British synth-rock trio White Lies (Harry McVeigh, Charles Cave, & Jack Lawrence) have been recording and touring for the past decade. They’ve had their own share of supporting acts and headlining at venues. They have gained much love from all over as fans sing along their older hits to new favorites. Their fifth album Five is out now and B-Sides got the chance to chat with frontman Harry about the new album and the thrill performing it live.
Harry you lived in San Francisco for awhile. Did the new living environment on the West Coast or exposure to American life influence any of the new songs?
I think it probably did. The music you write is a collection of your experience on life. The reason I moved to San Francisco is because my wife was working there. We wanted to move there together. So whenever I went there, I wasn’t really doing any work. My work is based here in Europe and the UK. I had a lot of free time so I learned to play classical piano at a local bar. I think that had an impact on my musicianship and the way we made the album.
The topics on the album ranges from relationships to therapy. Did mental health awareness affect the songwriting approach for “Believe It“?
Not really. It’s more a question for Charles [Cave] because he writes the lyrics. Well, I think the song for me is about criticizing therapy. I think Charles was writing in the perspective of someone unsatisfied with their therapist. It’s morally corrupt to keep charging money and they’re not really helping--not doing anything. They’re just playing me and taking my money. I really like that song. Out of songs from ‘Five’ this one sounds like our earlier music. We always try to touch upon what we were doing from the first and second album that people fell in love with. It was kinda nostalgic for us.
Your previous albums Big TV & Friends had this synth-driven material, but with “Finish Line”, it opens with an acoustic guitar. How did that song come about?
There are different sounds on this new record. I’m glad you picked that out. It’s one of my favorite tracks from ‘Five’. It’s something we’ve never really done before. It sounds weird saying it but with the four albums we released previously, we never had an acoustic song. I think from the very beginning when we were writing that song it became very clear that the acoustic guitar was going to be appropriate. It was a really good song to work on. After ten years, we’re still pushing ourselves further.
During the band’s transition of record labels, was there a sense of freedom when creating the material or was there even more pressure to come up with more “radio-friendly” songs?
I don’t think we felt any pressure in writing. Even when we had a major label (Fiction) for the first three albums. We did have more freedom on this album than previously and I think it worked. Over the years, we built up the experience. We were lucky starting out in a major label with the financial backing and loads of people holding your hands. We were so young when we released the first album like nineteen years old. We wouldn’t have a clue on how to do anything. More recently, the new label had no budget for the record so we had to raise it ourselves. We had to go in the studio and make it happen. That was great actually. We got the freedom of who we wanted to work with, where we wanted to work, and how we wanted to approach the recording. We got the best people to work on ‘Five’. It was very inspiring.
Which songs off ‘Five’ have been the most challenging and most enjoyable to play live?
Yeah for sure. The thing I like most about the album is the songs sound very different to me. There have been a few challenging songs to play like “Time To Give“, which we’ve been opening our set with. It was difficult to learn. The first double shows in the UK was stressful playing it live, but that’s what is fun/exciting about it. There’s an element of danger. You never know if you’re going to screw the whole thing up. It’s a great nervous energy. My favorite song to play is “Fire and Wings“, which is our last song on ‘Five’ and we play towards the end of the set. I love that song because to me it’s an unexpected song on the album. It’s so different and it has this heavy chorus. I love that contrast. “Kick Me” is another song we’re loving. It’s almost psychedelic basically and reflects White Lies. Otherwise, I enjoy all the songs.