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Interview
Liars

Liars

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
date
Thursday 10th May, 2012 9:16AM

Experimental three piece Liars will release their follow up to critically acclaimed 2010 album Sisterworld in June. Called WIXIW it represents - like most Liars records - a fairly radical sonic departure from previous work, while simultaneously presenting a retrospective element of sorts. UTR caught up with front man and very tall human being Angus Andrew ahead of the release to discuss writing / recording / releasing the album, why they called and spelt the title WIXIW, and why a microphone placed beside a stack of books isn't 'real'.

So the new album WIXIW is almost out. How does it feel?

Yeah it does feel good. I can’t say I’m the type of guy who pops a bottle of champagne when I finish a record. It’s good though, now it’s all the other stuff that happens which is the same amount of work and not nearly as much fun.

Tell us about the starting point for the album called WIXIW:

Um well basically we started off with the idea that we really wanted to experiment with new sounds. That led us immediately to trying to step into this electronic way of making a record which was the starting point. Also Aaron (Hemphill) who is the guitarist and I wanted to try and switch up the way we write songs. We wanted to be a lot more collaborative on this record, so we went out and lived in this cabin for a month or so together and forced ourselves to digest each other’s ideas.

You kind of did that on Sisterworld: you went into a space into LA to write an album. Is that an important part of the recording process for you?

At some point I like to be able to shut out the world so I can concentrate and not be too influenced by things. I don’t really like to listen to music when I’m making a record or anything like that. It’s better to be within your own head. The difference being with this one is that before I would do it on my own and this time I wanted Aaron to be really involved.

Did the space you were writing in influence what you discuss on the record?

Not really, not in the same way it has in the past. This time it was more about letting ourselves talk about ourselves, really. In the past we’ve decided on a subject matter, like the last record was about Los Angeles. In that way you study something and avoid having to talk about yourself too much, and on this record I think we just left that space open. So we inevitably started to discuss our inner feelings a bit.

It also seems retrospective and reflective: you can place parts of songs from WIXIW into different areas in your back catalogue. Is this a fair statement?

I think that every record in a way is informed by the ones that have come before it. You learn things and figure out ways of working. To me this one is quite different in a lot of ways, particularly because I feel like this is the first record that doesn’t have that much aggression, which is kind of something that we’ve always fallen back on: "Oh OK I’ll just scream this at you”. With this one we forced ourselves to avoid that and that’s really one of the things that makes it most interesting to me.

Tell us about deciding to produce a largely electronic record: was there a reason for that?

Well basically the way it normally works is that I’ll write the songs and then we'd go into a studio for a few months where those songs are re-translated and re-made, and you have a producer and engineer who figures out where to put the microphones. For me there’s an element of ‘lost in translation’ there. I wanted to be able to make something and not have to alter it too much before it went out into the world. I felt that if we utilized technology a bit we could actually record something that was of the necessary quality for it to go straight out there.

You’ve utilized technology in other ways in the lead-up to this release: tell us about your Tumblr page Amateur Gore and your online creative presence:

Yeah we’ve never been that good or that interested in interacting that much on the internet. It’s something we felt that we should do because it’s part of the world now but we needed to work out how to do without it being annoying, the way that most of it is. I feel like there’s too much information and I wasn’t interested in being the person who is like "this is what we had for breakfast" and "this is what guitar we’re using to record". I’m just sick of all that information, and I thought that one way we could approach it was the opposite, with disinformation and trying to develop a bit more mystery behind things. So that was the angle that appealed to me: we could have this Tumblr but it wouldn’t necessary be informative but it would be kind of interesting.

In saying that the videos on Amateur Gore are still informative in a way, right - parts of the footage is taken from recording?

Well apart from the fact that most of them are fake. There’s not a lot of real ones in there, some of them maybe but most of them are just an interesting picture that we set up and put some sound to it really. There’s one on there which is a microphone next to a pile of books with sound coming out of it and obviously you can’t get sound from books. You know, I donno, I think the line between what is real and what isn’t is interesting, especially on the internet because it’s a place where people assume everything is real.

You guys have explored that idea between reality and the construction of reality, particularly on Sisterworld. Is it something you’re consistently interested in?

I donno, Sisterworld had a lot of different facets to it, but maybe even going back to why we call ourselves Liars it's important. There is something interesting about the truth versus a lie and whether the truth is much more boring than coming up with something kind of interesting that’s a lie. Maybe it’s something we are obsessed with.

After using Tumblr and putting stuff up online, what are your thoughts on how it’s worked and how you’ve engaged with audiences?

I just had a lot of fun doing it. It’s a nice release to put down dealing with the music at some point during the day and being able to say "OK what’s some sort of cool thing we can do - if I attach microphones to a broom, what will that look like?" It’s fun to work in another medium and sort of get away from the music a bit. The internet and the whole social networking thing is not terribly interesting to me but it is fun if you find a particular angle I think.

Speaking of other creative mediums, on top of the music for WIXIW, the video clip you guys have released for ‘No. 1 Against the Rush’ is pretty interesting. Tell us about making that:

We really just try and find a director that we trust and let them go to town. It’s always an interesting process of getting a bunch of treatments for a video and they're really bad most of the time. It was nice to get one from this guy, Todd Cole that seemed to be up the right alley. I also liked it because it was shot at night time which we hadn’t done for a while. Yeah I donno, it’s weirder for me to be involved in the sense of trying to take on this thing which is ‘acting’. I’m not so into myself, so it’s definitely a weird scenario to put myself in.

Tell us a little bit about the artwork more generally for WIXIW: it’s an important part of each album for you guys right?

Um, well I can tell you that the process that we went through to get to it was really painstaking, and we really came to blows over it. Normally we just sort of assign someone the job of it and I don’t try and get too involved in it unless I want to. This time for some reason we were all very involved in it and it ended up being this really difficult thing to decide on. You can imagine that coming up with one image that represents the whole record is really difficult and in the end we just went for the most plain thing that we could, to be honest.

Coming up with the title that represents the whole album must have been difficult: why ‘Wish You’ and why spelled ‘WIXIW’?

One part of it is that it’s a palindrome and those are inherently interesting. I like the idea that you start somewhere and you go through this long process and you end up where you started, which I think is a really positive thing in terms of a creative process.

I also like the idea of 'Wish You' being this universal sentiment. It’s clear to most people but like our music when you get down to it it comes back a bit discombobulated. Even though we’re trying to get across a pretty simple idea, through our music it gets much more difficult so I like that part of it. I also like this idea of it visually: to me it has this kind of power to it, which I just really couldn’t get over to be honest. It started to be something that eerie in a way.

Once you know it’s pronounced ‘Wish You’ it looks borderline onomatopoeic as well, right?

Yeah, I totally agree. In a way, shit. I’m not hugely superstitious myself but it happened in a way that when we came across that word with that spelling it was something that we couldn’t avoid. We tried to not use it to be honest because I knew it would be a hassle in terms of people pronouncing it but it had this kind of power in a superstitious way that was something that we couldn’t give up.

You mentioned before that on this album you moved away from aggression. What do you think that says about the place you’re at as a band and as people?

You know our evolution has always been pretty natural in the sense that we’re doing exactly what we want to do and it’s never been about what we think we should be doing - it’s just about trying to keep ourselves really interested in making music. I admire people who stick to playing the guitar in a certain way for their career and perfect that I would never be able to stay interested in that. This record is a good example of us saying: "you know this is what is challenging and interesting to us right now", and hopefully other people are interested in it. To be honest it’s just another way of showing that to us the making of the record is really the most important thing and the result is kind of secondary. It’s the process that is the real art.

You’re obviously going to be touring the album, are you going to come to New Zealand, because you’re never been!

I know! Look, trust me I’ve mentioned it to several people. Hopefully we do! We’re coming to Australia towards the end of the year so the hope is we could swing over and do something at that time.



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