White Lies: “It’s A Record Where The Songs Feels Like They’re Their Own Universe”

This year has seen British rock group White Lies return, serving up their sixth studio record, As I Try Not To Fall Apart.

It’s the first collection of music from the trio since 2019’s Five and moreover, an important snapshot of White Lies in what has been one of their most formative chapters yet.

Where earlier albums positioned the band as leaders of a quintessential UK-late 2000s/early 2010s-indie sound, As I Try Not To Fall Apart explores a variety of new sonic threads. The album taps influences as varied as prog through to electro-pop; heavy grooves through to more expansive guitar-pop a la The Cure or New Order.

“I’m still listening to it and really enjoying it,” bassist and songwriter Charles Cave tells us.

“I would like to think that’s partly due to the quality of the songs on it! At the same time, it’s weird. It’s the first time we’ve ever had to stagger the process, for obvious logistical reasons.”

Without referring to their new album as the dreaded, overused ‘pandemic album’, discussion about As I Try To Not Fall Apart instead focuses on how White Lies changed their approach to music. And as a result, how they have become galvanised as a creative unit.

“Over the summer and most of winter 2020, we’d recorded six or seven songs, but we knew we didn’t have an album.” Cave remembers.

“A few months went by and we were like, ‘We need to finish this’. Because of that, it just allows you as the artist, and the record, to settle in a bit. I don’t feel like there was this intense period where I was suffocated by it for six months and now I’m done with it. It was a gradual thing and I feel like I can enjoy it more, this far on.”

The process saw Cave and vocalist/guitarist Harry McVeigh write separately and with drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown, eventually record As I Try Not To Fall Apart across two studio sessions with long-time collaborator, producer Ed Buller (Pulp, The Courteneers), and producer/engineer Claudius Mittendorfer (Kaiser Chiefs, Parquet Courts).

Cave says that this new way of writing meant that some of his compositions were given room to breathe and flourish where in previous cycles, they may not have been successful.

“I do feel that I’ve been able to push some songs through on this album that I don’t think would have been able to be pushed through, if Harry and I had been working together from scratch.” he says.

“Because we had to work separately for a good while, songs like ‘Am I Really Going To Die’…I’m sure Harry would admit it as well, but he was so unsure about that song. To the point where we were even in the studio and he’s like, ‘This is not how I’d usually sing, the melody is not what I’d usually do,’ and Jack and I are there like, ‘Please, just try it. It’s going to be great, trust us’.”

“It is a record where the songs feels like they have their own universe, and they don’t spill onto each other too much. Every track on the record feels like a scene change, without feeling disjointed. When we sit down to write, we just sit down and hope for the best. I think any musician who tells you they don’t is lying!”

Taking these leaps gave White Lies newfound confidence in getting the record together and as Cave hopes, shaking up their creative process is potentially a tact they can take into future projects.

“People are coming through and saying they really love the record. Whether or not that will continue into next time – I mean, hopefully there won’t be a pandemic the next time we write a record – but I hope we do maintain an open mind. This record was put together in a different way, and it’s turned out really well.”

Entering their sixth album cycle, White Lies’ development as a band is reflected in the maturation of their sound. Their debut album To Lose My Life… landed in 2009, striking a chord with music fans at the time when artists like Interpol, Editors, Foals and Bloc Party were blazing new trails in UK indie-guitar music.

The album was forward thinking and engaging; a bright look at one of Britain’s exciting new bands. And since then, White Lies have grown consistently throughout.

“If you think of the journey any of us go on between the ages of 18 and 30, let’s say, there’s a helluva lot more that happens in life in that 12 year period, than say between 25 and 37.” Cave muses.

“We were lucky, because we started so young, our albums were albums to punctuate quite different times for people. If we’d started at the age of 30, for example, it’s like…’To Lose Your Life soundtracks your thirties and then Ritual (2011) soundtracks your…32s – wild!’ We know the difference between 18 and 21 is actually massive in how you feel, what you’re doing, your relationships, everything.”

“When the first record came out, I remember a lot of people being like, ‘They’re 18 year olds and it doesn’t sound like they’re 18,’ but I think it worked well in our favour.” he adds.

“We still have a few more years of personal and fan development to tap into! To be honest, for right now with us, now is the time where our friends and band members are having their first kids. That, in a way, has been the newest thing in life since people started getting married four or five years ago.”

“We have been making music through a period of life and development that is formative and so changeable. I’m not saying this is a blanket rule, but it’s probably why when artists get to their ’50s or ’60s, maybe the inspiration dries out a bit. One year to the next maybe isn’t as significant?”

White Lies are looking forward to their return to stages now As I Try To Not Fall Apart is finally out with fans. They haven’t been able to tour Australia since 2011, though Cave is quick to note that the band would love to be back here as soon as it is viable – financially and logistically – for them to undergo longer international tours.

Still, the excitement remains about how their new live production is coming together.

“It’s more of a curiosity than nerves, as to how things will work,” he says.

“Being on album six, the set list now is difficult! We don’t want to play for two hours, our fans don’t want to go a gig for two hours! We’re gonna have to choose really well and that means that we aren’t going to play the whole new record. We’ll pick the songs out that we think will work; you hope it will be the singles, but sometimes it’s not always that way.”

“The bottom line is, we do just take playing live and touring so seriously; our visas say ‘Entertainer’ and that’s what we see it as. We always just try and put the most entertaining set list and show together.”

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