White Lies are experts at finding light within the dark.
Sure, the band's glacial post-punk is foreboding on the outside, but underneath that they strive towards beauty, and towards hope.
New album 'Friends' arrived last year, and found White Lies moving gracefully into fresh territory.
Racing across the globe on yet another lung-bursting tour, the band uncovered fresh memories, and enjoyed fresh experiences.
White Lies' Jack Brown recounts a few of the most notable, in this special edition of Good Trip, Bad Trip.
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Eurgh, the impossible question! We have been privileged enough to tour pretty much everywhere we would ever want to, and I am sure this feature is stuffed full of stories of artists gigging on Japanese mountainsides / beside tropical waterfalls / atop vast glaciers. Which obviously we have also done. Obviously.
So actually I am going to take this question at a really literal level and describe my favourite ever journey, which occurred early on in careers on a tour we were doing supporting Coldplay. We were first on, on a bill that read: White Lies / Girls Aloud (!!) / Jay-Z (!!!!) / Coldplay for a second intimate night at Wembley Stadium.
Due to some quite suspect work from our booking agent, we were required to also play a festival down in Brighton following opening the show at Wembley. Two shows in two cities in one night. The problem was, this was on a Friday night, and there was no way we would be able to drive down from North London to the South coast in the time available to us in the rush hour traffic. We flirted with the idea of all being put on the back of motorbikes and driven down but that went out the window because we couldn't be sure we would all arrive in Brighton alive. Instead, it was decided the ONLY POSSIBLE OPTION was to have the (now defunct, nothing to do with us, promise) Brighton festival pay for TWO HELICOPTERS to fly us from Wembley to Brighton.
So we came offstage at Wembley, ran to a waiting minivan and hot tailed it to a local park, where two helicopters, blades still spinning awaited their moderate-level indie cargo. The kids playing football on a nearby pitch watched in awe and bewilderment. The next 25 minutes (that's how long it takes to get from London to Brighton in a chopper) were absolutely mind blowing. Our pilot flew us over Wembley stadium, where we could make out Girls Aloud on the stage, then over the city of London, just like Lord Sugar does at the start of the Apprentice, and on down to the race course in Brighton.
A highlight of the flight was the point 10 minutes in when he suggested we check the armrest. We lifted it to discover a perfectly chilled bottle of very fine champagne. Nice.
Luckily, not so many candidates for this one. I think we must have been lucky. We have played one show in Macedonia at a festival that it quickly transpired was geared towards fans of more brutally heavy music than White Lies are able to provide. We raced through that gig as fast as contractual obligation would allow and returned to accommodation.
Sadly our hotel - The Sun Inn for anyone looking for a hotel to avoid in Macedonia - was without a doubt the worst hotel we have ever stayed in. And we have stayed in all the hotels over the years. There was a swimming pool that was drained, there were stray dead dogs in the grounds, and hotel's masseuse was bent over double and walked with a limp. The rooms were, as is often the way with hotels further to the East of Europe, temperature regulated to be just the wrong side of Dante's seventh circle of hell.
Charles and i have had some truly abhorrent trips under our cleverly named DJ collective, White Lies DJs. One of the worst being a DJ set aboard a boat in Ibiza that would stall every time the captain changed the course too sharply. This lead to the power cutting, which lead to 100s of wasted sunburnt yoof howling abuse at us, as our set of poorly chosen obscure dance music cut mid track. That night we dined on KFC and then washed our greasy hands and faces in the hotel swimming pool, like crazed animals at a midnight watering hole. Grim times.
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Our favourite foreign venue…
On our last European tour we headlined Copenhagen's Vega, and I struggle to think of a better place to play or watch music. It's around 1500 capacity, which is in my opinion absolutely ideal. Intimate but big enough to bring in some production.
But the real game changer for the bands that play there, is the backstage catering. No processed meat or cheese in sight. Just an Australian chef who I would pay a lot of money to cook for me. But it is backstage catering. So it is free. He cooked rack of salt marsh lamb for us the night of our sold out show there, and I have no doubt in my mind the reason that show ended up being one of the gigs of the tour is because of, at very least in part, his cooking.
I would highly recommend getting yourself to a show there, or if you're really smart, joining a band who is playing there to get involved in that backstage food. I'm already thinking about when we can next get ourselves out there for a show.
We’re surprisingly popular in…
Poland. Always have been, even before we first gigged there. I will always remember our first ever Polish festival. We were on AFTER Manic Street Preachers, which we always thought was a quirk of the billing. But we walked onstage at midnight to about 30,000 people crammed into the tent who new the songs better than we did. It is also the only country in which we have mimed along on breakfast TV - always a surefire mark of success.
The other guests on the show, which was sponsored by McCain's oven chips, included none other than Arsenal reserve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny's dad. We mimed along to To Lose My Life shortly after a cooking demonstration involving, yes you've guessed it, McCain's oven chips. Odd.
Best or worst exotic foodstuff…
Well I have already waxed lyrical about food, so I'll pick my least favourite food experience. On White Lies' first ever visit to China, our (very sweet) translators took us for a huge Chinese buffet lunch. Ever the intrepid culinary adventurer, I tried a bit of everything that arrived in front of me on the spinny plate of destiny. It was on the whole very delicious. Lots of new flavours and textures but nothing that I wasn't at least pleased to have tried. Except for one dish towards the end of the meal.
In hindsight, I recall that none of the Chinese locals even touched this dish. Just me. And Charles. We both popped the offending slice of meat into our faces at almost the exact same moment. Our eyes met across the table and we both knew we had made a grievous error. I cannot say for sure what it was that we tried to eat (for we both were forced to uneat it immediately into our napkins, in great shame), but I would suggest it came from the insides of a land mammal, potentially from around the undercarriage towards the nether regions. But it had a truly heinous gelatinous feel with an overriding taste of gone off fish.
Most interesting individual you've met on the road…
There is a college radio DJ somewhere in the mid-west called Mad Dog. No idea his real name. But I've crossed his path a few times and he is one of music's true eccentrics. He has great stories about meeting Oasis on their first US tour in the mid 90s. He comes to the UK for Reading festival every year and has done for about 25 years. And he hosts a late night college radio show full of British music, to what I am sure is a very small but very dedicated Anglophile fanbase.
He's great though, he just loves music and the potential to create legend just from being around the people who make it. Last time we were playing near him he just turned up to our tourbus and more or less walked on and sat in the lounge and told me he was conducting an interview. It wasn't in the schedule but he's always a pleasure to talk to, or more often the case, listen to. He also possesses one of the worst Liam Gallagher impressions I've ever heard.
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Worst on-tour injury, or infection, or accident…
White Lies once supported Arcade Fire at an outdoor gig in Italy in the height of summer. It was on the field section of an athletics course, so had beautifully short grass which was constantly watered by a sprinkler system. We got a football out and pinged a few 40 yard passes around for a few hours in our shorts. Then we went out front to watch Arcade Fire. I'd been warned about mosquitoes, who also liked the short wet grass, but it was so hot I stayed in my shorts and t-shirt while everyone else covered up.
I awoke in my tourbus bunk the next morning feeling appalling. I counted around 100 mosquito bites across my body. Everywhere. Like really EVERYWHERE. My body was in some sort of shock, and the on site doctors at the festival we were playing the next day coated me weird lotion and drugged me up enough for the next gig.
The following week I couldn't do much except sit in cold baths until the itching stopped. Do not recommend it.
My essential travel item…
My essential travel item is my old Olympus OM2 camera. Not a flashy machine, but very solid (I am very clumsy, so this is important) but not too heavy, with a battery that lasts for ages. A perfect tour camera. Film cameras are a passion of mine, and I like that the great expense of buying and developing film means I don't end up with 1000's of images from my travels. Just tons of the same ones of Harry looking bored out of his mind in small dressing rooms the world over. Precious memories.
My essential travel tip…
Essential travel tip is this. Turn up in your new city for the day. Open google on your phone. Type "Best coffee shop in CITY X". Go there. Get a coffee, and the wi-fi code. Sit there for a few hours. You'll immediately feel like a local freelancer, and therefore a bit more cool than you really are.
Also, get up early. Go for a run in the morning to shake the boozey cobwebs from the night before. Finally, if you're walking back, a bit hammered, from a bar in Athens to your hotel, but you see a side street with lots of cool Greek people milling about outside what looks like a terraced house... go in.
Even, no, especially, if you're already a bit hammered. You won't regret it. Until the next day when you massively regret it as you puke into the bath and realise you have a gig to play in a few hours. Then you'll regret it, but you'll probably regret it more if you don't find it out the hard way.
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Catch White Lies at Live At Leeds on April 29th.