White Lies Q&A
Mon, 01 Nov 2010 14:07:58
White Lies bassist Charles Cave is quite a charming chap. He's a British bloke, so of course he's a bit deadpan and everything he says sounds eloquent. Beyond that, when Cave speaks about the band's new platter, Ritual, he beams like a parent over a child or a proud owner of a brand new puppy. The band is still, at its core, a rock ‘n roll band from London, but they've added a few more electronic moments and flourishes. Vocalist Harry McVeigh even went on record and said that Ritual has more space on it.
The delightful Cave took ARTISTdirect contributor and resident fashionista Amy Sciarretto on a journey while discussing Ritual, an album that celebrates and embraces imperfections in an era where bands strive for and seek digital perfection through artificial, technological means. The lyrics are also afforded more "space" to make their points, something that Cave effectively elaborates on.
Cave also explained how a grueling 18-month tour cycle manifested itself in and on Ritual, with bits of world culture flecking the songs and the music. He also espoused the virtues of socks while on tour. Yes, you read right. Socks.
Ritual is due out in January, so enjoy this sneak peak.
Your singer Harry McVeigh was quoted as saying there is "more space" on Ritual. How so?
Space in music is "silence" or it is "not playing." There has been a lot of time, with songs on this album, where there is a verse or chorus, and we strip it down instrumentally as much as it will go. It is a more genuine way to get lyrics across. There is less going on and you are forced to listen to the words and the vocal. It's a lot less perfect than the first album. We left things rough around the edges on purpose. It is a bunch of humans playing, and the music is not all fixed in the studio. All the classic records from '60s to '90s had hundreds of mistakes and people are in a habit, recently, of going so far to make it as perfect as possible, so you lose a bit of the soul. It's remedied on Ritual.
The remedy is to non-remedy the mistakes. Everything is so polished nowadays, but it's your flaws that make you who you are, as a person and an artist.
Yes, exactly. Part of it is circumstance. With Harry's voice, we had been touring for 18 months! We were 19 when we made the first record. His voice has changed, as voices do, as you get older. It has taken a fair amount of abuse, singing every night for years, and we have had to cancel two or three shows when he lost his voice and couldn't sing. This time, the lyrics are more personal and expressive, even more so than on the first album, which was more story-based. This album suits it to have Harry's voice be fractured and not perfect. When you sing something that means something to you, you want to hear the fragile quality, and not have it be completely smooth.
Life is not smooth, nor should music be!
Smooth washes over people. People like to hear the slight imperfections and stuff. It brings them closer to the band to think 'These guys can't totally nail on that bit!' When you hear it, they realize, 'He is actually playing that part.'
Any good recording stories you'd like to share about your imperfect opus Ritual? Put us in the studio with you.
It was a smooth, alarmingly smooth.
The experience was smooth, even if the music wasn't.
Yes. We were comfortable with the material when it came time to record. I am not trying to sound arrogant; we were just looking forward to developing and crafting the songs. We were using new instruments, technology and equipment, so it was nice to experiment intellectually. Getting the songs across? Things went fairly well. There were late nights, obviously. We developed a technique, which isn't ever used in rock music, at least in the rock music we make. We'd take the same part and sing it 30 times, and that's done in R&B all the time. It was not like a choir, but there was a smooth backing vocal, and there were moments where the producer would say, 'You know what time it is' and we'd have to sing the same line for an hour. It was tedious and worth it.
I'd like to know something about you or the band that isn't related to the music.
We all finished school and didn't go to University. We've never had a set vocation to go off and do it. I was quite into the idea of doing drama and theater in some way, if things didn't work out musically. I was not sure I wanted to become an actor, but I was interested in that area. It hasn't stuck since this has kicked off. I got into film, which I am interested in and obsessive about. I love to watch films. I am interested in working towards doing a score. Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead has done it, and it is suited to the way we write music. Scoring is more of a composition than a conventional song, at least a lot of the time.
So what are your favorite films of this year?
This film just came out in the UK, Enter the Void, which is same director as Irreversible.
The ultra violent movie starring Monica Bellucci?
This movie is worse. It's just an experience. You see it in the cinema and it's physical. The director uses intense strobe effects with graphics and lighting and films with a handy cam, so it's the point of view of someone's eyes. When he blinks, the screen blinks. It leaves you feeling quite sick. I wasn't quite impressed at first, but I couldn't stop thinking about it for three or four days after. Usually, with a film, when you think about it afterwards, it's a few hours or a day. But now, it has had an effect. Also I Am Loved, with Tilda Swinton. It came out in the UK at the start of the year. It came out in the US a few months ago, and went slightly unnoticed. It's an Italian film, but it is amazingly acted, written and shot. It was one of the best of the year.
Why should a kid with 20 bucks in his picket plunk that hard-earned cash down on Ritual? This is your chance to "sell" your own record, even though your label employs a team of people to do that.
In America, you buy into American music, which is many genres and at the end of day, it is American 'sounding,' whether it is Kelly Clarkson or Animal Collective. But we made this album about a month after we had finished an 18-month tour. We were inspired by the act of touring, so the album has picked up a very universal sound. We did not spend any time in England nor did we spend any time listening to or going to see English bands. We have been everywhere in limbo, so we've taken bits of culture from Tokyo, Russia, Australia. Going quickly into writing, after finishing long section of traveling, gives it a kind of well-rounded and unspecific sound. It's not definitely English when you hear it. It's quite unusual! We avoided the glossy sheen and ended up creating an album that doesn't sound wildly new, but has a rounded influence and technique.
What was your favorite place or city to absorb culture from while on that 18-month tour cycle?
Um, it's hard to pick. I enjoyed Moscow since it was different than anywhere we had been, like I expected. It was a cultural shock, since not many people speak English. It was cold, dark, gloomy and quite oppressive. We found the gig there and the people at the bar were really warm and friendly. We met some quite funny people. We went to Red Square and did tourist-y things. When you visit cold places, you tend to huddle together as a gang, so we all bonded well there. We took the overnight train to St. Petersburg, and spent time in small cabins, drinking Vodka. It was the most travel-like experience we had on tour, as opposed to bus or plane, going gig to gig. It was almost like backpacking.
What is your one tour essential?
A large selection of socks. There is nothing like a fresh pair in morning.
You know, you can say that about undies!
That's good too! But socks are important, since your feet are touching ground, so it's an important point of comfort. When you tour for three weeks, you need a lot of socks. I am always on the lookout for socks.