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LIARS was formed in 2000 consisting of Angus Andrew (vocals/guitar), Aaron Hemphill (percussion, guitar, synth), and Julian Gross (drums). The band has released seven LPs, the most recent being 2013’s ‘Mess’ on Mute. Our friend Ryan Muldoon at Revolt of the Apes has compiled a list of 10 questions for Liars in anticipation of their APF 2014 performance.
Can you recall what your earliest musical obsessions were? Do those obsessions continue for you even today, or has your enthusiasm shifted a bit? Are there any distinct ways in which you’ve noticed your overall appreciation and enthusiasm for music evolve in recent years? To what do you attribute this change?
ROBERT SMITH. I WAS BASICALLY RAISED FOR THE EARLY PART OF MY LIFE BY MY OLDER TEENAGED BROTHER. HE WAS AHEAD OF HIS TIME AS FOR AS MUSIC WAS CONCERNED AND BROUGHT HOME ALL OF THE CURE ALBUMS AS THEY CAME OUT.
THE CURE IS ONE OF THE FEW BANDS ALL MEMBERS OF LIARS CAN APPRECIATE. THE CURE HAS BEEN A CONSTANT SOURCE OF INSPIRATION FOR THE BAND THROUGH OUR SHIFTING FOCAL POINTS. BE IT THE EARLY DAYS OF REPETITION AND BASS LINES (“A FOREST”), SPARSE SIMPLICITY AND VOCAL MELODY (10:15 ON A SATURDAY NIGHT”), AND INCREDIBLE INSTRUMENTATION AND PRODUCTION (“LULLABY”), AS WE GROW AS ARTISTS THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW TO BE NOTICED IN THEIR BODY OF WORK THAT WE ARE CONSTANTLY DRAWN TO.
OUR MUSICAL TASTE AND ENTHUSIASM IS A DIRECT REFLECTION OF WHAT WE’RE EXPERIENCING WITH LIARS IT SEEMS. WHILE IT’S AN OBVIOUS CORRELATION, IT’S NONETHELESS EXCITING TO EXPERIENCE SOMETHING NEW IN A SONG YOU’VE LISTENED TO FOR OVER TEN YEARS THAT INSPIRES HOW WE MAKE MUSIC.
One of the most sincere ways we can compliment the music of Liars is to say that it truly does not fit into any single category â€“ and yet, it feels complete, as opposed to a haphazard collection of sounds. Do you think you remain conscious of the variety presented throughout your albums, or have you perhaps come to see it all as a part of the Liars’ musical universe?
I THINK IT’S AS SIMPLE AS MAKING SURE WE ARE MAKING THE MUSIC WE WANT TO HEAR THAT WE CAN’T FIND IN OTHER MUSIC. STICKING TO THAT AS OUR GUIDE SEEMS TO GIVE US ENOUGH CONFIDENCE TO FOLLOW WHATEVER UNKNOWN PATH OUR INSPIRATION TAKES US TO, YET HOPEFULLY FEELS LIKE IT’S COMING FROM THE SAME PLACE. WE’RE REALLY GRATEFUL TO HAVE A SUPPORT SYSTEM THAT PROVIDES AN OUTLET FOR OUR MUSIC AND CREATIVE ADVENTURES. THE WAY WE FEEL WE CAN BEST APPRECIATE OUR SITUATION IS TO WORK AS HARD AS WE CAN ON FOLLOWING OUR INSPIRATION AS THOROUGHLY AS POSSIBLE.
Despite our insistence that Liars’ sound feels complete, the title of your soon-to-be-released album is â€œMess.â€ What led to this being the choice for the album title? What does the word represent to you in the context of the music contained within the album?
“MESS” IS AS SUBJECTIVE OF A WORD AS “FINISHED” WHEN DEALING WITH A CREATIVE OBSESSION. TAKE A PILE OF RAINBOW STRING TO A KNITTING CIRCLE AND YOU HAVE A MESS IN THE WAY OF PROGRESSING TOWARDS REACHING A GOAL. MAKE IT THE FOCAL POINT OF A PHOTOGRAPH, OR PONDER ITS MEANING IN A SERIES OF VISUAL SEGMENTS AND IT BECOMES A CHARACTER OR SUBJECT. WHEN WE STARTED MESS, WE HAD A LOT OF LEFTOVER MATERIAL FROM WIXIW THAT DANIEL MILLER FELT WAS CLOSE TO BEING ANOTHER ALBUM. WE VIEWED IT MORE AS MY FIRST EXAMPLE OF THE STRING…A MESS WE COULDN’T MAKE SENSE OF. AFTER FOCUSING ON IT IN A DIFFERENT WAY, AS WELL AS BASICALLY WRITING ANOTHER ALBUM’S WORTH OF MATERIAL, WE WERE ABLE TO SEE THE ALBUM IN THE JUMBLE. IT MADE SENSE, EVEN THOUGH A LOT OF IT WAS THE SAME MATERIAL WE WERE LISTENING TO BEFORE.
A LOT OF THE LYRICAL CONTENT DEALS WITH ACCEPTANCE BEING THE TRUE CATHARSIS, AND WHERE YOU TAKE QUALITIES THAT ARE DIFFICULT TO SWALLOW. MESS ON A MISSION DEALS WITH THIS A LOT. THE OTHER SIDE TO THE IDEA IS THAT A MESS CAN BE EXACTLY WHAT IS NEEDED. TO INVITE SOMEONE INTO YOUR MESS, WHETHER IT’S YOUR OVERACTIVE IMAGINATION, YOUR DIRTY ROOM, OR YOUR NEW ALBUM YOU’VE BEEN EXAMINING FOR A YEAR, SOMETIMES IT’S BEST TO GIVE IT UP AND LET OTHER PEOPLE EXPERIENCE IT. ALL OF THOSE QUALITIES CAN BE A MORE TRUE SOURCE OF CONNECTION THAN WHAT PARTS OF YOU ARE TIED UP NEATLY IN A BOW.
How would you compare and contrast the sound of â€œMessâ€ with its predecessor, â€œWIXIWâ€? What is your favorite thing about â€œMessâ€ that you never would have predicted to be an attribute of the album when you first began recording?
THE SOUND OF MESS IS IRONICALLY OUR CLEANEST SOUNDING RECORD. IT’S MORE CONFIDENT AND IMMEDIATE THAN WIXIW. BY NO MEANS AM I DISMISSING WIXIW AS SLOPPY OR OVER THOUGHT. WIXIW WAS A MUCH MORE PERSONAL, AND INTENSE RECORD FOR US DUE TO PERSONAL EXPERIENCES, AND MAINLY DUE TO OUR INEXPERIENCE WITH THE SOFTWARE WE WERE USING. WE HAD MORE KNOWLEDGE OF OUR TOOLS, AS WELL AS KNOWING WHAT TO EXPECT AS FAR AS WHAT KIND OF RELEASE WRITING AN ALBUM CAN PROVIDE FOR YOU IF YOU’RE GOING THROUGH HARDSHIPS. MESS IS MORE A CONTINUATION OF WIXIW I THINK IN THAT IF YOU DIG DEEP ENOUGH AND ARE ABLE TO EXPOSE YOURSELF IN SUCH A RAW STATE, NOTHING SEEMS SO SCARY AT THE MOMENT. THAT’S WHERE MESS COMES IN…WE GOT TO LET OUT A DEEP BREATH AND NOT BE SO CONCERNED ANYMORE ABOUT CERTAIN THINGS AND PAY ATTENTION MORE TO THE VISCERAL ELEMENTS OF SONGS. WE REMEMBERED THAT WORKING HARD DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T APPRECIATE THE FUN THAT CAN BE HAD. SINCE MESS WAS SO IMMEDIATE, I DOUBT WE WOULD’VE THOUGHT IT COULD’VE BROUGHT ABOUT SUCH A RELIEF, OR A REASSURANCE IN FOLLOWING OUR GUT FEELINGS.
Would you please give us your initial thoughts â€“ in just a sentence or two â€“ with regard to the following three songs:
â€œLiarâ€ by The Sex Pistols
I LOVE THE SEX PISTOLS. THE ONLY THING I CAN EVER THINK OF WHEN THEY’RE MENTIONED IS AN ARGUMENT I GOT INTO WITH A RECORD STORE CLERK ON OUR FIRST EVER TOUR. IT WAS ONE OF THOSE WHOLE “THIS BAND VS. THAT BAND” ARGUMENTS THAT FREQUENTLY TAKE PLACE AT A RECORD STORE. THIS PARTICULAR ARGUMENT WAS MY STANCE IN PREFERRING THE SEX PISTOLS OVER THE CLASH. ONE OF THE CLERK’S BIGGEST ARGUMENTS WAS THAT THE SEX PISTOLS WEREN’T A “REAL” BAND. THEY WERE PUT TOGETHER BY MALCOLM MCLAREN ETC., WHEREAS THE CLASH WERE A REAL BAND THAT WROTE THESE POLITICAL SONGS…BLAH BLAH BLAH. SOME PEOPLE ARGUE THAT THE CLASH WERE REALLY WELL OFF AND WERE PRETENDING TO BE POOR TO COME OFF AS THESE ANTI CORPORATE PUNKS WRITING POLITICAL SONGS AND ON AND ON.
ANGUS AND I HAD 40 SONGS BEFORE WE HAD ANYBODY TO PLAY THEM WITH LIVE. IN A SENSE WE’VE ALWAYS FELT LIKE WE WEREN’T A “REAL” BAND. WE DON’T JAM OUT SONGS IN A BASEMENT TOGETHER. WE WRITE OR PLAY DIFFERENT PARTS AT DIFFERENT TIMES DEPENDING ON WHAT WE’RE MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT. WE TRY TO KEEP THESE SHIFTING ROLES A SECRET SO AS NOT TO FORM ANY “POSITIONS” WITHIN THE BAND THAT COULD DISCOURAGE THE FREE FLOWING FROM ROLE TO ROLE THAT ONLY KEEPS THE BENEFIT OF THE SONG AT THE FOREFRONT OF IMPORTANCE. SO YEAH, THE SEX PISTOLS.
â€œLiar Liarâ€ by The Castaways (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRwAiiHcOoU)
SORRY, BUT I’M NOT TOO FAMILIAR WITH THIS SONG DESPITE IT’S APPEARANCE IN MANY FILMS I’VE SEEN, AS WELL AS THE NUGGETS BOX SET. I CAN SHARE A STORY ABOUT THE NUGGETS BOX SET I SUPPOSE. I USED TO WORK AT A RECORD STORE THAT…WELL, LET’S JUST SAY THE INVENTORY WAS OFF THE MARK AND US EMPLOYEES WERE WELL AWARE OF IT. A FRIEND OF MINE MOVED TO NEW YORK CITY THAT USED TO WORK AT THE SHOP WITH ME. HE WAS ALMOST IN LIARS, BUT THAT’S ANOTHER STORY. HE WAS LIVING ON THE COUCH IN SOME LOFT IN D.U.M.B.O. AT THE TIME AND HE ASKED ME TO SEND HIM THE NUGGETS BOX SET SO HE CAN GIVE IT TO THE PEOPLE THAT LIVED AT THE LOFT FOR HIS RENT. I THINK THE BOX SET BOUGHT HIM 2 MONTHS ON THE COUCH. I WOULD’VE THOUGHT THAT BOX SET WOULD’VE BEEN AN AWFULLY NICE GIFT!
â€œGimme Some Truthâ€ by John Lennon
ANGUS AND I ARE BIG BEATLES FANS. MAYBE THAT’S UNCOOL TO SAY, BUT WHATEVER. IT’S REALLY AMAZING TO COMPARE THE SOLO MATERIAL OF THE BEATLES AND REFLECT ON WHAT EACH MEMBER BROUGHT TO THE TABLE WHEN THEY WERE TOGETHER. THE BEATLES STOPPED PERFORMING LIVE AND WERE ESSENTIALLY A GROUP OF WHAT PEOPLE WOULD COMMONLY REFER TO AS PRODUCERS TODAY. AS DISCUSSED EARLIER, IT’S EVEN MORE INTERESTING TO FIND WHICH MEMBER’S SOLO MATERIAL RESONATES WITH EACH MEMBER OF LIARS AT ANY GIVEN POINT, AND HOW THAT’S CHANGED OVER TIME. FOR EXAMPLE, I USED TO REALLY HAVE A PROBLEM WITH PAUL’S WORK. NOW I FIND I’M REALLY INTO WINGS AND THE SONGS HE WROTE WITH THE BEATLES.
Broadly speaking, what do you think being in a band that has the longevity exhibited by Liars does to your mental state? What are the advantages to being in a band in 2014 versus the day you started? And what is one disadvantage that you would like to see changed most immediately?
IT DEPENDS REALLY ON HOW OUR LIVES ARE OUTSIDE OF THE BAND. IT SEEMS LIKE THERE MUST BE THINGS PUT INTO PLACE IN OUR LIVES THAT BALANCES OUT THE INTENSITY OF LIARS. OF COURSE BEING IN LIARS IS A TON OF FUN, BUT WE REALLY CARE ABOUT WHAT WE DO AND DON’T WANT TO BLOW IT FOR THE OTHER MEMBERS. A BORING ANSWER TO WHAT THE ADVANTAGES ARE IS TRAVELING AND TOURING IS MUCH EASIER THESE DAYS. OUR FIRST TOUR NO ONE HAD A CELL PHONE OR GPS, WE HAD CALLING CARDS AND A HUGE BINDER WITH THREE MONTHS’ WORTH OF DIRECTIONS AND CONTACT INFO INSIDE.
THERE REALLY ISN’T MUCH I CAN THINK OF THAT IS A DISADVANTAGE. I’M IN A BAND THAT I LOVE, WITH PEOPLE I LOVE, THAT HAS FREEDOM AND SUPPORT. ANY MINOR INCONVENIENCE IS TREATED AS A CHALLENGE. HOW CAN WE TURN IT INTO SOMETHING CREATIVE THAT GOES ALONG WITH OUR MUSIC?
How did you first hear about Austin Psych Fest? Are there any bands in particular that you’re hoping to see perform while you’re there?
ONE OF THE BLACK ANGELS TOLD ME ABOUT IT IN AUSTRALIA. WE WERE ON A FESTIVAL TOGETHER AND THEY WERE REALLY NICE GUYS. I’M MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING ACID MOTHER’S TEMPLE. I HAVEN’T SEEN THEM SINCE THE FIRST AND ONLY TIME I SAW THEM. THEY PLAYED THE FIRST SHOW I REMEMBER TO GO DOWN AFTER 9/11 IN BROOKLYN WITH ONEIDA. IT WAS ONE OF THE BEST SHOWS I HAVE EVER BEEN TO. ONEOHTRIX IS GREAT TOO.
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite Can album and why? Please show your work.
BLACK BANANAS, CHROME, ALVIN LUCIER, HAIR STYLISTICS, SILENT SERVANT, ROBERT RENTAL, PRINCE, HOLLY HERNDON, ANDY STOTT, ANGEL’IN HEAVY SYRUP, C.C.C.C., FLEXIPOP COMPILATIONS, STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE.
DAMN…MY FAVORITE CAN ALBUM. IS THIS A SETUP? I WOULD HAVE TO AVOID GIVING THE ANSWER TO WHICH “MY” FAVORITE CAN RECORD IS AND FOCUS ON THE BAND’S CHOICE. I THINK THE BAND CHOICE WOULD HAVE TO BE THE FIRST CAN ALBUM WE HEARD, WHICH IS “DELAY 1968”. FINE…IT’S A COMPILATION, NOT A “REAL”ALBUM. THERE’S THAT WORD AGAIN. IT’S AS REAL OF AN ALBUM AS ANY IF YOU ASK US. WHEN ANGUS AND I FIRST STARTED MAKING TAPES, WE FOUND A COPY OF THIS LYING ON THE FLOOR OF THE STUDIO AND LISTENED TO IT NON STOP…STILL ARE. I’VE NEVER HAD A REAL RECORD NERD DISCUSSION WITH SOMEONE ABOUT CAN, SO I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE TYPICAL POINTS OF CONTENTION ARE. I HOPE IT’S NOT ANYTHING AS CRAZY AS PICKING MALCOLM MOONEY VS. DAMO SUZUKI. I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU WOULD BE ABLE TO CHOOSE… I THINK MY FAVORITE CAN SONG OF THE MOMENT IS “BEL AIR” OFF OF FUTURE DAYS. AGAIN…WE’RE NOT AFRAID TO LIKE THE BEATLES, SO WE’RE NOT AFRAID TO LIST THE CLASSICS LIKE TAGO MAGO AND EGE BAMYASI….BUT MY FINAL ANSWER ON BEHALF OF LIARS IS “DELAY 1968”.
In his novel titled â€œFlush,â€ author Carl Hiaasen â€“ also a huge fan of Can â€“ writes the following but of dialogue:
â€œPlease don’t grow up to be one of those men who lie for the sport of it, and most men do. That’s a fact. That’s why the world is so messed up, Noah. That’s why history books are full of so much heartache, and tragedy. Politicians, dictators, kings, phoney-baloney preachers-most of ’em are men, and most of ’em lie like rugsâ€
I WOULDN’T SAY MOST LIARS ARE MEN, THIS SUGGESTS THAT WOMEN ARE LESS LIKELY TO LIE. THOUGH THAT MIGHT SEEM LIKE A POSITIVE GENERALIZATION, IT’S A GENERALIZATION NONE THE LESS. IT SEEMS LIKE NOAH IS BEING SET UP FOR A LIFETIME OF DISAPPOINTMENT, AS WELL AS BEING DISCOURAGED TO BASE JUDGEMENTS ON EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE. IT’S MORE IMPORTANT FOR NOAH TO FIND OUT HOW TO BE TRUTHFUL TO HIMSELF, AND THOSE HE CARES ABOUT IN HIS WORLD THAN TO BE FEARFUL OF THE WORLD AT LARGE AND ALL OF THE DISHONEST PEOPLE IT CONTAINS.
What’s next for Liars?
TOURING, RELEASING MESS, AND THE NBA PLAYOFFS.
See Liars at APF 2014 May 2 – 4. Tickets and camping passes are available for purchase HERE.