Interview: White Lies’ Harry McVeigh talks US tour and 2017!

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Back in 2008, when Myspace was king, I remember thinking getting added by bands was the coolest thing. How times have changed. It was before I was ever into interviewing bands and before I opened my eyes to what alternative music had to offer. One of those bands were London boys, White Lies! Nine years later, I sat down with lead vocalist Harry McVeigh to talk the last ten years of their career and their latest record “Friends”.

As one of the first UK bands to cross the Atlantic in the UK Invasion revival, the band took quite a break from US touring but with their next US tour starting tomorrow, we took the opportunity to catch up with this still very young band. The band will be in Cambridge Friday night at Middle East Downstairs and we couldn’t be more ready to have this talented group back in town. Read our new chat below and see you there!

You’re about to do this US tour. Are there any goals or hopes for the band on this run considering the record is still so new?
I think it’s just great to be back. It’s been a bit of a break since the album came out. We toured Europe towards the end of last year to kind of see if there were still so many people who were kind of into the band, into the music and into the new record. I guess I would hope that we get the chance to meet some of those people when we come back to the U.S. It’s been a long time since we’ve been playing any shows here as well so that will be really fun. Actually also, I moved about seven months ago to San Francisco where I am now. To play here, to play a show in my new hometown and introduce all the people that I’ve met here to the band and to our music will be really great as well. I’m hoping we have a good show in San Francisco it will be really fun.

So the rest of the band is still lives in London?
Yes the rest of the band is still living in London.
It will be a little reunion when they come back, I’m sure you see them often though.
Well it’s been a little while since I’ve seen them actually. We finished touring a couple months ago but I do see a lot of the guys when we tour so I don’t miss them that much. It’s going to be kind of tricky. I don’t know what we’re going to do when we kind of get around to writing the next record. That’s going to be a challenge for sure but I’m hoping we get to work a little bit over here on that because that will be an interesting change of feeling. That would be great for me obviously.
I recently talked to another band on the younger side but in a similar situation, Splashh where two members live in London and one in New York. On tour now but very similar.
It is a interesting situation for sure. I think with modern technology, you can kind of work separately at least for a little while and send each other ideas over the internet which I’m looking forward to having a go at. I think it will be really fun.

Speaking of that, I know just looking around at the band’s history, the band has been together for ten years now and the line up has never changed. It’s always been that same core group. Is there maybe something you would have told yourself ten years ago? Maybe something you would have avoided or maybe something you wish you had done in this time as a band?
Of course. I think people would probably say that about any job. You learn so much in the time that you do it and the longer that you do it for. I think specifically, I still think our first album that we released in 2009 is probably our best. For many reasons but I think one of the main ones is on your first album, you’re kind of still figuring everything out. And you’re kind of making and recording music in a very naive way. You can because no one’s heard of you of course. So you’re kind of figuring out what you are as a band and what your sound is. In a very kind of organic, easy and simple way. So I think I would have said to myself on our second album, perhaps that you should focus a little bit more on what you are and try to expand on that rather than continuing to try loads of crazy new stuff. I think we kind of got really obsessed with making everything sound really massive and really big without really focusing on writing great songs. And it’s taken us the album since then, really it’s taken us our first three to really appreciate that. And to really get back into trying to write really great pieces of music and also trying to figure out what we are again and what makes up a great White Lies song and a great White Lies recording.
But having said that, as a band, you’re a combination of all of the things that you do including all the mistakes that you make and we’re still here. So I think we must have done something right and I’m really sort of pleased with how far we’ve come. Like I said, that’s a combination of all the things you’ve done in the past. So I’m actually really excited to keep going.
Then speaking of music, “Friends” is still very new. It only came out this October but it was about three years between the records. Maybe when did you kind of start the process for this latest record?
It took us a long time to make the album actually. We started working on it at the beginning of 2015 and we were working on it for about eighteen months until it was finished. There was a few reasons for that. One of them was we were on tour. We had to sign a new record deal and in order to do that, we had to actually demo the songs to a reasonable standard so people could hear kind of what they would sound like and that took a little while. Also, the fact that we were unsigned I think there was something quite nice about that. It gave us the freedom to work on the songs and work on the record for kind of as long as we wanted to. And that was really great and actually I enjoyed every part of it. I enjoyed working on the tracks but I also enjoyed writing a lot. We wrote a lot more for this album then we normally did on previous records. Like we probably came out of it with like forty different tracks of which ten made it on to the album. I think we recorded probably fifteen or sixteen. That was wonderful actually because usually when we make a record, we were kind of really stressed the last week of recording because we still had to write like two songs in the studio. That’s never a good idea if you want to write good pieces of music. It’s much less stressful to kind of have way more then we needed and recorded way more then we needed. Then choose the tracks that would fit best together for the album.

And I read that it was something where you somewhat self-produced this record. You had someone else mix it.
We had someone mix it. I mean we kind of self-produced it to an extent. We worked with a lot of different people on the album that kind of helped us with bits of it. I suppose to an extent they were producing parts of the record. For example, we got a guy called Ed Buller who’s worked on two out of the three records we’ve made before. He worked with us on the vocals for example and kind of produced that part of the record I suppose. Maybe we were more like executive producers. We still had a lot of help and a lot of people that were major parts of making the record but that was very different for us. It’s definitely something that we hadn’t done before. It takes a long time to learn how to do that. To learn what’s involved in the process of recording of a record. What works best for you and things like that.

You talked about how you wrote forty songs and you kind of picked through those. Is there a song on the record that maybe is surprising you? Like one that is really catching on with fans?
Yeah I feel like people really react well to a track on the album called, “Is My Love Enough” which does surprise me actually because it’s very different to anything we’ve done before. It kind of has this really disco groove to it and that’s something that would have kind of been unheard of in White Lies previously. I think we felt when we were writing it and recording it that it’s very different from anything we had done before but people have seemed to really react so well to that track and really connected with it when we played it live. And that’s been really wonderful. It’s really great to see all the people feel the same way about that song as we do basically.
I guess we’ve got a few songs like that on the album as well. I’m trying to think back to what the responses were like, it’s been a while since we’ve played live. I think another one would be, “Hold Back Your Love” because that kind of has a similar vibe to it. Like “Is My Love Enough”, it’s got this kind of disco groove to it again. It’s in many ways very poppy and that’s been another song that people have really loved and people have really reacted well to it but I go on the basis of what people do when we play them live. How many mouths I see singing the words back to me when we play it.

Exactly then maybe to end it off, you do have a lot coming up. You have this US tour. You’ve announced really big things like playing with The Killers and playing in Tel Aviv for the first time which is incredible. Kind of what is the plan for the next few months, maybe something you’re most looking forward to? The plan for 2017.
I’m especially looking forward to that show with The Killers at that Hyde Park show. We’ve always been huge fans of that band. Especially when were young, like when we were teenagers, we really adored them. To the point where we were writing songs that we thought as much as possible would sound like The Killers. When we were like fourteen, fifteen and I still have lots of love for them. I think for so many reasons. One of them being that I think Brandon Flowers is such an incredible singer. It’s great when you hear that and it’s great when you hear someone singing in a very honest way. I guess just putting yourself out there like that and being in many ways quite vulnerable because they’re singing very honestly. They’re not hiding behind anything and also Tears For Fears will be exciting who we’re also massive fans of. They’re a huge influence on White Lies and that’s the first show they’re playing in years as well so that will be really great to se and I can’t wait for that.
Then also we just learned that our show in Mexico City sold out which is going to be awesome. It’s been a few years since we’ve played in Mexico. Same as the US I guess. It’s been a long time since we’ve played here but that’s really great. I love playing in Mexico because the people there are so fanatical and so excited about bands and about music. The shows also kind of kick off and go a bit crazy and that’s just wonderful to be a part of. Especially in a place, I mean Mexico City is for someone who grew up in London is a pretty alien place. Very different to anything we would have experienced growing up and certainly beyond our wildest dreams. When we started playing as a band to play somewhere like that and now to be playing there. I think Mexico is one of the few places in the world that on this album that we’ve seemed to have gotten bigger which is really strange. After all these years to be kind of attracting new fans in a place like that and I’m really excited about that. I guess I’m just kind of hoping we have a busy festival season and a busy summer and hoping the tour of the US goes well and we get to meet a whole lot of our fans over here. Perhaps make some new ones.
I think the US has a great touring history and bands have always loved it out here and as result, there are some really great venues. Pretty much every town we go to, there’s a really cool place to play and really cool places to see and I’m looking forward to that very much which is great.

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Colleen has been writing about music since 2009. Interviewing bands since the glory days of Warped and has continued to do so for now over fourteen years. As well as doing freelance for other publications, the love for everything rock continues today.

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