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For any band, playing a headline show at London Wembley Arena is an amazing way to finish up touring an album. In December 2011, coming to the end of a year spent touring their second album ‘Ritual’, that moment came for White Lies. And it was as special for them and for their fans as they could ever have hoped. But given that it also represented the end of four years of non-stop working – they had gone straight in from the end of the dates in support of their UK Number One debut album into making the follow up – it also represented a full stop, and time for a break. Save for a few European shows here and there, 2012 was to be kept clear. Time to think. To re-think. To reflect on the great things that had been achieved already, and to think about what the next things to achieve could possibly be.
“Finishing up the touring cycle on that album, we definitely felt we’d learnt a lot, and learnt a lot about… what we didn’t want to do on this album,” says singer and guitarist Harry McVeigh. “The first thing was that we wanted to make everything about this album much more simple.”
In many ways, it’s a classic path for a band: put out hugely successful debut full of concise, punchy, direct songs that cannot fail to connect with an audience. Then decide that, now you have the world’s ear, it is time to experiment, and to innovate, to take risks, sonically. Then realise that you can distil all of what you’ve learnt from said adventures into something that retains the essence of who you are.
“We know our strengths now,” concurs bassist and lyricist Charles Cave. “And if we’re playing live, hearing how songs like ‘Death’ or ‘Bigger Than Us’ go down so well every night without fail, I think that for us on this record it was more like, ‘Right, now that we’ve identified that those are the kind of songs that people just attach themselves to emotionally, and are invested in emotionally, how can we do more of those, but also, better?’ And actually dissect what’s going on and be considered about it.”
Harry continues: “Our mind-set going in to the second album was that we wanted to make a sonically technical record in terms of production, and perhaps we favoured that over traditional song writing. I imagine it’s the way a band like Nine Inch Nails would approach making an album. But after doing that and after touring it, we realised that we didn’t want to do it again. On this album, we wanted to focus on the song writing more than the recording process. We realised that you can progress in that way, but the progression can be distilling what makes up White Lies. Literally chipping away at what we are to try and get to the pure heart of it.”