Interview: Jack Brown of White Lies

Seeing White Lies earlier this year at Neumos was absolutely one of my best concert experiences. When I heard them for the first time last year I instantly connected with their words and sounds. I had the pleasure of talking with Jack Brown, drummer of the band, before their Seattle show. His drumming is sumptuous and I urge you to check the band out – live and recorded they’re gripping.

Dagmar: I was reading that you’ve got your own music label, Chess Club?

Jack Brown: I do.

D: And you do club promotions with it?

JB: It’s more shows than clubs.

D: Is there a particular kind of music that you like to book more than others?

JB: Not necessarily. It’s mostly just stuff that I like. It’s been interesting because in the last few years I’ve got some really great shows from some great bands from America. I booked the first ever MGMT show, the first Bon Iver show [in Britain]. . . lots of good new stuff.

Jack Brown @ Neumos 2009 – photo by Dagmar

D: When did you start playing the drums?

JB: Basically I started playing music with Harry [McVeigh, vocals/guitar] and Charles [Cave, vocals/bass] when I was about 15 or so. It was kind of like a weekend thing for me for a good kind of 4 years. When I started White Lies was when I started to focus all my attention on it. I’d say I’ve been seriously playing drums, as more than a hobby for, about 3 years.

D: I really like your drumming style. Were there drummers you particularly liked listening to when you were growing up?

JB: Thank you. It’s hard for me to remember because drums, for me, is a fairly new thing. The main one for me when I was starting out, really getting into playing the drums, was at the time that the first Secret Machines album came out. That album is one of my favorite albums of all time. The drumming on that is amazing. It sounds incredible. There were a lot of sounds on that album which we wanted to capture a bit of when we did our record.

D: Your appeared on David Letterman – was that your first American live appearance? I loved how you had those rose petals came down from the sky.

JB: It was a lot of fun. We wanted to try to do something a little bit different. You only get your TV debut [in America] once so we wanted to make it a big deal. We were really happy with how it looked. It was an amazing experience, very tense and quite scary. We enjoyed it though.

D: You recorded the album in Brussels and you found some Nazi microphones in the studio?

JB: The studio itself has this incredible warehouse attached to it where they have every guitar ever made and every drum kit and thousands of different microphones. We asked the guys who run the studio [if we could get] microphones which can handle really loud noises because we wanted to use them in the room. Not close mikes but room mikes, which are further away from the drum kit. Something to take the power of drums being hit hard and they came back with these microphones which were built for the purpose of being used at airfields like at Nazi rallies. We did use them and to be fair they did sound the best. We didn’t want to compromise the record and we don’t have any affiliation with that [Nazism] in any way. It was incredible to see. They’ve been really well-maintained and they still have the details with eagles and emblems on them. It was quite creepy.

D: What else did they have there?

JB: They had a part of a drum kit from the turn of the century, which we didn’t actually use. They did have these massive marching drums for parades, which we used. It was a pretty amazing studio.

D: Was the February 2009 NME cover your first for the magazine?

JB: Yeah.

D: Did they do a special photo shoot for the cover?

JB: The photos were done specifically for the cover. It was a massive, exciting time for us because it marks a big step forward for any band.

D: What bands would you love to play shows with?

JB: My Bloody Valentine. We got to play a show with the Cure recently which was really fun.

D: How have the fans been behaving?

JB: Since the album’s come out everybody’s got really excited about it. They’ve started to know the tracks and it’s been a really big progression for us.

D: The three of you all write the music?

JB: It’s a combination of all three of us, definitely.

D: What are some highlights of being in this successful band?

JB: Some of the headlining shows we’ve done, especially in the UK. The album went to number one and it felt like there was a demand there which we’d never felt before. And the festivals we’ve been offered. We can’t wait to get on with them.

D: Was your family into music?

JB: We all come from families with a really strong love of music. My parents play instruments and I think Charles’ and Harry’s did as well. They’ve been really supportive of what we’ve done and I think they’ve enjoyed seeing us flourish with it. It was a big decision for us to take. They let us potentially make a mistake on our own but thankfully it all worked out.

D: What’s your favorite song to do live?

JB: Nothing to Give.

White Lies return to the States in September and October and will play a string of dates as openers for Kings of Leon.

Gallery of White Lies @ Neumos


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