Lap up some White Lies courtesy of Lily & The Bellows
Pop Culture

PREMIERE: White Lies is a scathing review of modern pop culture executed with joy by Lily & The Bellows

Who said time machines don’t exist? If Lily & The Bellows are anything to go by they certainly do because listening to the Sydney band feels like flying backwards five decades. The 1950s/60s have never sounded so good.

Lily and the Bellows white lies

While boogying along to Lily & The Bellows you’ll come to the realisation you’re also listening to the next great Aussie lyricist as Lily So announces herself with a vocal masterclass.

Fronted by the divine Lily So, the band follow their 2013 breakout single Smokin’ Gun with new delight White Lies, which carries some astoundingly pleasing Beach Boys vibes (check those backing vocals) combined with the type of soulful, pop voice that has audiences feeling nervous for listening.

It seems those nerves affect brilliant musicians too, with Lily admitting she was a wreck while performing her first gig at Sydney’s Café Lounge. “I was so nervous my cheeks trembled,” she says. “That sounds weird but the sensation is even stranger.”

The only thing trembling here will be people’s knees when Lily’s vocals kick in. This girl can really sing, and not in a generic sense. Her voice doesn’t accompany the music but is an integral part of it, completely embodying the overall sound of the band. Those notes where you can hear a slight growl in her voice, so captivating it makes you want to grit your teeth and sing with her. But you don’t, because you’d ruin everything.

After spending time writing folk songs, Lily formed the band when she discovered her friend Julienne was a brilliant keys player. Over the course of a couple of years in which new members came on board, and Julienne departed, Lily & The Bellows were born into a world where artists like Sam Cooke, Betty Davis, and Patsy Cline were all but memories. Lily is calling them back with a style that speaks ever so strongly of a revival, and in more ways than one. One might be wondering why it’s been two years between releases. Despite gigging strongly, the early fun wasn’t to last. Lily explains; “We took a year off as everyone was getting the travel bug. You can’t write good songs without worldly experience.”

She assures us the band is now getting busy, preparing to record an EP, just as soon as they secure the appropriate funds. We’re not sure whether to laugh or nod in empathy when Lily states, “I just need to give up my whisky habit.”

Until then we have the charming White Lies to tide us over, a song that sounds like you should be boogying to it, but has a darker message at heart. Lily states the track is broadly about fame, youth, and deception.

“The song is about a girl who is willing to sacrifice her family and friends to live a fantasy life.” It’s a theme that is very much in line with today’s society according to Lily, as the concept of ‘insta-fame’ takes off. “Reality TV, I think has poisoned the dream,” she says, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it but it does make you question our values.”

It’s this kind of contrast that makes White Lies such a success because just listening to the music has you enjoying a rollicking good folk-pop ride, but then if you tap into the lyrics that this is not all fairy floss and lollipops but a pertinent commentary on modern culture. It’s one thing to sound good but it’s another to be interesting and Lily & The Bellows have achieved both.

Some credit must go to producer Tony Buchen, who has worked with the likes of The Preatures (and we can now hear some promising similarities) and Andy Bull. Lily said that while it took some time locking him down for studio time, it was well worth it. “Basically, Tony is a genius,” she says, “he has a vision and he’s a multi-instrumentalist, so he can hear sounds you wouldn’t even think about. You can feel he really believed in the song. He’s a master at what he does so he expects the same from you. You better clap in time or else!”

You can be assured the talent is mutual. The writing is meticulous; something Lily says can take a long time to brew.

“Some songs take a day or some take months. Sometimes we scrap a song for a year. It’s more about the feel and what we’re listening to at the moment. My song writing is very much affected by the music I’m into.”

All that’s left to do is listen and enjoy the sound of a band whose only obvious path from here is up. Oh, there was one more question to be answered and it often elicits the most interesting responses, what would your band be if it were an animal? Quite matter-of-fact Lily answers with; “Always a dog. What could be better than a dog? Maybe Quokkas or a monkey petting a dog. But really, what is better than a dog?”