PREVIEW / INTERVIEW: Liars @ The Metro, Chicago, 7/19/12

Photo by Zen Sekizawa

LA/Brooklyn band Liars, consisting of Aaron Hemphill, Angus Andrew, and Julian Gross (left to right above), are set to play The Metro in Chicago this Thursday, July 17th with Unknown Mortal Orchestra and a solo set by Joan of Arc. After seeing their video for “No. 1 Against The Rush,” a captivating, dark, and incredibly catchy track, I knew I needed to see them live… (check out the video at the end of this post)

They are a band which escapes all classification, as their previous albums spanned genres from post-punk, to rock and roll, to atmospheric and brooding electronics. Many of their albums have been heavily conceptual, and their latest, WIXIW (pronounced “Wish You”), is no exception. The album’s press release states that it is “directed more towards an inner psychological dystopia in the wake of crumbling interpersonal relationships and illness, emotional and otherwise, that band members found themselves surrounded by.” Its lyrics explore contradictory emotions, such as the title track’s repetition of “I wish you were here with me…I wish you would not come back to me.” It’s also the first time that Andrew and Hemphill have worked together throughout the entire creating process, and their use of new technology has changed the way songs will be recreated live. In other words, this show may be a unique reinterpretation of their songs, and should not be missed. They are a band who cannot be experienced solely by listening to the album, but by embracing the unknown surprises which are born from a live performance.

Hemphill was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the new album and the upcoming show. Read on for the interview, and be sure to check back here for the slideshow in a few days!

Victoria Holt: In what way is your approach different on this record versus previous ones?
Aaron Hemphill: On WIXIW, Angus and I collaborated from the very beginning of the writing process, up until the album’s completion. In the past we would create nearly completed demos individually, then bring them to each other for feedback. This allowed a bit of confidence in the material we were creating to develop that when you collaborate from the onset you don’t have time to establish. It made the process much more difficult, though much more rewarding on every level.

VH: How does this translate to your live show?
AH: I feel that in translating certain songs to the live set up, certain things may become less emphasized that one of us may feel is/was the heart of that track. We rely heavily on one another’s assurance that the song is “still there” if certain sounds are lost in translation.

VH: I watched some of the behind the scenes footage of you in the studio, where you discuss the challenges you face recreating the sounds from the record live. What compromises have you had to make?
AH: As mentioned in the previous answer, due to our over-familiarity with the music, levels of instruments can change drastically from show to show. I suppose the greatest compromise we’ve had to make is surrendering control over the songs. We certainly strive to be as prepared as we can be to perform the songs. But we have to come to grips with there being multiple versions of the same song existing to people. Sometimes this can bring forth unexpected and welcome surprises that become additions to the songs. Sometimes it can just sound bad to us. Either way we are happy with the idea that a show is a moment where anything should be possible.

VH: What new songs are you most excited to play, and why?
AH: I think answering that is similar to answering what my favorite song on the album is. I’m afraid I have to give an honest, though terribly democratic answer and say, “All of them.”

VH: What are you hoping fans will take away from these shows?
AH: I’m just happy that people show up! We’re terribly lucky that anyone is interested in what we do, and that we are still able to make the albums that we want to. I think it would be contradictory for us to believe in and emphasize the situational elements of a performance versus the album’s consistency and somehow have a desired and constant message to convey through the live show. There is no consistency, and there is no singular message. I’m happy again that people even show up!

VH: Which bands’ live shows have inspired you recently?
AH: I really liked seeing Black Bananas. Although they use electronics in their set, I loved the element of danger and unpredictability. I suppose this answer relates to the previous one. A show could be sloppy, perfect, or nothing like the album. I tend to enjoy shows that are in contrast to the album, as the two offer more insight into one another for me if there are more differences.

VH: Are you playing anywhere new on tour? Anywhere you’re excited to see?
AH: Omaha! I don’t think we’ve ever played Omaha. This of course makes it the place I’m most excited to see!

VH: What have you been listening to while on tour?
AH: A mixed bag really. Lots of Australian hits. I really like the Eurogliders. Prince, Madonna and Wu Tang as usual. Ligeti’s White On White piano etude.

VH: What do you do to pass the time while driving on tour?
AH: Email interviews.

VH: If Liars had a mission statement, what would it be?
AH: Making music is not a mission. Missions require a plan in order to be successful, where music I’ve learned requires one to surrender any planning and just let it happen, no matter how controlling your personality may be. It can feel like war sometimes, but ultimately it’s what we love to do.


“Houseclouds,” from their self-titled, Liars:

Liars - Houseclouds

“Plaster Casts of Everything,” from their self-titled, Liars:

“Scissor,” from Sisterworld:

“No. 1 Against The Rush,” from WIXIW: