“If we’re selling tickets for shows because of the music we’re putting out then I don’t really care if we’ve got 10 million Spotify plays or whatever” says JACK LAWRENCE-BROWN – aka drummer of indie-pop icons WHITE LIES.
A decade since the release of number one debut record, To Lose My Life, the band have toured excessively all over the world in order to not only stay relevant, but to consistently put out refreshingly exciting music. Reminiscing, Jack ponders “I think part of the reason we’ve been able to carry on for ten years while other bands from that era have struggled is just that we’ve just grafted really hard.” Not using this as a jab to any particular band, we are quick to discuss the NME Awards Tour from 2009 where they hit the road alongside fellow legends Glasvegas, Friendly Fires and Florence and the Machine.
All four bands on the bill were incredibly popular at the time, and while some have went on to global domination, others stalled shortly after. Picking up on then-headliners Glasvegas, Jack offers the opinion that “the Glasvegas story was an interesting one, because when that first record came out they were a really great band live. They didn’t have much energy on stage, but they had this really electric feeling about them and through whatever reason it just hasn’t happened for them.” There are no grudges, though, especially as Jack reveals “we made loads of friends on that tour. Florence is someone we count as a friend now and same with Friendly Fires to the point where we nicked their bassist for a few tours!”
Over the past decade many things have changed. NME have ceased print, the ‘Awards Tour’ is a distant memory and bands that may have once featured are already on lengthy UK-wide tours without the backing of an iconic industry. However, White Lies have a fondness for the publication and suggest “they were able to break bands through in a way that perhaps no one is able to do these days.”
On the topic of breaking through, White Lies are not complacent of the platform they’ve achieved during the past ten years, but are instead still putting 100% into every release. Remaining realistic, though, Jack explains “I don’t pin my hopes on some mad radio breakthrough now, but if there was any White Lies song that would get commercial success I think it would be Tokyo.” ‘Tokyo‘ is the latest single from ‘Five’ – the band’s new album. “I genuinely think it is our best record,” is said with a great deal of hope, but he is aware that sentiment has been used before. “We thought that previously, but in terms of what we’ve aimed for, this is probably the most ‘White Lies’ only process. We made it without a label and we’ve financed it ourselves and now it is ready to go.”
With the newly found method of releasing a record comes the UK tour, where White Lies are set to once again visit some of the most iconic venues across the country. “For a band like ours we know what level we are at and that is the big theatres so we love playing them. Every now and then it is worth going and doing something different in terms of a venue, but with Rock City [Nottingham] and Albert Hall [Manchester] we’ve done them a few times and I don’t mind doing them.”
Jack praises Rock City, because “truth be told, the backstage is pretty shit, but you kind of compensate with that because you have the opposite crowd there. Rock City is one that we know will be a good show where they’ll be right off the bat from the first track. You’re kind of excited about those. It is sometimes the venues that you don’t play so much that are slightly more nerve wracking because you don’t know what to expect.”
Fully aware that both they and the crowds are ten years older, White Lies make no secret of not expecting audiences to be throwing themselves around. “Ten years ago when the people coming to our shows were the same age as us, 18 or 19, they were going crazy. Now everyone is older so there isn’t a mosh-pit, but they’ll be singing back the words and I know there will be people in that room the first time we ever played Rock City.”
When Jack talks about “the first time we ever played Rock City” the idea of a ‘To Lose My Life’ celebration is brought up. Jokingly, he suggests “as long as we don’t make it some kind of nostalgia trip then it is definitely something we’d consider doing.” With anniversary tours nowadays, there is also the option of digging through the back catalogue – a move Jack is seemingly keen to do, as he explains “that album is only forty minutes anyway so we’d also have the opportunity to run through the back catalogue.”
There is a real feeling that it could actually happen, and it is strengthened when he points out “we’ve spoke about it as a band and think we should honour it in some way. More than anything, we’ve managed to shake off the feeling that the album is some kind of burden of us. When you go out and play 500 shows over a few years where you’re playing songs from the same album and think ‘do people really still want to hear these songs?’ but we’re past that now. I’ve gone back around on it and I now think if we never make another album as good as that then I wouldn’t be devastated or surprised because it is a really great record.”
Since its release, there have been an abundance of highlights, but what is first to be mentioned is “ten years in an industry as fickle as the music one is a great achievement I think.” Another, which is more personal to Jack, is “going to Asia, Australia, South America and places like Mexico where we do better than we do in the UK. We can do 2,500 people two nights in a row in Mexico City and that is mad.” Remaining humble, he reminisces “it isn’t the sort of stuff you even consider when you write your first songs, but the first songs are the ones that people still sing back to us. Long may that continue for us.”
As mentioned, White Lies are not only humble; they are also realistic going into the tour. They are aware that people might not want to hear Five in full, so “we’re going to probably play six of them and then spread across the rest. The only record we don’t really play is Rituals because even the songs we love on there have got lost over time I think. We always play Bigger Than Us, though.” Offering the reason why the new record won’t saturate the set, Jack explains “we’ll never be a band like Radiohead who go out and play all new songs. A lot of the tracks that people want to hear are from the first record so we’ll make sure we tick people’s boxes. Maybe they haven’t seen us for eight years, but they still want to hear songs that perhaps they loved at university or something.”
Giving the fans what they want is important and the band are fully aware of that. “Those moments are important to people and it would be arrogant of us to deny people those moments because we don’t like playing the hits. We’ve got enough time and the truth is we write short records.” There is a sense of both thankfulness and optimism as Jack points out “even if some people think ‘oh I thought White Lies stopped ages ago,’ there are people that still care about the band. They are aware that we’ve put records out that we enjoy over the past ten years.”