Apr 30, 2021
As part of our celebrations for the SS21 Menswear collection, we caught up with British post-punk band White Lies to learn from their experiences in making the most of their downtime while they’re not on tour, and how to keep cool when the spotlight is on. They also share with us how they developed their own original sound, and how they style the latest pieces from our menswear collection.
Tell us about your musical journey so far.
Charles: I’ve always been drawn to the melody, it’s the most powerful part of music. When I was young, a lot of the music my Dad played in the car wasn't sung in English. He had quite a few tapes of South American music and I remember learning some of those songs phonetically; using the melody to give me a sense of what they might be about, rather than the lyrics. So maybe it’s just necessity that led me to become a lyricist as well as a writer of music, because the thing I care about most is the melody — and always will.
Harry: I’ve played music all throughout my life and performed in different styles, on different instruments. Neither of my parents were musical but they recognised a talent in me from an early age. They never forced me to play, but they surrounded me with different music from all over the world and from every era. I always had something to obsess over musically and often I didn't even notice.
Jack: I come from a fairly musical family and have always been encouraged in that regard. I flirted with the piano, the saxophone, and, of course, the recorder. But it wasn't until I was given a drum kit for my 15th birthday that I really found my instrument. I enjoyed being able to create noise instantly and, with instruction, I felt I could create in a way that wasn't instantly awful. I learned to play the drums primarily through playing in bands at school with Harry and Charles, as well as some rudimentary lessons.
How did White Lies come to be?
Charles: We were school friends and spent most of our adolescence together. Harry and I played in a covers band for a while. I was already writing music in quite crude ways on 4-track recorders, or guitar tab software on a PC that would take hours to even write 30 seconds of music. We quickly started making songs together and playing as much as we could under various different band names. After we finished school, we decided to start fresh under White Lies for one last try before we resigned ourselves to a university path through life. Luckily, we never had to enrol.
Harry: We got together when we were about 14. I remember meeting Charles through some mutual friends in school. We bonded straight away over music and would hang out, listening to records and play along. We had heard that Jack, who lived very close by, had just got a drum kit and so we started to play together, learning our instruments as we went. Eventually we started to put some recordings together and play a few shows, and the band was born.
Jack: White Lies was the natural progression of the three of us playing music together throughout school. Originally it was a hobby on the weekends, then it was to play at friends’ house parties, and then when we got towards the end of school, we finally started writing music together. White Lies was the vehicle we chose for those songs, and the rest, as they say, is history. Manchester Uni are still waiting for me to show up to my first philosophy lecture.
How did you find your original sound?
Charles: Discovering keyboards was a fairly important part. Not exactly synths at first, but we had been writing for years with guitars in a rehearsal room. One day, we plugged in Harry’s parent’s electric piano and found it had a church organ sound on it. We wrote our demo Unfinished Business then and there.
Harry: Trial and error for the most part. After several years of playing together at the start we had a whole bunch of songs and with the help of some great people — notably producer Ed Buller — we chipped away at what made the songs "White Lies". Once you have a palette of sounds and ideas it's very easy to expand on them.
Jack: I think a huge part of White Lies’ original sound is Harry's vocals. It is the thing that marks a song out as being instantly us. But in our earliest songs, our youthful energy created a drive in the songs that made them exciting. Our best songs always have some of that energy in them, layered up with big drums and synth sounds.
We all have our own version of pre-show nerves, what are your tips for tackling them?
Charles: Show nerves are usually, like all of life’s worries, about the future and not the present. We worry that we might mess-up, but we are not messing up right now so why be nervous?
Harry: It's not easy, and I'm tempted to say that you can't really! It's all about managing your levels of anxiety. It helps when you can be reasonably alone and think through the parts of the show you are worried about and remind yourself that you're ready for whatever you will face.
Jack: I spend a lot of time before a show these days visualising the performance, remembering that I know how to do this well, and it will come naturally. For me, a show is a big physical workout and I find that doing lots of thoughtful breathing before a show relaxes my body. Breathing in for four beats, and then out for eight calms the nerves.
How do you stay relaxed when touring?
Charles: I walk a lot. Ideally 16,000 steps a day and I take photos. It’s also important to eat good food, and drink good drinks. Harry and I do also indulge at least once a tour in some spa action.
Harry: Listening to music or podcasts, walking, reading books, shopping and eating well. It helps if you don't hang on to tensions you might have with anyone on the road with you. Get everything out in the open!
Jack: I run a lot with our keyboard player Tommy and search out the best specialty coffee shop in every town I visit. I like my days to start very healthily and then gradually decline until I crawl back into my bunk on the tour bus at 4am.
When you’re not touring, how do you kick back and spend your free time?
Charles: I make prints of my photographs in a darkroom, and I foster dogs — which as you can imagine includes a lot of walking. I also love to spend time with my two godchildren and their respective families.
Harry: I'm very happy to do very little when I'm not on tour. I play a lot of piano, watch a lot of telly and take my dog for walks!
Jack: Many hobbies — photography, cooking, coffee roasting, running, football. Catching up with pals I have missed over the course of long tours. Right now, spending a lot of time with the newest addition to my family, including my baby daughter Agnes.
Tell us about your styling of the new SS21 Menswear collection...
Charles: The jackets are smart but comfy, pretty classic really. They’re easy to wear, and they keep out of the way. I feel like most of the items will work well for outdoor activities just as well as being hauled up indoors relaxing.
Harry: I went for what I expect from Barbour International — Classic with a modern twist.
Jack: This collection is great for outdoors stuff, but also super smart and classic. The Piston boots in particular for me are perfect for just about everything and pair well with jeans or smarter trousers. They have the feel about them that they will last me decades, which I love.
What makes the new, SS21 Barbour International Menswear collection great for days off-tour?
Charles: Like I said, I walk a lot on tour on days off especially. You need a good jacket. And Barbour International jackets are as classic as they come.
Harry: It's rugged and resilient. I do a lot of walking and I like clothes that can stand up to whatever London has to throw at me and still look great!
Jack: I live near the Thames, and one of my favourite things to do is a big loop along the Thames footpath and then to the pub. This collection is rugged enough for a big walk along the river and then smart enough to hit my favourite pub garden, it's super versatile.
How does dressing in your own style help you stay original?
Charles: The way you dress shows how comfortable you are in your own skin. That’s not easy in this day and age. We’re actually encouraged to not feel comfortable. I like clothes that keep out of the way and allow me to focus on good work, and the good things in life. The best way to be original these days is to be your own champion.
Harry: Putting on a nice outfit gives you the confidence to face the world. If you dress well, you can try anything!
Jack: I am confident now in my own style, and I think that takes time to achieve. Confidence and belief in what you do is key to being original.
What makes a true original?
Charles: Someone who sticks to their vision and keeps kindness as a priority.
Harry: Look, it sounds cliched, but you've got to be yourself. Express yourself only in ways that reflect who you are.
Jack: It is important to accept influence from the world around you, and through doing that, work out your own original path.
Discover the SS21 Barbour International Menswear collection to find your original style.