Liars is a band that defies to be described; avant-garde, experimental, and constantly switching up their style. The project began with their debut album, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, released in 2001; a lurching art-punk album. From there, Liars continued to make news with other albums such as 2004’s They Were Wrong So We Drowned and 2014’s WIXIW (pronounced wish you).
However, after Aaron Hemphill’s recent, amicable departure from the band, Angus Andrews found himself alone in the project. Andrews relocated to the Australian bush in order to write the latest album, TFCF (short for Theme from Crying Fountain). Using a plethora of samples from previous recording sessions, field recordings, and a feeling of being left at the “creative alter,” Andrews crafted yet another sound for the project.
Mixing acoustic ballads, industrial, electronic sounds, and nightmare-inducing dance-floor anthems, TFCF is an experience, to say the least. The album seems to bring together every theme that the band stands for; experimentation, darkness, and pure emotion.
Ahead of his show at Cat’s Cradle, we sat down with Andrews to talk about the new album, wedding dresses, and vaporware.
WSOE: So, none of your albums sound the same. What was the influence behind this one?
Liars: There were quite a few different influences. I think, practically, I was looking at it, as I do beginning most records; trying to think about a technique to use, you know. That’s the thing with our records, I don’t think that the sentiment is that different but the tools that we use to make them are often pretty varied. With each project, I like to pick up something new that is kind of an experiment for me. With this album, it was sampling, really. This idea of sampling which is almost archaic now, because it’s so common. I’ve always been into hip hop and I’ve appreciated sampling but I never really took it on as a process before. Normally I’d sit down with some instruments and write songs. It was different this time because I just recorded myself playing instruments kind of randomly and then cut them up and sampled myself. That was the technique and the big influence for the sound. I’ve made a few records previously with the computer and I enjoyed that a lot. The last two records were made in the computer, but there’s a thing with it, especially when you’re using software, that it tends to make it really easy to make the songs super clean and to tempos and to grids and things like that. I guess that with this one I was really interested in trying to fall of that grid.
WSOE: There are tracks where it just completely changes up mid-way through. It’s great, all of the changes.
WSOE: Why do you change up your style with each album?
Liars: It’s just so that it feels fresh every time. It’s hard for me to think of myself as a musician really. I’m just trying to communicate through sound. Each time I go out to make a record I want to try a new way of doing it because I don’t think that I’ve found the right way to do things, you know.
WSOE: How does location kind of fit into that?
Liars: Well, to my first point with the computer and the grid sort of thing, those records were made in Los Angeles. In some way, they fit that environment but this one I made out in the bush in Australia. As they say, they’re no straight lines in nature. So, I was definitely influenced by my surroundings. The sounds were particularly impressive. It’s a particularly cacophonous environment with loud birds, cicadas, and all that. These melodies and rhythms that are going on outside; none of them are really made to be together and they fall in together sometimes and create this nice moment. I was really influenced by that, sort of, very organic kind of sound.
WSOE: You sampled some of it, right?
Liars: Basically, I when I was working I had a microphone set up outside my studio so that every-time I walked in, I pressed record on what was happening outside. So, it was being pumped into the studio. If it was a crazy windy or stormy day then that’s what was happening inside the studio as well. Certainly birds and all that were part of it. Each song actually has its own component of an outside field recording but not all of it made it onto the record.
WSOE: This was your first album as a solo act. How’s that been treating you?
Liars: You know, it certainly was a huge thing for me to overcome initially. I’ve always worked alone, writing music, so that wasn’t the big hurdle. The big hurdle was that normally I have bandmates to bounce the ideas off of and for me that’s a really important part because I end to make a lot of stuff and I’m never really sure what’s working and what’s not. This was the first time that I had to just make the leap of faith and decide what I thought was right myself. That was pretty scary.
WSOE: It sounds like you were pretty self-reliant at the time, living on an island.
Liars: Yeah, in a place that you can only get to by boat. So, very, sort of, out there and isolated. I was definitely trying to conjure up these vibes of being isolated.
WSOE: Riding the, what was your boat’s name, the 420…
Liars: That’s right. The 420 Estuary Angler.
WSOE: I’ve read around that you set aside a few weeks before every record to just listen to music. What kind of music were you listening to this time?
Liars: The thing is, I don’t listen to a huge amount of music in my leisure time so it’s important for me to get a sense of what’s going on in the world I suppose. So, I just let my mind wander through places like Soundcloud and Spotify and things like that. I can go on crazy sort of tangents with what I listen to just because I want to let it happen. One of the tangents that I went down was Vaporwave, which I have been talking about recently. To me, it’s really interesting. I suppose that it’s still happening. This sort of blip culture on the internet with mostly young kids sampling kind of 80’s commercial music and things like that, slowing them down. It’s a very anonymous way of making music because it’s not about selling it so much because you’d have to clear the samples. It was all part of my interest in this idea of sampling. So yeah, vaporware was something that I was listening to.
WSOE: Witchhouse as well?
Liars: I didn’t get to the witchhouse, no. I honestly don’t know much about that. I’ve been talking to some young lads around, on my travels, about other internet-culture music things and witchhouse has come up but I haven’t had a look yet.
WSOE: I’ve got to ask about the wedding dress.
Liars: Well, you know. I guess my thing behind that is I’ve always felt like I was very much married to my bandmates. When you’re in a band that’s kind of how it works. You enter into this very serious relationship and, for me, it lasted a very long time. So, without my bandmates, I felt like a bride left at the alter kind of thing. But, it’s also kind of a statement, like a striking statement which, for me, is something that gravitates.
WSOE: Yeah, I guess in a way, a lot of the lyrics in your music is more, in a societal sense, feminine because you’re so raw with your emotions. So, by bringing in the wedding dress, you’re making a comment on stereotypes, gender, and all that.
Liars: It’s interesting that you bring that up. I’ve often struggled with the idea of who actually listens to the music that I make, and I don’t think that it’s predominately female so I’m hoping to bridge that gap.
WSOE: Bring some diversity in?
WSOE: How do you think that your marriage has impacted you, if at all?
Liars: You know, it’s great. The thing is, I’m married to a woman who also is a musician and has toured a lot in her life. So, she knows what it’s like which is really important in a relationship when you’re trying to do this sort of work. You need someone to understand what it’s all about. I mean, it’s just great. I have a really good support system and I need that.
WSOE: How is having a new band influencing things?
Liars: It’s been really exciting because the guys that I’m playing with, Blaze and Reed Bateh, they’re twin brothers from Georgia. They just are really excellent musicians and are able to play songs from my catalog that I’ve never been able to play live before. So, there’s some things that I wrote maybe ten years ago that have never been performed before that are being performed now so, it’s really exciting.
WSOE: You said a bit about the process of the album. Was there anything really weird that you do in the studio during processing?
Liars: I don’t think so. I approach it pretty consistently, you know. I basically have my breakfast with my family and then I go off and sit in the studio for about eight hours until dinner time. That way I can really just zone out and lose myself in there. That’s probably the weirdest thing that I do, is that I just forget about the world. That’s just essential for me because I need to be able to let what’s inside out.
WSOE: Like forced creativity?
Liars: Yeah! I mean, it’s not really forced because I really enjoy the idea of doing it. It’s more that I just need to give the ideas time to get out because I’m not really a super proficient musician where I can have this idea overnight and then go in during the day and just boom, boom, boom. For me, it’s more kind of sort of, on my knees vomiting, vomiting, vomiting, and vomiting until I can find something good.
WSOE: So, what’s your set-up like in the studio?
Liars: Well, for this one, it was pretty simple because where I was living it was sort-of so remote that there was no chance for me to bring much gear. That’s why I went into a studio in LA and recorded all kinds of instruments that I could think of, even down to xylophones, you know. And I took all those files with me to Australia. So, in my studio, it’s rather sparse really. I just have a few keyboards, things to trigger samples, and I’m working mostly within the computer.
WSOE: You were saying about samples, you had thousands right?
Liars: Yeah, yeah. More samples than I really know where they are even. It’s sort of like, dig through my computer, ‘Ohhhhh here we go, drums!’
WSOE: So maybe a Liars sample pack?
Liars: That would be nice. Someone would have to help me organize myself.
WSOE: You recently produced a record with HXXS. How was that?
Liars: Oh, that’s really interesting. They’re a young, married couple from the West Coast. They sent me some demos a couple of years back and I started to talk to them about their music. I actually said to them that I didn’t have time to get to do much work on it. But, I thought that if I could just talk to them about their music then that would help. That’s what we did at first but then I got more involved and more involved. It was just great because they’re really enthusiastic young kids and, from my perspective, I can see all their great talents and it was great to pull them out.
WSOE: Would you want to do that anymore, with other bands too?
Liars: Sure, yeah! It has to be the right fit, of course. It’s not something that I’d ever want to do with someone where I don’t appreciate their work ethic or their enthusiasm. It was these kid, you know, they’re on the road all the year playing basement shows and I think that they have a really good passion for what they do so I’m excited to help them out.
WSOE: I’ve got to ask since I’m from a very small radio station, how do you think small record labels and stains come into things in getting your music noticed?
Liars: It’s crucial, man. Probably everyone who starts in a band probably thinks the wrong way at first. They think well, “you know, I need to get in front of some big record executive and then they’re going to help me accomplish all of my dreams” and that’s not it. What I keep telling the younger kids is that you have to just constantly be working and, despite whatever may happen, you can’t give up that work ethic because it’s your, it’s got to be your passion and their creativity that drives the whole thing.
WSOE: You have this amazing tour going on. What places are coming up and what are you looking forward to?
Liars: It’s been great! You know, we played New York City the other night which was a big one for me, because I used to live there and I have a lot of friends there. It’s nice to come down the coast a bit here, it’s a bit more laid back. Yeah, I’m looking forward, actually, to getting down to Atlanta because that’s where the boys are from, in my band, and their Mum and Dad, and I want to meet them. We’re going to do, maybe, a cover together with the two bands because they play in a band called Bambara. So, I’m looking forward to that.
WSOE: Well, Angus, thank you so much!
Liars: Cheers, buddy.
Listen to the Liars on Spotify!