Interview Liars: ‘Electronic Music Is A Limitless Well Of Possibilities’

In 2012, Liars released DIY’s Album of the Year, ‘WIXIW’. Now they’re back with the follow up - and it’s getting messy.

“I wasn’t thinking about making the next record. I was just making stuff with what I’d learned from ‘WIXIW’ and having fun with it. And that’s how the record began – there wasn’t really any kind of plan.” Angus Andrew is in a relaxed and refreshed mood, and you can hear it in Liars’ new record ‘Mess’, a blast of primal, electro-ecstatic, throbbing art-noise that’s full of adventuring abandon.

It’s another sonic sidestep on Liars’ journey to becoming the most unpredictably brilliant band around. And yet we should probably expect it by now: since the punk funk of their debut they have shed genres and played with expectations. The trio – Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross – have produced seven albums that manage to sound uniquely like Liars while not sounding anything like each other. It’s a hard trick to pull off but one that Liars always seem to manage. How do they do it?

“The weird thing is that we’ve never been at odds about what the next step should be,” says Julian. “We’ve all just been on the same page. So someone’s like ‘Let’s fucking do electronic stuff’ and everyone’s like ‘Yes, totally.’” Angus concurs: “None of us are hung up on one way of looking at the band, so we can put away instruments and pick up brand new stuff and that keeps us on our toes.”

Yet ‘Mess’ can be seen as a continuation of the band’s experimentation with electronics that we heard on last album ‘WIXIW’ – and it seemed natural to continue in that direction and see where they could take it. “Writing with electronic music is such a limitless well of possibilities,” notes Aaron. However, where that album was contemplative and introspective this one is more immediate – a word that the band uses a lot when talking about the album – and more based on instinct than analysis.

“With ‘WIXIW’ when we started out we said we wouldn’t put any limit on how long it would take and that took two years,” Angus explains. “And though that was cool in a way it was also possibly detrimental. You get a little bit bogged down in all the possibilities. With this one we wanted to record it as soon as possible and not give ourselves a chance to question what we were doing. On the last album we had the computer manuals open trying to figure out what to do – with this record we could have fun with it and manipulate the sounds and make stuff more from the gut.”

“It’s a lot more fun and carefree in that sense,” Julian adds. ”With ‘WIXIW’ we were a bit more OCD and we were poring over everything. This time it was more immediate.” And it’s something that you can hear on the record: the sense of the band having fun. It was one of the quickest records that they’ve recorded and that lent itself to a more instinctive, instant sound. “It’s more fun,” Angus says. “Sometimes we can over intellectualise what we’re doing and you can lose momentum and spark by doing that and this one was the opposite. We went crazy a bit.”

That sense of fun can be heard right from the lyrics of opener ‘Mask Maker’ which begins with Angus’ distorted voice intoning “Take my pants off … Use my socks … smell my socks … eat my face off.” How did that come about? “I really wanted to affect my voice super weird and for some reason I downloaded a trial version of this non-musical voice changing thing – I think it’s for creepy people. And the trial was only twelve hours so I basically sat in the studio talking to myself for three or four hours and it just got weirder and creepier as it went along.”

The album was also shaped by the fact that they could go out and play it live to see first hand the reaction of fans to the new material at shows like Primavera and Sónar. “It’s a cool way to do things,” Julian says. “We’ve never had that many songs written beforehand done and then toured with it.” Aaron agrees: “It was the first time we were able to play unreleased tracks for a long time – since [third album, 2006’s] ‘Drum’s Not Dead’. It was super beneficial and it’s something we want to do with the next record. It’s our chance to get a special kind of feedback and get a clear picture of what works.” “That’s what you do when you’re a younger band maybe,” Angus adds. “We haven’t done that in ages and it was a great way of approaching the record.”

This fresh way of working seems to have opened even more doors for the band, and the fact that Liars could go anywhere appears to make Angus relaxed about what happens next. “The only thing you can plan on with us is that there’s a good possibility things aren’t going to stay the same. We’re not The Ramones - we’re not getting an idea and perfecting it with every record. That’s all I can rely on – that you’re not locked in to this way of thinking. After a year of being on the road with ‘Mess’ I might not want to listen to an electronic kick drum again and it’s cool that I can make that decision.” “I’m not sure of the next step,” Julian jokes, “we might throw our computers away and only make things out of stuff made of wood.”

Liars’ new album ‘Mess’ is out now via Mute.

Taken from the April 2014 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

Tags: Liars, Features

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