Charles Cave and Jack Lawrence-Brown were both from Pitshanger Village in North Ealing, and first played together in a school show at North Ealing Primary School. Harry McVeigh (from Shepherd's Bush) joined them two years later, and they began playing under the name Fear of Flying. Cave described the band as a "weekend project", and one of many groups which they were involved in while at school. Fear of Flying completed one UK tour as a support act, as well as further slots with The Maccabees, Jamie T and Laura Marling. They released two double A-side vinyl singles on independent record label Young and Lost Club, "Routemaster/Round Three" on 7 August 2006 and "Three's a Crowd/Forget-Me-Nots" on 6 December 2006. Both vinyls were produced by former Blur and The Smiths collaborator, Stephen Street, who they met through a friend at school. They went on to play the inaugural Underage Festival in Victoria Park, England on 10 August 2007.
Two weeks prior to the group starting university, they decided that they would take a second gap year, and perform new material which the band felt did not suit their current outfit. Cave stated that "I felt as though I couldn't write about anything personal, so I would make up semi-comical stories that weren't really important to anyone, not even me." Fear of Flying disbanded in October 2007 with a MySpace bulletin stating "Fear of Flying is DEAD ... White Lies is alive!", before introducing a darker sound and a new name that reflected their maturity. Cave stated that the band deleted their MySpace account "without any token farewell gigs". McVeigh said that the current musical climate had an effect on the split, stating that "Maybe a few years ago, we would have signed a deal and had a chance to make three albums [...]. In the current climate...we’d have been dropped". When asked about the name change in an interview with a radio station in San Francisco, Jack Brown said that "We just thought that we should perform these songs as a different band. We had songs that we felt weren't suitable for the band that we were in and we thought White Lies would be the perfect vehicle for the songs."
Name change and debut singles (2007–2008):
Playing under the new name, White Lies played their first gig at Hoxton Square's Bar & Kitchen on 27 February 2008, with a number of A&R executives in attendance. The band admitted rehearsing for two months for the gig, as well as putting off their debut for five months to gather media hype. Following this, the band received numerous record label offers, eventually signing to Fiction Records a matter of days after their first performance. As well as this, the band signed with publishing rights to Chrysalis Music Publishing. When asked about their name, the band said they chose the name because "white lies are common but quite dark, and that's how we see ourselves". Receiving airtime on BBC Radio 1, Zane Lowe named "Death" his "Hottest Record in the World" on 5 February 2008, despite the song having never been officially released. Radio 1 would go on to feature the band at Radio 1's Big Weekend, in Maidstone, Kent on 11 May 2008, where they headlined BBC Introducing stage. The band made their first feature in NME in the issue dated 22 March 2008, appearing in the magazine's "Everyone's Talking About..." section of their Radar article. Live Editor Hamish MacBain described tracks "Death" and "XX" (later titled "Unfinished Business") - the only two songs available on the band's MySpace - as "...not to afraid of a little sincerity, not afraid of a little scale". The band released their debut single one month later, a 7-inch vinyl of "Unfinished Business" on 28 April 2008.
They made their television debut on Later... with Jools Holland on 30 May 2008, playing single "Unfinished Business" and "Death". This marked their final public performance prior to recording their debut album, scheduling two months of sessions in ICP Studios in Belgium and London. The album was provisionally titled To Lose My Life or Lose My Love, with a scheduled release date was set for January 2009. The title came from a line in the album's title track, "To Lose My Life". During the summer of 2008, the band played numerous UK and overseas music festivals, including major festivals Oxegen, T in the Park, and the Reading and Leeds Festivals. Beginning in September 2008, the band played their first headline tour of thirteen dates in the United Kingdom, supported by The Joy Formidable and Post War Years. The tour marked the release of their second single "Death" on 22 September 2008, with a further six dates played in the United States in October 2008. The tour included an appearance at the CMJ Music Festival in New York on 23-24 October, alongside Jay Reatard, Amazing Baby and Violens. Following this, the band returned to support Glasvegas on their fifteen date UK tour in November and December 2008. NME exclusively announced the official release through their website on 29 October 2008, stating that the album, with shortened title To Lose My Life..., would be released on 12 January. The band preceded the album with the single release of the album's title track "To Lose My Life" one week earlier. The full-length video for "To Lose My Life" premiered exclusively on the band's MySpace on 21 November 2008, before being added to the MTV Two and NME playlists.
On 11 November 2008, NME announced that White Lies would be taking part in the 2009 ShockWaves NME Awards Tour, alongside Friendly Fires, Florence and the Machine and headliners Glasvegas. The annual tour, taking place in early 2009, visited seventeen cities in the UK. On 7 February 2009, it was announced in NME that the entire tour had sold out. On the Manchester tour date, the band dueted with Florence Welch to play "Unfinished Business". The band would later also be announced for Xfm's Winter Wonderland festival in London, as well as one of four bands playing NME's Big Gig on 26 February 2009.
To Lose My Life... and future (2009-present):
At the beginning of 2009, the band were named in numerous polls as "ones to watch" for the coming year. The BBC placed them second in their Sound of 2009 poll, as well as coming third in the 2009 BRITs Critics' Choice Award, behind Florence and the Machine and Little Boots. To mark the album release, "From the Stars" appeared as iTunes's "Single of the Week" on 30 December 2008, two weeks prior to the album's release. In addition, the band played a Live Lounge session for Jo Whiley's BBC Radio 1 show on 14 January 2009, playing "To Lose My Life" as well as a cover of Kanye West's "Love Lockdown". The cover was included as a b-side to "Farewell to the Fairground", released on 23 March 2009.
Upon the release of To Lose My Life, White Lies became the first British act in 2009 to achieve a number one album. After charting high in the midweek sales, the album beat off competition from Lady GaGa, The Script and Kings of Leon. In support of the release, the band played on Channel 4's Shockwaves Album Chart Show and the Late Show with David Letterman, the latter being the band's first performance on US television. Following supporting Snow Patrol on their tour of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, the band embarked on their own headline world tour, playing across Europe, North America, Japan and the United Kingdom. Whilst in North America, the band co-headlined the NME Presents tour with Friendly Fires. The bands were supported by The Soft Pack, with White Lies headlining seven of the fifteen dates, including their first appearance at the South by Southwest festival. With this, White Lies became one of two bands who have featured on three different tours (along with Friendly Fires). During the tour, the band were forced to play a shortened, six song set at New York's Bowery Ballroom, due to McVeigh having throat problems. Upon returning to the UK, the band frequently covered "The Rip" by Portishead on their tour, an song which they consider an inspiration. Whilst still in the UK, the band made a second appearance at Radio 1's Big Weekend in Swindon, playing on the In New Music We Trust stage. During summer 2009, the band have been confirmed to play a number of major UK and overseas music festivals, including Benicàssim, Coachella, Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, Oxegen, Reading and Leeds and T in the Park. In an interview with the BBC's Newsbeat programme, McVeigh stated that due to the nature of the band's song writing techniques clashing with their difficult touring scedules, there will be no new White Lies material until 2010.
As Fear of Flying, Banquet Records described the band's second single as "Quite danceable indie". The Guardian's official website named them an indie-pop band, stating "they made promising, if unremarkable, Franz Ferdinand-styled pop with cheeky chappy lyrics". In an interview with BBC London, they cited Talking Heads as a major influence. White Lies' darker sound has been primarily compared to Joy Division, Interpol and Editors, as well as Arcade Fire, The Killers, Echo & the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and The Teardrop Explodes. McVeigh's singing voice has been compared to that of Ian Curtis and Julian Cope. When asked about the comparisons in an interview with ITN Music, McVeigh stated that "We weren't alive during that period of music...we've never really been that into Joy Division, especially not the Editors...or even Interpol really", adding "I don't think our music sounds a whole lot like those comparisons, I think we're a lot more euphoric and uplifting".