Interview Marisa Brickman
Photography Roberta Ridolfi
After eight years of making music all over the world, Liars are now five albums in, with the recent release of Sisterworld (Mute, 2010). Angus Andrew (vocals/guitar), Aaron Hemphill (guitar, synth) and Julian Gross (drums) have finally settled as a crew in Los Angeles, where they continue to inspire, persevere and surprise the listener with musical sounds always ahead of their time. A ‘SUP favorite, and one of the only bands we’ve interviewed more than once (in fact, three times now), we thought it was time to show Liars even more love.
The first time we interviewed Liars (Issue 10 in 2002 – one of their first interviews ever) it was in my old apartment in Brooklyn. We sat in the living room, drank beers, smoked weed and ate Doritos. I’ve seen them a few times over the years and it was almost like we picked up just where we left off. This time the conversation veered towards the quality of life in Los Angeles, cats and of course, Sisterworld. The conversation got perky when we started discussing the new California “wine” varieties. We peeped Liars recent live show in Texas this spring and it was just as crazy as ever. They’re playing tons of festivals all around the world this summer, so check ‘em out.
You guys all live in Los Angeles now. Whereabouts do each of you live?
Angus: I live in Highland Park. Aaron lives in Venice.
Where in Venice?
Aaron: On the beach.
Julian: I’m from Venice, but now I live in Highland Park.
I really want to move to Venice. I’m over England and this shitty weather. How long were you guys working on this record?
Angus: A year.
How was the process different than the last one?
Aaron: Language barrier was much easier, as far as recording. We had the benefit of us living in the same place, which was huge and we had the benefit of time.
Have you guys integrated yourselves into any kind of music scene or community in L.A.?
Aaron: I would honestly say no. I think we work on our own things more often. We’re not very social people.
Julian: Aaron and I grew up there so we have a lot of friends there who have all been in that world forever. I mean, we’re not like going to the Smell and hanging out at shows. I kind of want to be home with my cats instead of at bars with dudes.
Or douchey dudes. Re-listening to They Were Wrong, So We Drowned (Mute, 2004), it’s surprising to me how it sounds so much like music coming out now – bands like HEALTH and Fuck Buttons. When that album came out it was sort of around the time when the whole DFA disco thing was blowing up and the album didn’t really get good reviews and people didn’t like it. You guys have always seemed one step ahead of what was actually popular. Even your first record was really post-punk before all the other bands in NYC were doing that sound. Now it’s interesting to go back and listen to those records and how modern they sound now and how younger bands now might have been influenced by your music.
Angus: That’s cool. That’s nice to hear.
Aaron: I don’t think any of us listen to those bands enough to dare take credit for it. I mean, maybe. Maybe not.
Angus: We hear some nice things sometimes, but I always think it’s more to do with the way we’ve followed through on our career as opposed to particular musical sounds. We didn’t put out records that we didn’t like.
Julian (laughs): We just threw care to the wind like real rebels do. We were louder. We were rebels. People didn’t want to get mixed up with bands like us.
(Laughing) It’s pretty amazing that you guys are on your fifth album. There aren’t many bands that can say that now.
Aaron: They’re fuckin’ lazy (laughs). They’re all just spoiled babies. That’s all I can say.
Julian (laughs): Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.
Angus: The funny thing about that is that people also look at it a different way. Like if I’m speaking to a friend of my parents’ and I tell them I’ve made five records, it’s like they’re sad for me because I haven’t made it.
Aaron: I see what you’re saying. Like you’ve had five attempts.
Angus: And I still haven’t heard of you.
Each album is definitely its own entity and has quite a different sound than the last one. Sisterworld seems to be more of a culmination of the ones before it, peppered with individual inspirations from individual sounds from the last few records.
Angus: I think it’s got something to do with us maybe becoming more comfortable with ourselves. It came about pretty naturally that way. Each record has been like that though, just reacting to the way we felt. I think it had a lot to do with the record we made before [Liars (Mute, 2007)], which was really quick and off the cuff and it helped us find a bit of a voice.
How do you feel about this one compared to other albums?
Aaron: What do you mean?
Are you more amped on this one than previous ones?
Aaron: I’ll answer this one. I’m very proud of this record and the feeling I get from it, still, is that I’m excited when I listen to it – which isn’t often – but when I do, I like it. That’s not to say it means any more or less to me. Every record is the most important thing to me at the time we make it. Really, I think it just has to do with the time we were allowed to spend on it and the collective frame of mind we were in. We all got along really well and worked really well together. It was really good to be in the same town, and in America, where I think we understand how to work more a bit independently. It’s a combination of things. I don’t think that there’s a direct correlation with mood and quality of work or sound of the work.
Do you have other projects outside of the Liars?
Julian: Not me.
Aaron: I only work on things related to the Liars.
You’re totally making enough money to just be chillin’ and doing your music?
Angus (laughing): Living in Venice.
Totally. Venice is not cheap!
Aaron: But my place is not big, so take that.
It’s quite an accomplishment and you should be psyched.
Angus: We are. We are.
Aaron: Very much.
Eight years later you’re still doing what you want to be doing, and on your own terms.
Aaron: And it makes us work a lot harder and keeps us on our toes. I think the best way we can appreciate that fortunate position is to do better work every time, what we feel is our best work. Yep, I think that’s the best way to appreciate the fact that I can just wake up everyday and work on Liars stuff.
Back to L.A. You’re all enjoying living there?
Angus: It’s good now. It’s really fun and interesting and the weather’s good. We’re all quite happy there now, but people don’t really want to hear that. They hear the record and think we’re really depressed.
Aaron: Yeah, it sucks, man. I go surfing and then I tend to my garden. I hang out with my cats. It’s a painful 75 degrees.
And the pharmacies, of course.
Angus: How does your husband deal with being a stoner in London?
Aaron: It’s very expensive.
Angus: That’s not fun. You let him know that it’s VERY fun in London right now.
I just heard there are more dispensaries than McDonald’s’. And there are different varieties and you can choose what you want to buy.
Angus: Yeah, you never know what you’re buying on the street.
You can select by occasion: watching TV, going out, going to sleep.
Julian: I know the ones I don’t like. The ones that make me freak out. Any of the ‘wrecks’.
Aaron: Are you serious? It literally makes you freak out?
Julian: Yeah, it makes me paranoid.
Angus (nodding): I love that.
You like the Trainwreck?
Angus: I love it.
Julian: I’ll go more towards the kushes. And you know the stupid thing about talking like this, is this is how you talk at L.A. parties. ‘Oh what’s that?’ ‘It’s the strawberry kush.’ ‘Oh, strawberry kush. I like that.’ It’s so stupid. I hear myself and I’m like ‘What am I saying?’
It’s like wine. Well, nice to see you guys.
Angus: Thanks for stopping by.
Aaron: Maybe see you in L.A.?