- Tue, 2010-11-30 11:41
Following their appearance in the BBC’s Sound of 2009 poll, White Lies released their debut record To Lose My Life... which went on to debut at number one in the UK album chart upon release. With their second record Ritual due on 17th January 2011, I Like Music caught up with drummer Jack to chat about developing the album with producer Alan Moulder (Nine Inch Nails, Them Crooked Vultures, Smashing Pumpkins and a lot more...), remaining unperturbed by fellow UK musicians, their expansion from a studio-based three piece to a five-piece touring band and their incredible new video to lead single Bigger Than Us.
"I Like Music because… It has given me the opportunity to travel the world, and that’s got to be one of the most exciting experiences anyone could have.” Jack Lawrence-Brown, White Lies
ILM: Hello! How are you?
Jack: Good thank you! Had a fairly busy morning but it’s not a long day for us today.
ILM: Your video for Bigger Than Us is pretty epic, what was it like to make?
Jack: It was quite fun to make actually. We went over to Romania to do it. Obviously it looks as though it is set in America, but we didn’t have the budget to go there! We’d made three videos for the first album with the same director, a very good director and a guy we love dearly called Andreas Nelson. This time round the song was bigger and more ambitious than anything we’ve tried before, so we decided we should try something new. We searched all the treatments and found the most ambitious, slightly bonkers one and went with that. That was really our only aim; to do something ambitious that we hadn’t tried. It’s pissed people off and made people happy in equal measure. It’s confused people and I think that’s a good thing to do. Possibly quite a hard thing to do in this day and age, to surprise people with videos. So we were happy with it.
ILM: In what way has the video riled people?
Jack: Just in the way that people get annoyed on YouTube. I find YouTube is one of the most hate-filled places in the world. People get so angry! The new video is fairly ambiguous and we’re aware of that. I’m sure some people will view it as slightly pretentious as well, but more than anything, we were having a bit of fun with it. Sometimes that doesn’t translate so well on the internet. But never mind! To be honest, the purpose of the video is to attract people’s attention and make them listen to the song. We couldn’t have been more successful in that respect.
ILM: In terms of the track, why was it chosen as the first single from the new album?
Jack: It was a fairly easy decision, it kind of chose itself in a lot of ways. It was the second song that we recorded in the album process. As soon as we’d finished we were just like “this is going to be a single”. It was very useful for us to have recorded it so early because when the label came down to the studio and heard it, from that day on they were happy for us to do whatever we wanted. They had a song they were confident would promote the album really well and it was a song we were really, really happy with. So I think it was an easy choice for us all to go with that one! I think it’s a pretty good introduction to the album as a whole as well.
ILM: How did you approach your second album? What can we expect?
Jack: To be honest I don’t think there was any plan really. We just said “we’re gonna go and start writing on this day and see what happens”. We knew we were going to end up with an album that sounded very different from the first one, because over the past couple of years we’ve had the chance to expand our musical horizons vastly. Just two years on the road is enough time to store up a lot of ideas. We decided that it would be best to treat each song as its own thing; if one song was going in the direction of becoming quite an aggressive, gritty track then we’d push it in that direction and if something was sounding way more poppy and catchy, then we’d make it like that. It was a good decision because the finished record is now a very diverse sounding album, a lot more varied and intricate than the first. That’s really what we wanted to achieve; something more ambitious and progressive. We’ve definitely come away with that.
ILM: How do lyrics fit themselves into your process?
Jack: Charles writes all the lyrics and tends to write them all before as a template to work from. That’s part of the songwriting process that hasn’t actually changed. It works well for us.
ILM: You worked with Alan Molder on the new album, what was that like?
Jack: We were very, very happy to work with Alan. We were ecstatic that he wanted to do it, so it was a very easy decision for us to make. He mixed the first album, so we had a good relationship with him. That kind of thing is very important when you’re starting to work with someone in the studio. When you’re shoved in their face 24/7, you need to be able to get along with them. It was very relaxed from day one. Just the idea that we were working with someone who’d produced important records in our lives was a massive goal that we managed to tick off. We were able to use his vast experience and incorporate a more electronic sound into our music – all his work with Nine Inch Nails was really informative on the White Lies album.
ILM: Your music making process sounds very collaborative and respectful…
Jack: Yeah, I think as soon as we knew we were working with Alan, the real goal for us was to make the most of that as a collaboration and not be afraid to let him quite heavily into the process. When you’re working with someone who’s such a legendary producer, you have to get the most out of it. I don’t think there’d be much use in us preventing him from having ideas on the songs or sounds. We didn’t want him to just make our album sound good, we wanted him to really help us become better musicians and recording artists. To do that, we just had to let him into the process and we really felt the benefits of that...
ILM: How did being part of the Sound of 2009 poll and everything that came with it affect you?
Jack: It was fine. We’ve been asked that a lot actually and we never really know how to answer it. It was cool, it was nice to know that people in the industry had belief in our music but really, it wasn’t too big a deal for us. All we wanted to do was make sure that we made an album we were happy with, and we really did; I don’t think we could have made a much better debut album, considering our very limited knowledge of recording at the time. It’s still something we’re very proud of. More than anything it set us up very well for what was to come, it gave us the opportunity to have a successful record and it pushed us into the public view a little bit more. But beyond that there wasn’t much to it. I like to think we’ve outlived the hype, which is always the worry with bands who get a lot of attention early in their careers – sometimes they can’t match it with something as good as everyone wants…
ILM: What do you think of UK music at the moment?
Jack: To be honest I think there’s probably better new music across the pond right now, which is slightly strange because I wouldn’t say it’s always been that way. There are some pretty great UK acts who are pushing themselves, but I don’t think we fit too closely into any particular niche. We’ve never worried too much about what other bands are doing. For us, discovering music hasn’t just been about discovering new bands but also old acts that we’ve never heard of before. We don’t really keep a close eye on what’s going on around us! Maybe we should do, but we’re not so bothered about contemporary artists; if they’re great, we’ll listen to them and if they’re not, we’ll tend to ignore it.
ILM: How have you developed when it comes to performing on stage? What can we expect from the new live show?
Jack: It was always going to be a challenge for us. There’s the three of us who write and record everything, then four of us on stage. When we finished this album we were aware quite quickly that we’d need another live member, so we’re now a five-piece on stage and we’ve really had to step that up a lot. It’s quite a fun process actually, learning your own songs after you’ve recorded them! We’ve run through about eight of the tracks on the record to a pretty good live standard now, so we’re pretty happy. There’s a couple we still need to learn, and at some point we will, but for now I think we have enough songs to take it out on the road and really start getting to grips with it live and hopefully doing some really good shows next year…