Interview: White Lies
Wed, 18 Sep 2013 12:02:31
When you turn on Big TV, you enter White Lies's world. It's quite a wonderful place too where vivid lyrics cascade alongside vibrant melodies and just a splash of dark emotion. Not only is Big TV the band's best record thus far, it's one of the year's most intriguing offerings. The deeper you delve into it, the more you'll find...
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Harry McVeigh of White Lies talks Big TV and so much more.
Big TV has a real cohesion...
That's something we really worked on. I think the way we worked on the songs, as we were writing them, lent itself quite nicely to the flow of the record. We tried to focus on songwriting at a very basic level. When Charles and I were writing the tracks, we'd sit down with one keyboard sound and a really basic machine sound. Then, we'd try to write songs that would carry without any production. Because we did that, when we came to record the album as a whole, we could tie everything in together. We added to the production later on rather than getting attached to things we added at the beginning. It was sort of recorded as an entire record in the space of about a month. I think that probably is part of the reason it flows as a record. Also, we worked for quite some time on the tracklisting and the order of everything as well.
Being in the moment like that, everything interlocks nicely.
Yes, we thought it would be really intense trying to record everything in the space of about four weeks. Charles and I worked with Jack on the songs. We worked with producer Ed Buller just on the songs as well. All in all, we spent eight or nine months on just the songwriting before we'd done any recording. We thought the four weeks wasn't going to be enough time. Because we worked so long on the songs, it dictated how we recorded everything in a way.
Is it important for you to paint pictures and tell stories with the songs?
Charles's lyrics will always have that draw. There was something of a different approach to this record, but I think that's something that ties in the three records lyrically. They always have an almost cinematic feel to them. We had about six months off before we started writing the record. That gave Charles a chance to really think about what he wanted to write about. This album follows a loose narrative the songs dip into lyrically. It's definitely a very visual record lyrically. That's typical of our music.
What's the story behind "Goldmine"?
It's strange you bring that one up. When we went into the studio, we had seven tracks finished. Obviously, there are ten on the album. That song was literally the very last one we wrote. It came together from parts of other tracks, but it was quite a spontaneous moment in the studio with a couple of days left. It came out of us playing in the room together with a melody in mind. That was it. I really like that track as well. I think it's a good rock song. It's very immediate. It's a good way to close the record. It reminds me of the B-Sides our diehard fans love. The basic narrative of the record is about a girl who leaves her hometown. It's implied it's somewhere in Europe, perhaps Eastern Europe. She moves to a big city, and it's implied the big city is in the States. She leaves her hometown thinking she's going to make this great new modern life for herself. Actually, it turns out that doesn't happen, and she moves back home. It's about her digging in the "Goldmine", trying to live the dream, and earn money. It's not working out though. She leaves a guy back at home, and it's also his view as well. That's my interpretation.
What song from the record speaks to you the most right now?
My favorite right now is the title track. I think it sums up the record so well both lyrically and musically. It moves through so many different sonic landscapes and touching a little on the rest of the record, which I love. Lyrically, it's one of the best Charles has written. The lyrics are so strange yet they resonate so well. It's about a girl who has a crappy apartment, but she buys this massive TV. The TV is her idea of success. It doesn't even serve a purpose in this tiny apartment. It's such a wonderful song, and it sums up the record.
If you were to compare Big TV to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I'm going to mention one of my favorite films, and it's only because of a keyboard we used in the studio. I'm going to say Blade Runner. There's a song called "Change", which uses a keyboard called the Yamaha CS 80 which was famously used by Vangelis, especially on the soundtrack. Also, the city she goes to I imagine is something like the city imagined in Blade Runner. There's amazing technology and bright lights but a decaying and not-so-great side of it. There are hundreds of thousands people trying to move into this place and make their lives better. They think they're trying to make their lives better. I've always had a connection with that film. Visually, I feel like that film shares a lot with our music. I don't know though. That's a very interesting question. It's not easy to answer. Blade Runner would be one of them for me though. Or, maybe a cheesy eighties film. Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" was written for a film, wasn't it? Maybe something like that!
Blade Runner is perfect.
Blade Runner is my favorite film I love it. It's based on such a great story as well that whole idea of when does something artificial become human? I love that idea. I've gotten into reading a lot of sci-fi. I find it so interesting. It's such a feat of imagination. It's so much more than we do with our music. There's so much brainpower necessary to come up with these alternate worlds and ideas.
What's your favorite White Lies song?