London indie trio White Lies have garnered a pretty gloomy rep since their inception in 2008, tagged as Joy Division-inspired post-punk, clad in head-to-toe black. However, their forthcoming third album BIG TV has, in their own words, “a colourful image, with a dark edge” which, ShortList discovers, fits the band’s new pop aspirations perfectly.
You have a bit of a gloomy reputation, but are you into ‘melancholic’ bands?
Harry McVeigh (vocals/guitar): People think we just listen to Joy Division, but they’re way darker than we are – too morbid and depressing. I hear much more Tears For Fears in our music, though it’s probably cooler to be associated with Joy Division.
Charles Cave (bass): We are fairly sensitive men, and that enables us to sometimes make slightly melancholic, introspective music. Tears For Fears are a pop band, and that’s what we want to be.
The new album is called BIG TV. How big are your TVs?
HM: None of us have particularly big TVs. The album title is about how having a big TV makes you a bit of an idiot. I’ve got the biggest one, so it turns out I’m the biggest idiot.
Jack Lawrence-Brown (drums): When I go into hotel rooms, I look at the size of the TV and think, “Is this TV big enough to tweet ‘Look at my big TV’?”
CC: Mine is ‘exceptionally modest’. Big enough to enjoy Apocalypse Now in HD, but not big enough for a 10-person movie night.
If you’re not investing in huge TVs, what do you spend your money on?
HM: I want to become a pilot like [Iron Maiden singer] Bruce Dickinson. You can buy a decommissioned English Electric Lightning fighter jet for 20 grand. But you have to have a garden big enough.
JLB: The reality is that, once you’re a rock star, your fridge breaks. I’m frittering my money away on fridge repairs.
You supported Coldplay in 2009 – do you share their love of spectacular, stadium-shaking theatrics?
HM: We’ve made the mistake of trying to take the show from the biggest venue into the smallest one.
JLB: We played in Germany to less than 1,000 people, with a [pyrotechnics] show designed for a venue of 10,000. We had a load of explosives that we just had to leave in the truck outside.
CC: I’ve never really enjoyed loud, sudden explosions. But Cirque Du Soleil has come along and reset the bar for a £30 ticket show, so we’ve got to do that.
You grew up in Ealing, west London. Was that as rock’n’roll as it sounds?
HM: I grew up in Shepherd’s Bush, actually. I call that “London” and Ealing, where the others live, “suburban”.
JLB: Harry just spent all his time coming to Ealing [when we were growing up].
HM: Just to sit in a park, drinking. I live in Acton now. It’s all I can afford. You can make lots of stupid purchases, but you’ll have to live in Acton.
CC: When we were 16, all the girls we hung out with in the park realised they could get into bars so they deserted us. That’s why we started the band. It was a sure-fire way of hanging out with girls again.
What were you listening to when you wrote the new album?
HM: Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. We wanted to write songs the way they would. Another one was John Grant. His songs remind you of other things without ever sounding like anything else.
CC: I was listening to Mercury Rev, The Blue Nile, The Divine Comedy. I listen to a lot of jazz, and Harry and I are big heavy metal fans.
You also have Reading and Leeds coming up. Do you still enjoy festivals?
JLB: Reading and Leeds are special because, post-GCSEs, we used to go there, camp and have a wild time. It’s like Armageddon. I don’t think I could ever go back as a punter now.
HM: For me, camping is all about going somewhere in the middle of nowhere and being on your own, not putting your tent up with 40,000 other people all around you.
You used to be called Fear Of Flying. Do you have any other incarnations up your sleeve?
HM: Multiple previous incarnations. The reason we changed from Fear Of Flying was because the music was a bit sh*t.
What was your first band called?
HM: The Flow. They were like an even sh*tter version of Fear Of Flying.
JLB: They had quite a lot in common with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ early era. Needless to say, Charles can slap a bass.
CC: It was all spoken word. Harry just spoke total bullsh*t that we wrote in 10 seconds while we played weird funk. It sounded like a really sh*t Mike Patton side project.
BIG TV is out on 12 August