White Lies: Finding Gold on Record–and in Record Stores

Ready to embark on their first US tour in years, White Lies has a lot to be excited about. Lead singer, Harry McVeigh talks with TVD about playing new songs, playing in new hometowns, and filling his suitcase full of vinyl along the way.

Hi, Harry! How are you?

I’m very well. Just recovering from some serious rain in San Francisco.

Are you there for a show?

No, I live here. I moved out here about seven months ago with my wife. She works here. We thought it would be a nice change of scene, so we moved here.

Are you enjoying it, besides the rain?

Well, we’re use to the rain, we’re British. But I love it. It’s a great city. I’ve really enjoyed it here.

What are looking forward to most in your upcoming US tour?

Well, it’s been a few years since we’ve played in the US and I think it’s going to be great. I say this when we play anywhere in the world, but we have so many wonderful fans who really love our band. We really enjoy meeting them and playing to them. There are people who really love the songs, especially love the lyrics and I enjoy being in that moment hearing them sing them back to me.

I know that sounds like a bit of a cliched answer, but it is wonderful. Especially when you’re playing in a city you don’t get to play in that often. It’s really great. There are a few shows on this tour in towns we’ve never played before. I think even if they’re not crazy busy, when people show up it’s a great experience. Also moving to San Francisco, I’ve made a few friends here and you tell people that you’re in a band—but to actually have the opportunity to show them what I do and to play in my new hometown, I’m really excited about that.

What are your live shows like? Are you mostly playing your new album, Friends or do mix it up with old favorites?

We’re not strictly precious about the live shows. We don’t obsess over the new material. I mean, we do play quite a lot of the album. I think we play about seven tracks. We play songs from across all of the records, especially the first record. I think for a lot of people that’s their favorite. I think a lot of those songs are probably some our favorites, too, so we really enjoy playing them.

We’ve been away for two years recording and it’s been three years since the last record. In the music industry, I think that’s quite a long time really. So you never know what to expect when you come back—if people are still going to get into the music and into the band. We saw that with the tour last Fall, people who really love the band and love the music and it kind of never went away. That was a really pleasant experience for us. We really didn’t know what to expect. To come back to that was just wonderful. We were just thrilled with the whole thing.

Was it fun playing the new songs?

It was, yeah. There are some of them that are some of the most challenging songs to play live that we’ve ever written. And that was really great fun getting them right. I think it was great as well to have a few songs where there was a bit of a risk. You didn’t quite know how they were going to turn out night to night.

That’s the fun of the live shows, that it’s not always muscle memory. Some of the songs you have to really think about how you’re going to play them and keep them really tight. Especially there’s a song on the new album called “Is My Love Enough?” which needs to be so locked in, so tight, but when you get it right, it’s like a little rush. But yeah, we really enjoy playing the new songs. But also, I think these are some of the best songs we’ve written. I think our approach to writing the album and recording it was a lot of fun, and we feel that every time we play them.

Do you remember your first experience with vinyl?

Yeah, I do. I was still in school, I must’ve been about 16 or 17. My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, met some guys really into DJing. They were quite good at it. And she thought that was something she was going to have a go at. They had an old deck that didn’t work, it was completely broken. So she thought all she needed to do was get a mixer and another vinyl deck and she’d be good to go. But I think she gave up on it quite quickly. She was rubbish at it. But we kept the deck. Well, I kept the deck and I put it in my parent’s house. That was great for me, because I had something to play vinyl on.

In London there’s a lot of great second-hand vinyl stores, so to be sixteen years old and be able to buy handfuls of records for next to nothing was great. You could get so many unusual albums and stuff pulled out of people’s dusty attics or whatever and you’d pay like 50p or a pound for them. It was great to bring them home and just see what was on them. I think that’s the addiction to vinyl for a lot of people. You can go anywhere—to flea markets or there’s a really great vinyl fair in West London not far from where I grew up—where you can pick up records for 20p. You never know what’s going to be on them, but sometimes you find real gold. I just love that.

What are some of your favorite record stores?

In the UK there’s one called the Notting Hill Vinyl Exchange which is on Bayswater Road next to Notting Hill Gate station, which I love. That’s the place I was talking about where you can pick up records really cheap if you’re willing to browse through them. They also have really good specialist sections for soul and dance and classical music, as well.

And obviously in San Francisco it’s gotta be Amoeba Records and the one in Los Angeles, they’re both awesome. Even before I moved to the city, whenever we were passing through with the band, we would always make a bee-line to those record stores in LA and San Francisco. We’d never seen anything like it really. There’s not really a record store that big, on that kind of scale, in the UK and that was always very exciting for us. We’d always come back from a US tour with our suitcases just packed full of records.

What is one record you think everyone should have in their collection?

I think it would be good to recommend a record people might not own compared to a very popular one. So, I’m going to say, there’s a really amazing album by Van Morrison, it’s one of his lesser known records, I think of it as lesser known, it’s called Veedon Fleece, and I think it’s just a beautiful album. The musicianship is amazing. I think it just demonstrates what an amazing singer he is. And I love how sort of free the songs are. They sound almost improvisational. It’s just a record I could listen to over and over again, and I have over the years. It’s kind of one of those records I always come back to. So, I would recommend that to anyone.

For Friends you were nominated and for Big TV you won the Best Art, Vinyl Award. Do you think a lot about the artwork? What is the process like?

It’s not something we think about when we’re making the album, but it is something we get very involved with after we finish writing and recording. We have a really great design company that we work with in London called Big Active. For Friends and Big TV we basically came to them with artwork. For Big TV it was that artist and painting (“Pilot 2” by Michael Kagan), and we said “We love this! What can you do with it?” and being the kind of design company they are, they did very little to it, but what they did do was very impactful and it really worked.

On Friends we did the same thing. We came in with a collection of paintings we really liked. We couldn’t make it work with the artist. We couldn’t get permission to use it, so they took it from there and made something that actually ended up being very different, but based off of the original idea.

We would sit down every few weeks while we’re figuring out the artwork and discuss what direction it’s going in and the bits we like and the bits we don’t like. I don’t think any of us would say we’re that good at graphic design or anything like that. We don’t know any of the technical parts of it, but we feel great about it and really enjoy working on it. So, it’s kind of a collaborative process. We do like to get involved with that.

We like the records and especially the vinyl in our collection to have amazing artwork. We’ve always enjoyed looking at them. I even have cheesy vinyl frames you put on your wall to display album covers. We like to make record covers that people would enjoy looking at, even if they don’t enjoy our music necessarily.

White Lies current album Friends is in stores on black vinyl, picture disc, or an exclusive multi-tape album set.

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2/1 – 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
2/2 – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY
2/3 – The Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, MA
2/4 – Lee’s Place, Toronto, ON
2/6 – Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL
2/7 – Majestic Theatre, Madison, WI
2/8 – Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis, MN
2/11 – Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver, BC
2/12 – Nectar Lounge, Seattle, WA
2/14 – The Chapel, San Francisco, CA
2/15 – El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
2/17 – Teatro Diana, Guadalajara, Mexico
2/18 – El Plaza Condesa, Mexico City, Mexico
2/19 – Cinema Rio 70, Monterrey, Mexico
2/22 – The Empire, Coventry, UK
2/23 – O2 Academy Newcastle, New Castle Upon Tyne, UK
2/24 – O2 Academy Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
2/25 – O2 Academy 2 Oxford, Oxford, UK
2/27 – Y Plas – Cardiff University Students Union, Cardiff, UK
2/28 – O2 Academy Leicester, Leicester, UK
3/2 – Pyramids Centre, Portsmouth, UK
3/3 – Hull University, Hull, UK
3/4 – Troxy, London, UK
3/6 – Guildhall, Preston, UK
3/7 – The Garage, Aberdeen, UK
3/8 – Potterrow, Edinburgh, UK
3/11 – Keele University, Keele, UK
3/12 – Nick Rayns LCR, UEA, Norwich, UK

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