I had no idea what to expect before Liars took the main stage on the first day of Riot Fest. Not only because it was my first time seeing them, but I wasn’t sure how the line-up change would affect the music. Before starting work on the latest album TFCF, Angus Andrew became the sole member of the band. As discussed in the Bearded Gentlemen Music conversation about the album, there’s a number of directions Andrew could take the project.
All apprehension faded the second Andrew took the stage in a full wedding dress complete with a veil blowing in the wind.
This was the weirdness I know and love from Liars. With a live drummer and guitarist, the new incarnation of Liars ripped through tracks spanning their entire career. Andrew took complete control over the stage that would later house the likes of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Much like TFCF, the hour-long set proved Andrew has everything fine-tuned and Liars aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Later that day I had the opportunity to talk with Andrew and I received some insight as to how he functions as a solo artist.
Coop: Being you’re essentially solo now, does that change the way you build a setlist?
Andrew: Well a lot of that is influenced by the two guys I’m playing with right now. They’re twin brothers and they’re really…. I know it’s kinda overused now, but they’re genius musicians you know? Something that would take me like a month to create in my studio, like a chord progression, they’re just like “Oh that’s a G and C-sharp!” or whatever. So I’m really in a spot with these guys where I can suggest anything to play and they’re like “Yeah! Okay!”
The thing of it is, there are songs I wrote five or ten years ago that I’ve never performed because they were so tricky and these guys are like no problem. So it’s been really fun.
With that said, does playing a large festival like Riot Fest get a different setlist opposed to playing a more intimate gig?
Well, you said it! Intimate. There are songs that are much more intimate but they’re not gonna work as well in this festival. So when you know you’re gonna play this sort of festival you gotta put the bangers in you know!? You don’t really want to put in the softer, cry your heart out songs. I’ll hold those back for the club dates.
Because I’m a musician myself, I was stoked about your set earlier because of the live instruments. But even with the electronic-based songs, they’re still very rock n roll!
Yeah, it’s kinda common to say that all Liars records are different from each other and I can give people that. But really it’s because the tools are different. The idea really isn’t different. So if it’s this super rock-punk song, it can be the same as a dancey, electro song. They’re still the same idea really.
Here at Bearded Gentlemen, another writer and I had this big discussion about TFCF sort of blending the electronic and rock elements. Was that a conscious decision going into those songs?
Well, the conscious decision was like; I’ve made records with a computer, and those are fun but the computer can sometimes dictate a little bit. You know? It puts things into perfect time and really pushes you to get things right and clean. But when I was working with a computer I was missing this kind of room sound. A mic in a room is a lot more organic.
Where I was working, in the bush of Australia, it was all nature man! There’s no straight lines in nature. So I wanted to use a computer but also let it be more organic and I think that’s where you get a more of the rock vibe.
Does listening to certain styles of music directly influence you? Like what are you listening to these days?
I listen to a lot of different stuff! I’ve been on this sample trend where I’m kind of interested in music that’s created via samples. Obviously, there’s the Hip-Hop genre, but Hip-Hop is essentially done with that but there’s a lot of other producers out there that are utilizing samples. Like Demdike Stare. I’m really into them. I get to play with them pretty soon in Europe so I’m pretty excited about that.
Are you checking out any other bands or artists today at Riot Fest?
Unfortunately, I’m gonna say probably not. I would really really love to stick around and see New Order. I mean I saw them recently in Sydney. But I have a bunch of people here that I kinda need to hang out with today. Now if I was here longer and had time I’d really like to see GWAR.
I mean what a production you know? Like THAT’S a show!
Speaking of showmanship, you gotta tell me the story with this wedding dress! It’s on the live show, it’s on the album cover! What’s up with that!?
I’ve always felt like I was married to my band mates you know? It’s probably a common sentiment. In a band, you enter this nuptial and it’s great. You live, breathe, and eat together but now I’m alone without my grooms. That’s where I got the idea to be this bride character on my own. That sort of snowballs. I felt like I could’ve easily made an album cover with the landscape where I recorded it or a crying fountain. That would’ve been too obvious. This is the kind of creative decision which is scary. Scary creative decisions are the ones that are good!
I was up all sorts of nights thinking to myself “Am I really gonna do this? Oh my God, I’m really gonna do this! Okay, I’m gonna put myself on the cover in a wedding dress!” and you really can’t stop it from there. It just takes on its own life.
TFCF feels like the most haunting Liars album. There’s like a certain paranoia to it being caught up in your own thoughts really late at night. Was that something you set out to do?
Well, when I was recording the album I was very sad. It’s a sad record. I was going through a lot. Not only was my creative relationship with (Liars co-founder) Aaron Hemphill dying, but my dad was dying as well. I was living down there with him. It was just a heavy time for me man. The album is also very personal. For the first time, I had to use the pronoun ‘I’ instead of ‘we’. You can hide behind ‘we’ when you’re in a collective but when you’re alone it’s suddenly very intense.
It’s interesting to me when people ask ‘is making music cathartic?’ and it’s actually never really been that for me. I’ve always felt it kinda magnified my feelings. This was the first record where I really transformed. I was really sad at the beginning, and I made it through. I made it to this point where I’m talking about it with you now and it feels different. So I give it a cathartic thumbs up!
That personal element really elevates all aspects of the record for me. I love how the more I listen to it, the more it grabs me and sucks me in.
Thanks man! That really means a lot. It truly does.
All photos by Judie Vegh of OyVegh Photography
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.