record we all love, and that the public also seemed to enjoy. We simply went into a studio with 5 songs and worked as hard as we could to make the best album we could, with our fingers slightly crossed, writing as we went. We were well guided by the producers Ed Buller and Max Dingel so it worked out eventually. Since then, constant touring has improved our musical ability a great deal, and we are also now a lot more thoughtful with every aspect of the music. In particular we are now very focused on the quality of the songs themselves, before we worried too much about how things are going to sound. With BIG TV we actually made a concerted attempt to create a fairly stripped down live rock band sound, so the songs themselves can shine through. Our music is much more focused on melody right now than ever before.
That’s a strangely familiar tune coming out of the radio now… Where do you draw influence from?
I think we draw our influences from all across the musical spectrum. It doesn’t necessarily mean that these influences show through our music. Right now we are listening to Penguin Cafe Orchestra in the dressing room but it isn’t likely to be something noticeable in our own songs! There are certainly a few songs from that post punk era that we really love, but there are so many more genres that inspire us, whether it be choral music or jazz or rap or pop. They all help inform our musical decisions.
Burberry recently held 3 gigs in 3 cities to launch Brit Rhythm – a new fragrance for man. How did the collaboration to perform at the Burberry gigs in London and Singapore come about?
I think Burberry is a very creative company when it comes to looking for ways to connect the fashion world and the music world. They have a great track record of using musicians to soundtrack launches or their products and even using some in their advertising campaign. As Burberry is a very British brand, they focus on using British talent, and with the release of BIG TV I think that they saw an opportunity to collaborate with us. Although we are now not considered a new band, we are improving creatively and I think they saw that now was a very good time to work with us as an established British band.
We’re now in Wheeler’s Yard, Singapore, where you’ve just finished your set for the launch of Burberry Brit Rhythm fragrance for men. What was the experience like for you to perform in a bicycle workshop and how was it different from the Brit Rhythm London gig before this?
It was a very different experience from London! We’re getting the full monsoon treatment now after the show which is pretty spectacular, and I think the audience were a lot warmer and more friendly than London audiences can sometimes be. We’re having a really great time even though we’re only here for about 30 hours. Charles and I had been here before for a DJ set and had eaten at the Newton Circus food court, so we insist on a return visit with the rest of the band this time.
May your tummies be blessed by good Asian food. Ho chiak!
White Lies played at the launch of Burberry Brit Rhythm fragrance for men in Singapore on Friday 18 October ’13.