White Lies have proven themselves as the real deal in the U.K. and it won’t take long before North Americans learn the truth about them too: they’re a decidedly solid, motivated band that isn’t afraid to put in the hard work it takes to earn loyal fans. Not looking to fix what clearly wasn’t broken with their 2009 debut My Life to Lose, the band called producer Alan Moulder (Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails) back to the studio for their latest offering Ritual. Drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown offers his thoughts on what makes White Lies such an instantly likable band, and how they give their all, withholding nothing.
How did White Lies come together?
Charles [Cave] (bass guitar and backing vocals) and I grew up in the suburbs of West London. We’ve known each other since we were five or six years old. When I was in high school, I met Harry [McVeigh] (lead vocals, guitar). I got a drum kit just when all three of us were becoming friends and we basically decided to form a band around me having drums – which is odd – but it worked and got us to start.
You were immediately signed to a label and had a #1 U.K. debut with My Life to Lose — how did that feel?
It was a little intimidating, but it meant we didn’t have to worry anymore because anybody who had questions about us got their answer. All we wanted was to get out on tour, so going to number one just as we were heading out was really great, actually.
You’re often compared to Joy Division — has this helped you or hurt you?
It only affects you as much as you let it. It was frustrating starting out because we knew their music obviously, but they’re not a band we really adored or had much interest in. To be fair, we’re at least happy we’re being compared to a band that commands a certain amount of respect.
I saw you perform live on Leno and was immediately impressed by your energy…
That’s why we’re not really content with people just hearing the record. We have, by our own high standards, a good live show. I think the fact that we tour a lot keeps people interested and I think when they see us live, they tend to stick with us.
Why did you choose Alan Moulder to produce Ritual?
He mixed our first record. He’s legendary and we knew that whatever we wanted to do on this record, he could do. We were after someone we could talk to and who shared our sense of humor and that’s Alan. We had a really good time and that shows up in how the record sounds.
There are a lot of religious connotations on this album — what’s the rationale?
We like our albums to have a story…something that ties it all together. John was traveling in Tibet, so references to religion are quite direct. The track Turn the Bells is completely based on what he experienced while there.
So John writes all the lyrics? Is there collaboration on the music?
It’s not a rule that John writes the lyrics but that’s how it’s been. His style of writing is very suited to the way that Harry sings. The lyrics came first for this album and then the demos were started at Harry’s house on the laptop. They were e-mailed to me to play with the drum stuff. A few weeks later, we went into the studio with our ‘sketches.’
You’ve covered songs like Kanye West’s Love Lockdown and Portishead’s The Rip — how did you choose them?
We think quite hard about what we cover. It can’t be anything too similar to us because there’s no point. The Rip is an amazing track by a band we respect but it’s not one that people would expect us to cover. For the Kanye West one, we had to do a cover for the BBC of a song that was on the charts and we thought it was a strong choice.
What’s coming up for White Lies?
We fly home tomorrow to London and have about an hour before we get on a tour bus to Germany. Then we have about a month in the U.K. touring and then head to Europe for a big tour there. By the time that’s done, it’ll be on to the festivals.
And are you already thinking ahead to the next album?
We likely won’t work on the next album for a couple years because we don’t work on the creative side of things while we’re on the road. And we’re going to be on the road for a very, very long time.
Ritual is available in records store now. Visit www.whitelies.com for their latest news or follow @whiteliesmusic on Twitter.