Page last updated at 08:21 GMT, Thursday, 8 January 2009

BBC Sound of 2009: White Lies


Watch White Lies as they show you round their west London haunts

By Mark Savage
BBC News entertainment reporter

London rock trio White Lies have come second on the BBC's Sound of 2009 list, which features the best bands and singers to watch in the next 12 months.

One act from the top five is being unveiled every day this week, counting down to Friday, when the number one will be revealed.

White Lies

While Coldplay and Arcade Fire have been writing and recording albums in churches, White Lies sound like they've recently emerged from a crypt.

Their doom-laden rock is full of references to plane crashes, murders, funerals, kidnappings and nervous breakdowns.

Even their most romantic song - new single To Lose My Life - has the refrain: "Let's grow old together and die at the same time."

And it's taking a toll on the band...

Vocalist Harry McVeigh says performing the group's bleak songs in concert can be "pretty draining".

"It's not always the most uplifting," agrees bassist and lyricist Charles Cave.

Reviewers seem to agree, too. Last October, the Guardian's Maddy Costa said watching the band was like living through "a horror movie in which a pre-pubescent choirboy, radiating innocence, becomes possessed and starts singing in a rumbling bass dredged up from five fathoms deep".

But, counters Cave, White Lies are not "dark people".

"It's really important for us to maintain a level of humour on tour," he says. "Because if we lived through the songs, we'd be basket cases."

Indeed, the trio - completed by drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown - are surprisingly upbeat in person, sharing a relaxed bonhomie that stems from having been childhood friends in west London.

White Lies
The band hail from west London suburbs Ealing and Shepherd's Bush
They finish one another's sentences, correct each other's mistakes and joke that Cave should write a song called Butt Out to persuade McVeigh to give up smoking.

But there is no disguising the fact that White Lies take being in a rock band very seriously indeed.

They killed off their previous art-rock incarnation Fear Of Flying in 2006 and chose the name White Lies because, like their new miserablist sound, it represented something "seemingly innocent" with "very dark undertones".

Their conversation is peppered with references to the "integrity" of their lyrics and the importance of "working in isolation".

In fact, the group spent half a year labouring over their first five songs, and practiced for three months before their debut gig.

That sparked a record label bidding war, which eventually led to the band signing to Fiction records - home to Elbow and Snow Patrol.

We won't finish a song if we don't think it's going to be really good
Jack Lawrence-Brown
Almost inevitably, this sparked a backlash before the band had released so much as a guitar riff, with one blogger complaining the group were "contrived" as a "PR man's dream".

As a result, the group are now wary of being tipped as the next big thing.

"I don't think there really should be lists that predict people's success," says Cave.

"I think we'd all rather turn up next year and win a bunch of awards for the album that we've made."


All the same, Cave is "very confident" in the band's debut (also called To Lose My Life), which is a lean, muscular rock album full of stadium-sized guitar lines and deep, foreboding vocals.

It has already been compared to 1980s gloom rockers Echo & The Bunnymen, Joy Division and The Teardrop Explodes.

"I genuinely think that the only real similarity is a foreboding overall sound and the fact that Harry sings in a baritone," protests Cave.

In any case, McVeigh believes the comparison is flawed "because in most of the songs the chorus is up an octave".

Watch the full video for White Lies' single To Lose My Life

"There are some songs which I actually struggle to sing, because they're so high. But people pick up on the fact that a lot of the verses are very low and deep."

If the band have a formula, it consists of dark, portentous verses which build slowly to a euphoric chorus.

But the music does not come easily. "We won't finish a song if we don't think it's going to be really good," says Lawrence-Brown.

"We never write for b-sides. There's only 10 tracks on the album."

The band's writing skills were severely tested when they were forced to come up with "five songs in three weeks" in order to finish their record.

It's great to see yet more home grown talent! For a small Island we punch well above our weight in the music industry
Peter H, UK

"It was really stressful," says Lawrence-Brown. "But the best songs on the album were written in that period.

"You can hear that nervous energy. To Lose My Life, which is the next single, is really instant and that came together in a few hours, basically."

The group reckon they became "more confident" as a result - but the experience hasn't punctured their perfectionism.

"Eventually, we'll get to the point where we're able to have a couple of months in the studio," says McVeigh.

"I think that'll probably be a massively creative time for us."

White Lies will be in session on BBC 6 Music's George Lamb show between 1000-1300 on Thursday.

More than 130 leading UK-based music writers, editors and broadcasters took part in Sound of 2009. They named their three favourite new acts and their responses were used to compile the list. Find out more here.

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