Interview: White Lies’ Harry McVeigh on recording in Bryan Ferry’s studio
Courtesy of Grandstand Media

UK band White Lies are currently on a US Tour to support their most recent album Friends, available on their new label Fiction Records. They might have lost the label they've been on for their last three albums but frontman Harry McVeigh reveals that it was not something that they lost sleep over. Confident of their fanbase, the trio soldiered on and soon the labels came calling. The band did have to work slightly differently and accepted an invitation to record at Bryan Ferry's personal studio.

The limitations of working in a non-commercial studio - where they would not have had access to a bigger space and wider range of instruments, ultimately had an impact on the sound of their album. However, they relished the experience and emerged with songs such as "Don't Want To Feel it All", "Is My Love Enough" and "Don't Fall". 

All three have a slower, measured pace and employ vintage synthesizers like the Prophet 5. Synthesizers popular with Ferry's Roxy Music keyboardist Brian Eno back in the Eighties. Ahead of their San Francisco show at The Chapel on Feb 14, McVeigh chats to us about the variance in the tracks and what it was like self-producing.  

AXS: How did the opportunity to record in Bryan Ferry’s personal studio come about?

Harry McVeigh: That was a great opportunity and I’m glad that we decided to take it. One of our managers met with Bryan’s son, Tara who is a really lovely guy. On a whim he offered it to us asking us to just ‘take a look and see what we think.’ That was incredible good luck. We are big fans of Roxy Music. And we got to use a studio filled with Roxy Music memorabilia and synthesizers. Bryan’s not had many people in there, that’s not been with him. We hear Prince is the other artist that has used the studio.

AXS: It sounds like it’s was like being in a Roxy Music museum, and you got to use  some vintage synths?

HM: Yes they had the Prophet 5 which is a beautiful synthesizer. We got to use it and got some great sounds out of that.

AXS: Was there any trepidation going into this fourth album, in terms of your critics or the fact that it’s been almost 10 years and you’re all approaching 30, and started in the band in your teens?

HM: I don’t think so. Not in terms of writing and producing the album itself. There was a little trepidation when it came to putting shows on sale. We hadn’t had a record out for three years which is a long time in music today. We didn’t know if people would still be into the band and coming out to see our shows. Luckily they are! Actually the tours have been the best thing about it as it has been so reassuring for us. You mentioned earlier that we’ve been in a band as White Lies for 10 years, for the first time it actually feels that maybe this is a proper career. And that’s a really wonderful feeling for a musician.

AXS: How has making this album differed from the others  – in themes and the way you guys work, choosing to self-produce?

HM: In terms of the themes on the record, Charles writes most of the songs so perhaps that’s one for him. But we are all in our late ‘20s, approaching our ‘30s and in our lives, or anyone at that age there are a lot of changes: getting married, thinking of starting a family and moving away from home. When we started to write this album we didn’t have a label so we had to really hash out what the songs were about more than ever before. Our demos had to be more obvious and show how the song would end up so that people could use that to base whether they would sign us. So we had to figure out our sound early on in the process. We also wound up writing for a long time so we had a lot of material: 30 to 40 songs. We recorded 15 and then put 10 on the album. Choosing to self-produce was a financial thing. We brought in different people so it was less expensive but you can still work with the people you love and respect. I think in the future that’s how we’ll make all our records

AXS: Not having a producer also meant that you guys had more say on the finished product. For instance, the track “Friends” that gives the album its title you left off this album. And there’s a track with REO Speedwagon synths that your engineer’s advise was to take out but you guys chose to keep it. Perhaps a producer would make the overall sound be more uniform, this way you guys got to play with the music?

HM: Absolutely. There is a real variance between the tracks. A producer would have been more concerned about that than we were.

AXS: Was not having a record label worrisome or as liberating as your press release makes it out?

HM: I don’t know if we were that worried. We knew we would get a record out one way or another, even if we have to put it out on a label ourselves. We know we have a fan base. And we felt we had momentum behind us.

AXS: You guys gave a big shout out to Mexico and realizing that you have a large fanbase there, have announced two shows – isn’t it great how social media allows artists to go straight to their fans – what in your opinion are the are they ups and downs to it though?

HM: Honestly, I am not on social media. I know that the band is and perhaps this one is for the other guys. What I can say is I really like how you can see how many people want you to play somewhere like Mexico and then you can book your shows and go play for those people.

For tickets to see their show at The Chapel, please click here. See below for further tour dates.

White Lies North American Tour Dates:

Feb. 3, 2017 - Boston, MA - Middle East Club

Feb. 4, 2017 - Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace

Feb. 6, 2017 - Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall

Feb. 7, 2017 - Madison, WI - Majestic Theatre

Feb. 8, 2017 - Minneapolis, MN - Cedar Cultural Center

Feb. 11, 2017 - Vancouver, BC - Rickshaw Theater

Feb. 12, 2017 - Seattle, WA - Nectar Lounge

Feb. 14, 2017 - San Francisco, CA - The Chapel

Feb. 15, 2017 - Los Angeles, CA - El Rey Theatre

Feb. 17, 2017 - Guadalajara, MX - Teatro Diana

Feb. 18, 2017 - Mexico City, MX - El Plaza Condesa

Feb. 19, 2017 - Monterrey, MX - Auditorio Rio 70