Stuck In A Lift

Felix White didn’t know he was in John McEnroe’s band

The Tailender and musician on co-chairing a cricket team, bad advice from Noel Gallagher and dreams of selling chips at Craven Cottage

It was a tense and tiring summer for cricket fans. It usually is when the Ashes return home, but 2023 seemed especially charged with anticipation in a series that went right down to the wire. With England hoping to defend their title as the Men’s Cricket World Cup returns this week, there’s clearly no rest for the wicket.

There’ll be plenty of talking points, then, for the Tailenders lot, who take their beloved podcast on a live tour later this month. James Anderson will no doubt have some tales, who played an integral part in England’s efforts this summer, but it’s been a busy time for Felix White, too. In early August the ex-Maccabees guitarist returned to music with new band 86TVs, while alongside his co-host Greg James became co-chair of the Oval Invincibles; a couple of weeks later, the men’s team won The Hundred for the first time.

“I still actually can’t believe it’s real,” White tells me, “but I got a letter from Companies House that proves that it is and that, in its own words, I’m ‘legally responsible for the Oval Invincibles’. I don’t know why they think that’s a good idea.”

This new and simplified format of cricket, which mixes a more simplified 100-ball game with live music and entertainment, naturally suits the pair as ambassadors, who alongside Anderson, Matt ‘Mattchin’ Horan and producer Sharky, have passionately made the historically complicated game more accessible and appreciated since the pod took off in 2017.

“People have a perception about cricket that it’s difficult to access because the language is deep and intense and obsessed with facts,” he says. “It’s always talking about the extinction of its own existence and fighting against the modern world, you know? We thought it would be interesting to show how it can prop up your life in so many different ways. But the other great thing about it is that it is about loss and failure and sadness, so if you if you like projecting your feelings into sport, you’re going to have a field day with cricket!”

Ahead of the Tailenders UK tour, we get to know White a little better as we get stuck in a lift…

Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?

I feel like I was stuck in a lift recently, although it was a dressing room. I did an interview with Noah Gallagher. It was so great. I wouldn’t have played guitar without Noel. But we had an hour before we did it, both of us in a dressing room, where it was just me and Noel. We had a gin and tonic and we talked about music. He’d be like, “Have you heard this? This is something from the 80s that no one knows about”, and that’d remind me of something and then I’m getting his phone and putting it in his ear. So that probably is the dream lift experience.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with? 

Not fussed. I’ve got on London tubes for 30 years plus, so I’m quite disposed to needing to get on with anyone. I’m highly qualified to be stuck in this lift with anyone.

What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve ever had with a famous person?

I’m, erm, in John McEnroe’s band. I scored his film, which was brilliant, and then he announced at Tribeca film festival I was in his band. It was the first I’d heard of it. He makes me play guitar solos until my fingers bleed at his Wimbledon afterparties. It’s an ongoing interaction that I am hoping continues for years. 

What was the last show that you went to?

The Walkmen at KOKO. I don’t go and see music often anymore, but The Walkmen getting back together is a big deal.

What’s on your rider?

I’d have a gin and tonic and – this is the genius part – fresh socks. When you’re on tour, having fresh socks and boxers is such a great comfort. You know if someone’s wearing brand new socks, they’ve got a spring in their step don’t they? I’ve still got socks from venues like Thalia Hall in Chicago, they did their own socks.

On the topic of G&T, what’s your favourite garnish?

Do you know what, I’m glad you’ve led me here, because Tailenders do our own gin [laughs]! It’s a spiced mango gin, which is based on an in-joke on Tailenders, which I probably don’t have enough time to explain. But yeah, all I need is the spicy mango Go Well gin.

What work of yours didn’t get the attention that it deserved?

A few years ago I started doing film scores. One of the weird cricket correlations was working with Barney Douglas, who had made this film called The Edge about the collapse of the great English cricket team. I did the soundtrack for that, and because I was in a bit of a strange daze with my past life, I decided to release a single from the music I had made, which had the film’s narrator, Toby Jones, doing the voiceover. So Toby Jones is doing this stuff about how great test cricket is and, for some reason, I thought it would get played on radio. Even though you really couldn’t think of a song less likely to get played on the radio. Steve Lamacq played at once. That’s probably the only time Toby Jones has been on a Steve Lamacq show with a single. But I always feel like we should or could have got more out of that.

Am I right in thinking you wrote the score for that then scrapped it all and started again?

Yeah. Well, no. I had loads of leftover demos from The Maccabees time that I just assumed I’d use for that. I learned quickly that when you’re doing film scores it’s got to be quite intuitive, because you’re doing it to the picture. So yeah, I just scrapped that plan.

THE EDGE | Soundtrack | The making of... with Felix White

What did 12-year-old you imagine that you’d be doing now?

I used to have this dream when I was 12 that I could start a fish and chip van that would be parked outside Craven Cottage. And the cool thing about it would be that I would travel with the team, almost like the official fish and chip provider. I used to think you could do cottage cheese and things like that. At one point I was genuinely thinking of this. Even though my dad doesn’t really like football, I remember him taking me to Craven Cottage for the first time and I remember telling him this plan. He was like ‘yeah, that’s a good idea, actually’. So I did have a year when I was logistically working out the overheads. But the idea was that I’d have to still be able to watch Fulham play every week.

🏏 Tailenders' Fulham Quiz | Ft. Greg James, Jimmy Anderson & Felix White

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

When I was with Noel Gallagher recently, I actually told him this. The last time I’d seen him was seven years ago when The Maccabees broke up. I was going, “I don’t know what I’m going to do, man”. And he said to me, “Do nothing”. Nothing? Yeah nothing, he said. It was like an episode of Seinfeld. I remember feeling like I’m going to accept that as a good idea because I’m speaking to Noel Gallagher, but that does not sound like a good idea. So I didn’t I didn’t take him up on that one.

If you had to have a song playing every time you walked into a room, what would it be?

I have music playing in my head constantly. I can’t get things out of my head. Because this is Tailenders related, it could be ‘The Wrong Trousers’. I got the band to learn all of the Wallace And Gromit theme music for the last tour, which is amazing. But ever since then, which was f*cking February, I’ve had ‘The Wrong Trousers’ going around in my head.

Who do you often get told you look like?

There’s the guy from The Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln. I don’t watch that show, do you know him?

Ah the guy with the message boards on Love Actually. I see that, to be fair.

Yeah, people tell me that quite a lot.

What’s the skill that no one else knows you’re great at?

When you play the acoustic guitar, you’ll often drop your plectrum down the hole and have to shake it out. I can do that quicker than anyone else in the history of the universe. Over time, I’ve worked out the exact speed you need to shake the guitar upside down at the exact right angle to get the plectrum out, like a pinball machine.

What’s your controversial food opinion?

Controversial? Hmm. What’s yours?

I always have ketchup with roast potatoes.

Honestly?! Hmm. I don’t know if I have anything controversial, but I need to say something in praise of calamari. When I was young on holiday in Spain I picked up calamari thinking it was an onion ring, and the surprise I got eating that… It’s held some special magic over me. Calamari is amazing. But what what sort of opinion is that?

What film have you most rewatched?

Kramer Vs. Kramer. I don’t know why, I’m just obsessed with it.

Do you have any superstitions?

Yeah I do. Before I do anything publicly I have to imagine the worst thing that could happen in order for it to be less likely to happen. I have to have considered what the worst thing would happen before I do it.

Are we talking you coming across stupidly or the theatre burning down?

Oh no it’s quite self-involved. It’s like me falling over and everyone laughing at me kind of thing. I got booed at Tailenders Live for having a go at Mattchin too much. The whole of Manchester Apollo booed me in protection of Mattchin, which was a really horrible feeling actually. I’m really sensitive to that stuff, so it took about 12 gin and tonics during the break to get over.

Spiced mango was it?

Exactly, thanks for bringing it up. Make sure you write that.

Get tickets for the Tailenders Live October UK tour