White Lies' Harry McVeigh
There are a million high school bands that hope, struggle, fall into disillusionment and then get "real jobs," thinking only of their former band when telling stories to their grandkids 50 years down the line. There aren't all that many, though, who turn a corner, rename themselves and have a debut album that goes straight in at number one in their home country, all while the band members are barely into their 20s. Perhaps that's why White Lies are so grounded, and so incredibly thankful about the whole thing. The band are currently travelling Europe on a tour that's headed to North America at the end of March, and we interrupted one of lead singer Harry McVeigh's rare days off to talk about the press, the hype, and the dream come true.
So you're in Germany right now?
I'm in Berlin, yeah. It's great, we had a day off today which is unusual; we don't usually get time off on tour. We got to go and see some of the sights, which was nice. We went to the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie, which were both cool.
Have you had the weird sausage things from the street vendors yet?
The currywurst? I haven't tried them but after what you just said I probably won't!
Don't! How's the reception been over there? I guess the Germans love you as your music's quite dark and brooding.I think that's maybe a little bit of a stereotype! We haven't played the show here yet but the European tour's been great so far. We played a 1500-capacity venue last night in Amsterdam, which was amazing, and the night before that we were in Paris. This whole tour's been sold out for us, and we weren't expecting that at all so it's been really cool.
You're heading to North America soon -€“ what are your goals for that leg of the tour?
Just to carry on some of the good work we've been doing in the UK and around Europe. Things are really starting to pick up for us over here now, and we just want to continue that throughout the rest of the world. It's going to be really cool because a lot of the places we're playing in Canada and America we've never played before, and most of the people there will not know very much about our music or our band, and it's cool to play to a fresh crowd every now and again. It's really good fun.
Toronto crowds are pretty enthusiastic about new bands so I think you'll go down well.
We've played Toronto before actually; we played at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern! We played there in 2008, it must have been maybe September or October.
How well do you think you represent British music to the North Americans?
I don't know, I don't think we sound that much like any bands in the UK at the moment. In fact, most of the contemporary bands we're into are from New York and North America. I don't know what people will expect, really. Maybe I sing in quite a British accent, I'm not sure!
So what bands are you into right now then?
Well, our favourite new band is a band called School of Seven Bells, from New York, they're amazing and they're coming out on tour with us round the UK in May. The guitarist from the Secret Machines started that band and the Secret Machines are one of our favourite bands. Their first album is one of our favourite albums as a band, so it's going to be amazing to have them on tour with us.
How do you feel about the British music scene at the moment?
There are a lot of female singer-songwriters, which isn't a bad thing. It's just the trend for British music and I think, to some extent, music all over the world. We have this list in the UK called the BBC Sound of 2009, which is where 150 journalists pick out the three acts they think are going to make it big this year, and three of the top five were female singer-songwriters: people like Little Boots, Florence and the Machine and La Roux, so I think that's definitely the trend for UK music at the moment. It's not a bad thing; a lot of them are really great and write fantastic songs. We were touring with Florence at the beginning of this year, on the NME Awards tour and it was great. She's an amazing singer and an amazing performer.
I was back in England last week and you guys were everywhere; it seems everyone's very excited about you. Do you think this has worked against you in any way? Bands championed by the NME, for instance, have a reputation for being overplayed and over hyped.
No, I think it's building quite slowly and naturally for us. People think that our band's come out of the blue but we've been playing music together since we were 14 or 15 years old in various bands. We've been going at it for a really long time. Things are building naturally for us and I don't think it's been forced on people too much. You know, it's never a bad thing to have a buzz around a band, and it's been really great for us as it means we're so much busier in a really good way. We get to play loads of shows and do loads of interviews and stuff instead of building up the band in a really gradual way. I'm sure to everyone else it feels a lot quicker though.
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