Interview: Angus Andrew of LIARS Playing at Warsaw on 9/21
Angus Andrew dropped a new Liars album last month on Mute Records, and is performing at Warsaw (261 Driggs Ave) on September 21. YVETTE and Idgy Dean will open. You can get tickets here, and check out the album here.
The new album, titled TFCF (Theme From Crying Fountain), is the first album since the departure of founding member Aaron Hemphill. The live show will have band members from Bamabara, and will include songs previously recorded but not released by Liars.
We caught up with Andrew during his break between the European and US tours to discuss the making of TFCF – which included a couple years of self-imposed isolation in the Australian bush. We also can’t wait to catch his show in Greenpoint and see first hand what he’s been up to down under.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Greenpointers: You’ve been based in the States for a long time, but wrote this album in Australia. What brought you back there in the first place?
Angus Andrew: There was a lot pulling me back there. I’d wanted to move back there for a long time actually, but it’s very tricky when you are a touring band to be based out there, but eventually… I made the leave… and thankfully got a good amount of time with my dad before he passed away and so it was really a good thing for me to do… I live in a pretty isolated spot which you can only get to by boat.
GP: What was the appeal for you to move to such a remote place?
AA: I’ve been living in cities all my life and… the problem I was starting to have was that I was living in the cities and really not taking much advantage of living in the city… I would be staying at home and making music and not going to the museum or going to see that show… and you start to feel like ‘Why am I doing this then?’ So it just got to the point where I was like you know I actually don’t do any of that stuff that makes sense for me to be in the city, and I wanted to try something completely different, and the whole thing with the boat and everything was just like wow I’ve never done anything like that before… It’s just a huge sort of challenge and learning experience which I think is very important in life generally to just kind of keep yourself in a spot where you are not super comfortable or super easy, you know, because things start to get a little stale that way.
GP: How did that move coincide with writing the album?
AA: I knew I was leaving L.A. for Australia, and I knew I was going to write the record in Australia so I prepared myself. I went to a studio in Los Angles and recorded a whole bunch of just random instruments and sounds and beats and paces and … I gathered this big treasure of digital files, and so I took that all with me down to Australia in to this remote area so that I had all the access I needed to all these instruments and things just without all the instruments and things…
AA: I started working as soon as I got there… It could have been two or three weeks where I was just seated recording the outside sounds because it’s a really intense sort of environment there, and I remember saying to some people ‘Look, I don’t know but this could be the record.’ Because… I really wasn’t having many other ideas and I was like, ‘Oh God it just sounds so cool.’ But yeah eventually things started to happen.
GP: You just said that you had some people listen to it as you were writing… Were other people involved [in the writing]?
AA: No that was kind of the biggest difference… that normally the way that I worked with Aaron [Hemphill]… even though I would work on my own anyway, I still always sent everything to Aaron and I really needed his approval. I just valued his taste level so much… I would basically make a ton of stuff and [ask] ‘What’s good? What’s not good?’ So this was the big leap – that I had no one to send that to or no one to trust make that decision except for me.
AA: That was the big moment where you are like, ‘Oh, actually no one else has to agree that I should have a bunch of acoustic guitar on this record you… I don’t have to discuss that with anyone I’m just going to do it and I’m going to have to deal with it.’ It’s certainly frightening, but it is also very exciting and inspiring to be in that position.
GP: Was the acoustic guitar brought up before? Was that something that you wanted to bring in before – with Aaron and the other guys?
AA: No, it’s more of an idea that I always felt like the acoustic guitar was the symbol of a proper musician… Someone who could sit down next to you at the camp fire and they could play some song with acoustic guitar, and they were awesome, and I just… I can’t do that. I literally can’t play that at all. So it was just this instrument that to me symbolized all this sort of technical ability that I actually don’t have. I think that’s why it never made it on many records before…but with this [album] I figured it out. What I’ll do is I’ll sit in a room and I’ll record myself playing one chord for 20 minutes and then another chord for 20 minutes, and then cut that all up and put it together and hey, presto, you’ve got a progression of chords.
AA: Yeah, it’s sort of cheating my way to a traditional musician roll when I couldn’t do it.
GP: How long did it take you to record the whole album working like that?
AA: Close to two years. It’s quite a laborious process. I talked to some people who live around where I live, who don’t know I am a musician and they are like, ‘Why did you do it in such a difficult way?’
GP: Do you prefer it that way though? Is that kind of part of it for you?
AA: I guess so, I guess so. I mean look, I would love to be a super good guitarist or a great drummer or something like that. It would be awesome but it’s never how it’s worked out for me. So this is actually the way it does work for me to approach music from a non musical perspective. I’m much more comfortable thinking about it as art or as a sound.
GP: So as far as the live show goes, is it going to be just you on stage?
AA: No. Though I spent a lot of time trying to convince the management and the label that that would be a really good idea, no one thought that would be a good idea. So we put together a band of these really great musicians. It’s funny because all these things that take me months and months to put together – they are like, ‘Oh you mean just a G and C and a D and an A. Alright let’s go crazy.’ …And it’s really exciting for me because we actually started … to play music from old Liars records that I’ve never actually been able to play live before. So songs that I wrote 10 years ago that I actually recorded, but never could figure out how to perform. It’s pretty interesting to see all that music together along with the new album.
GP: I loved the teaser videos for the album. Where did that idea come from?
AA: Like I said, for me the music is really only just a part of the whole process. I like to look at the idea of making records as a multimedia sort of experience… As soon as I’ve got some songs I’m trying to figure out what they look like… I like to try and place them in the world, and immediately I’m shooting video and taking photos to try and connect the music with the visual… because that’s the way it starts to make sense to me. I need to do that in order to sort of figure it out myself when I’m making it.
AA: Initially I was just making them for myself, and then I showed them to the label and we started to talk about [how]… this would be a good thing to introduce the world to where [I am] coming from, and so that’s how it ended up.
GP: What’s it like for you to come back to Brooklyn and perform? How are you feeling about that?
AA: …I mean, it’s really weird and interesting, because I’ve actually been rehearsing there in Brooklyn… so, it’s all come full circle… I kind of owe everything to New York, because if we weren’t in New York at the time we were in New York, I’m not sure everything would have played out the way it is, so… I owe a lot to that place and it’s a – it’s a very special thing for me to play there.
GP: How do you feel overall about the album?
AA: Really, really, really happy that I was able to sort of push that out, and sort of push through – push through what was a really pretty dark and sad period in my life. I don’t often think of making music as necessarily that cathartic, but maybe this record’s making me feel like it can be.
GP: So, you haven’t felt like making music has been a cathartic process?
AA: No. I always felt like it was just kind of pushing me deeper into my own malaise. And this is the first one where it’s kind of like I definitely feel a lot different than I did when I began the record for a lot of reasons. So, it’s kind of great for me.
GP: What are some ways you feel different?
AA: Well, geez, I mean, it’s just that when I went into making this record, things were very, very troubling for me in a lot of areas, and now, I feel like I can have things a little bit more under control. And I feel like actually, like kind of empowered, and…optimistic. So, there are bunch of words I’ve never put together in a sentence. So, there you go.
There we go. Come to Warsaw on September 21st. Doors open at 8pm.