By Laura Ferreiro
Although White Lies' 2009 debut album To Lose My Life shot straight to Number 1 in the London trio's native U.K., they haven't yet become a household name Stateside. That could be about to change with the release of their latest album, Big TV. Due out August 20 via Harvest Records, the ambitious record features arena-ready tunes tinged with darkness in the vein of Interpol and Depeche Mode that are simultaneously epic, thought-provoking and catchy.
"We all feel really good about this record," says lead singer Harry McVeigh from the living room of his flat in West London. "In some ways it's a big step on and quite different [from previous albums], but we really tried hard to focus on what makes the sound of White Lies. We tried to write songs that really fit with the sound of the band. We were thinking a lot about our live show and how well the songs would go over live. In some ways it's definitely a progression in terms of songwriting."
The band take a very collaborative approach to their songwriting, with McVeigh and bassist Charles Cave working together to craft the lyrics. Cave often devises the first draft of the tunes, and the pair will evolve them together before drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown puts his stamp on the songs.
"The process kicks off with me and Charles and we'll work together side-by-side on the basics of the songwriting and the lyrics," explains McVeigh. "Then Charles writes the lyrics but they evolve with us together because of course I have to sing them. It needs to be something I would say and the way that I would speak. Quite quickly Jack will piece things together on the drums."
Big TV, which features a striking abstract painting of an astronaut on its cover, is something of a concept album that muses on the loneliness and anonymity of living in a big city. In "Mother Tongue," McVeigh sings: "The city stays high, all night/Lit up and shivering/Like a pinball table of fireflies/An echo of home on the edge of life…I'm a devil in exile."
"The (album's) lyrics draw on this concept that Charles envisaged," he explains. "It's the story of a small girl leaving her provincial upbringing and going to the big city. They imply that it's in the U.S., but it could be anywhere… it's about her meeting new people and her expectations."
White Lies collaborated with renowned producer Ed Buller on the album. Buller is known for his work with Pulp and Suede, and produced White Lies' debut album. "The reason we really wanted to work with him is he shares the vision for our music and focuses on songwriting as much as we wanted to," says McVeigh. "He really understands composition and music. We worked in his house for about five months before we went into the studio to record."
Now that the new record is in the can, the band are focusing on taking their live performances to the next level. "We've really stripped everything back with the live show – it's pretty rocking now," says McVeigh. "It's the three of us with two session musicians. It sounds like a big rock 'n' roll show now." White Lies are no strangers to rocking massive shows, having toured with the likes of Kings of Leon and Muse and performed at major festivals including Coachella and Lollapalooza.
White Lies are gearing up to play their very first main-stage slots at the renowned Reading and Leeds Festivals in England, which McVeigh says they're really excited about. "It's one of the festivals we grew up with and went to as young teenagers," he says. They're also looking forward to their very first trip to South Korea. "I can't wait to see where Psy came from!" McVeigh gushed.
The band will head to the U.S. in October for a series of shows across the country, kicking off on October 3 at New York's Bowery Ballroom.