Emotional tunes

By Stephen Jewell

With song titles like Death and To Lose My Life, White Lies have been hailed by Brit magazine NME, as the masters of "nu gloom". However, there is nothing downbeat about the Chiswick-based threesome's electro-pop, which is greeted enthusiastically by the Cambridge Corn Exchange audience when they play the university town as part of NME's influential, annual Shockwaves tour.

"It's a bit frustrating sometimes when you talk to journalists and they say 'you make very depressing music'," says bassist Charles Cave, who makes up White Lies alongside vocalist/ guitarist Harry McVeigh and drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown. "They clearly haven't listened because it's not that at all. We get comments from fans on internet noticeboards every day saying things like 'your music makes me want to cry and dance at the same time'. It's a very emotional sound but it's not negative. Those critics should come on stage when we're playing and see the shining joy on the faces of whoever's watching."

Cave, who writes the lyrics for McVeigh to sing, claims that he is not obsessed with dying. "It was something that worried me when I was younger," he admits. "But on the album, death is used as a metaphor for the losing of something, which was one of my worst fears when I was growing up. Whether it's the loss of a grandparent or parent or simply a new pen, I hated the thought of something being gone and being unreachable."

There is something deeply romantic about the anthemic catch-cry of To Lose My Life, "Let's get old together and die at the same time".

"It's very over the top but that's what the greatest art, whether it be painting, poetry or film, is when it's dealing with those kinds of things," says Cave. "It's very cathartic music and I write the lyrics in a cathartic way. I write them very quickly and very rarely. I really don't have many more lyrics than the ones that we've used because I never write unless I have to. When I do write them, it takes five or 10 minutes and then it's finished. I seldom touch it again, but if I do I feel like I'm cutting into a moment."

According to Cave, McVeigh doesn't entirely understand the words that he sings. "There's a lot of things like that with White Lies," he says. "We're more like brothers than best friends but at the same time we really don't know that much about each other. We're close but in a very cosmic way. "It's not an emotional thing. That creates a sense of mystery, because I definitely don't understand the other two people in my band at all. And while Harry can make a good guess at what I'm writing about, he doesn't know exactly where all the allusions come from."

Considering that they only came together as White Lies in late 2007, it has been a rapid rise to fame for the trio, whose self-titled album debuted at number one in the British charts in January. However, they are far from an overnight success, having spent six years together as Fear of Flying before changing their band name and musical direction.

"It's been quite a dramatic step-up in a year," says Cave. "We were heavily persuaded by pop culture and the NME, and it was only when we started White Lies and decided to just be ourselves that we actually found our sound.

"We were a bit nihilistic about it at first as we really didn't care what people thought, but then they started picking up on it."

According to Cave, he and his bandmates were raised on a diverse range of different music. "I was brought up on Talking Heads and Simon & Garfunkel and then I really got into metal when I was 15. We've had a good education, which means that we have no qualms about listening to something from 40 years ago or something that has just come out."

He admits to swatting up on The Cure after White Lies supported the English goth legends last month. However, he insists that they are not a significant influence.

"The older journalists we talk to are at an age where those are the bands that come to mind, whereas any younger journalists will reference Interpol because that's their musical generation," says Cave, who like his bandmates, is in his mid-20s. "It's great that we've been compared to bands from the 80s, bands from the 90s and bands from the last decade. It shows that we've managed to tap into that rare thing of making music that doesn't have a date on it."

* To Lose My Life is in stores now.

- Herald on Sunday

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