With brooding rockers White Lies supporting Coldplay at several of the current stadium shows, we called up frontman Harry McVeigh to find out a bit more about them.
Hello Harry, how are you?
I’m good, thanks.
How have your first three shows with Coldplay been?
They’ve been great. I’ve been very impressed by the number of people who’ve turned up early to see the support bands play. It’s really flattering. It’s a great tour to be on. We’ve really, really enjoyed it so far.
The crowd at Herning were certainly enthusiastic.
Yeah. I think you’re guaranteed to have at least a few people that know your songs when you’ve got that many people watching! I think those people maybe get everyone else up for it, which is really great for us.
You’ve had a great year in the UK – are things going well for you in Europe too?
Yeah, we’ve had an extensive European festival season this summer and things are building, slowly but surely. The responses are getting better and better. There are a few countries we’re doing extremely well in – like the Netherlands. It’s really taken off for us there.
For those Coldplay fans who haven’t heard of you, how would you describe White Lies’ music?
A lot of people pick up on the fact that it has quite a dark edge to it. I suppose that is an element to our music, certainly in the subject matter of the lyrics. But at the same time, it’s almost a celebration of that, which is actually quite uplifting and euphoric. It’s quite grand and epic too. And I think it’s quite original, but at the same time it has elements of music from the past, which is something we really enjoy.
Joy Division are probably the band you’re most often compared to.
Yeah, well, that comparison is getting a little bit old for us, but as far as bands that we could possibly be compared to, they’re certainly not the worst!
Have you had to adjust your usual show for Coldplay’s crowd?
Not really for the crowd, but certainly for the size of the venue. You have to try and use the space on the stage and involve the audience as much as possible, for the basic reason that they’re so far away from you. But it’s great playing big shows like this, because we learn more and more about how to interact with the crowd and how to reel them in. I think Coldplay are one of the best bands in the world at doing that. After watching their show a couple of times already, I think it’s amazing how big they can make the show, but also how intimate they can make it at certain moments. I think that’s really cool. They’ve obviously thought about it a lot.
Are you a big Coldplay fan?
Well I know their music very well and I have a couple of their albums, but I think, as with a lot of bands, they’re almost better live than when you listen to the recordings. I have very, very much enjoyed watching the shows. They’ve really nailed the way they perform the songs and the sound of them. I’m certainly more of a fan now that I’ve seen them live a couple of times.
Have you played many support shows before these?
We did a support tour with Glasvegas towards the end of last year, which was great. And we did the NME tour with them as well. Plus we’ve done a few shows with Snow Patrol and we did one arena show with Kings of Leon, who we’re doing a few more shows with towards the end of the year in America. So, yeah, we’ve been associated with some pretty big bands. I think it’s been very good for us.
Do you feel like support shows can help, then?
Oh, yeah, definitely. The prime example is that after we did the Coldplay show in Denmark, our album went up to Number Five in the Danish charts. To see a response from that one show so quickly is insane. But I think when people really love music and have a lot of respect for a band, they’ll listen to their support bands very openly and readily.
How did you come to be on the Coldplay tour?
I don’t know, actually. I assume that at least maybe one of them in the band is a fan of our music, or at least I hope so. I guess we were in the right place at the right time, which is very lucky for us.
Have you met them yet?
Well, I think most of the time they come in just before they play and leave straight afterwards. But, I’m sure we will get the chance to meet them at some point, which I’m looking forward to. We’ve still got a few shows to do with them.
The Wembley Stadium shows should be quite something.
Yeah, it’s very exciting. Even though we’re the support band, just to say we’ve played there is a pretty bold statement. I can’t wait.
So, have you enjoyed your first year in the pop spotlight?
Definitely. And the year is going to be rounded off perfectly by our UK tour at the end of the year, where we’re going to be in the biggest venues that we’ve played in. It’ll be like a real homecoming. It’s all just gone from strength to strength for us, really. We feel like our live shows have improved so much since the beginning of this year. We started 2009 with a Number One album and everything just followed on from there. It’s been fantastic.
Has it been a tiring year too?
Well, the travelling and spending time away from home is the hard bit. It does take it out of you. But the shows make it all worth it. And as a huge fan of music, I don’t think there’s a better job you can have than being in a band and playing your music to people around the world, seeing some amazing places. But by the end of this year, if I see another aeroplane, I’ll probably hang myself.
Do you have any top tips for wasting time in airports?
If you get a good TV series on a boxset, that’s great. The Wire is perfect cos it’s completely addictive. As soon as you finish an episode, you want to watch the next one. So, yeah, any DVD boxset of a good series is a great time waster.
Having heard your music, do people expect you to be quite dark and gloomy in real life?
Oh yeah, all the time.
At least you get away with having bad moods.
Yeah! But that doesn’t happen very often, to be honest. We just try and be ourselves. I’ve thought about this quite a lot actually. Even if you go back to Shakespeare’s time, it’s always been quite cool to be melancholic and dark and introverted. I wish we could be like that in person, but we’re really not. Our music makes us very happy and we’re happy in our jobs and happy in our lives. So I suppose there’s no reason for us to be miserable.
Even when you’re singing songs about dying every night?
Well, not all the songs are about dying. But I actually think that the nature of our music vastly contrasts the lyrics a lot of the time. As I mentioned before, I think a lot of the music is almost quite uplifting and euphoric. When you sing about those things within music that gives off those emotions, it’s very much a release. I think that maybe contributes to the fact that we’re quite happy people. Certainly for me being the singer, who vocalises those lyrics and those subject matters, it makes me very happy to release those feelings and those emotions. That probably sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s true.
So, is there any chance you folks will turn over a happy new leaf for your next album?
I don’t think that’s very likely! The way we write our music and what we do with it makes us very happy. I think if we were to change the way that we wrote music, it wouldn’t have the same effect on us. It’s a really good outlet for emotion and it’s really amazing for us to be creative in that way. I suppose we just find it easiest to write songs if they’re about that side of life.
Finally, what is your favourite Coldplay song?
That’s a tough one. I’ve been very much enjoying Politik live. It’s so in your face and heavy. But I think Lovers In Japan is my favourite one, just because it’s so incredible to see all those butterflies flying through the air, being lit up by UV lights. I’ve found myself sitting there, watching the show, just feeling really, really excited about that moment. It’s an amazing spectacle.
For more info on White Lies, head over to whitelies.com.