an interview w/ Liars at SXSW (with pics & video from their day show @ Club DeVille)
interview by Katie E. Fuller, photos by Bryan Bruchman
Liars dropped their new Sisterworld album on March 9th, and then played a couple of shows (one Insound day party at Club DeVille, one official showcase at Antone's) at SXSW this year (a larger tour starts in April).
The post-punk pillars played a sun-drenched day show at Club DeVille, but the new album, in Liars fashion, is anything but light. Angus, Julian, and Aaron sat down over breakfast to talk about their first-ever SXSW appearance, the LA factor behind the new album, and their intrepid creepiness. That interview, pictures from the interview, pictures and video from the day show, and all dates are below.
Katie: The scene in LA seems to have had a big influence on the ideas behind the new album Sisterworld. How did that come about?
Angus: Well, the "scene," [didn't influence it], but the city yes. In terms of the music scene... it's not a part of what we were inspired by. It's more the idea of opening your eyes to the alternative reality of LA, as opposed to the one projected around the world... the things about it that aren't normally talked about. In that way, the city's a really interesting place. We connected to the idea of feeling alienated and dislocated while living amongst millions of people. It's a strange scenario.
You've talked a lot about communities you've come across in LA, including the Valley, and how people there have created their own worlds in and of themselves.
Angus: Oh yeah, I mean the porn industry is huge and successful. That's a whole other world.
Julian: That's the really fun part of it, is how many little sections there are in LA, and how different they are from one another. Santa Monica, for example, is its own thing in a government sense, and they fight against LA stuff in their own LA community.
Your albums have had distinct and diverse sounds from one another in the past. How did you go about deciding on the direction of the new album?
Angus: We've been making records all around the world, and this was the first time for us where we felt like we wanted to go home. These guys [Aaron and Julian] are from LA, so it has a real sense of familiarity to us. In a sense, it was a tacit agreement when we finished our last record in Berlin, that we would go back to LA and see what [that would bring about]. We want to allow ourselves to be inspired by our locations, and allow ourselves to move out of a location that we're already familiar with so that you can find something new somewhere else. Obviously a scary thing for most, but it's something that keeps us excited.
Living in such different locales, you must have seen little Sisterworlds popping up everywhere.
Angus: Oh yeah, and that's why I think the ideas in Sisterworld aren't foreign to us. It's not a completely new idea. It's something we've been looking at for a long time. You see things all over the world that [are their own little communities]. In Berlin there are the punks, and that's a really great squatter kind of thing. But LA, when we took these ideas that we're familiar with and we just kind of threw them out... the shit just popped. Way more than it has anywhere else. The city is conducive to the ideas we're interested in, because it's so modern and confusing.
When you think about the idea of LA, you go out west to make it, to fulfill your dream, and the dream is projected [in the Hollywood idea], but the reality is crushing. And it's never the way people anticipated it, and a miniscule minority make it and then other people... go to the valley and make porn.
Aaron: It's like the Grapes of Wrath.
Angus: Yeah, it hasn't really changed much since that time. It's still this basic premise, that LA or the west is paradise, as opposed to [everywhere else]. And if you make it out here, everything's going to be awesome, and it's just not that way.
Aaron: LA still has a financial incentive to perpetuate this projection because the industry is about cultivating fresh faces. I think that's the main difference specific to LA versus other places. It continues to project something that is in bleak contrast to the reality. Whereas, say Detroit, it's industry is automotive, so it has no real incentive to project a peaceful, warm, place.
Angus: What's interesting about that though, is that Detroit has lost its automotive industry so it's almost coming on par, where it's offering this false idea of what it is, where Detroit will no longer be defined by the auto industry.
Julian: LA has a lot of people trying new things.
Aaron: My dad left a small town in Illinois, went to UCLA, majored in theatre and he was a phone repairman to the stars. He got a different perspective of what he intended to do, going into celebrities' homes and seeing how they were in real life.
Angus: That's the quandary about the idea of success in general.... where does your happiness come from. In LA, celebrities live there and they are apparently really successful people... and we spend all our time reading about how fucked up and miserable their lives are. It's interesting that people can be so successful, and then still be completely lonely.
Aaron: Sometimes success doesn't translate, and more often than not, happiness isn't something that you can communicate or invite other people into, and I think that is against what's generally expected... that if you're a happy person you can relate it to someone.
Angus: They try and [project happiness] in LA. They really try.
Julian: I find America in general has a lot more of that than everywhere else. There's not so much of this false happy-to -see you, hello-and-goodbye stuff. [In Germany] they're not so like 'hey how's it going... welcome to the place!' There, if they don't like you they're like 'get out!' Angus [had mentioned when we were in] England and you'd ask someone how they're doing they'll say 'oh not too bad.'
Angus: I love that.
Julian: And then here you ask someone how they're doing and it's 'oh pretty good.' It's funny we're on the optimist side of it and they're on the pessimist side of it. There it's not too bad since things could be worse. But here, things are pretty good-not super good- but just kind of maybe good.
The new video has a strong survival theme for you Angus, where you're on the life raft, you make it onto the boat, but then [Julian and Aaron] are in rough shape, and then finally, the rock comes from the sky and kills you all. It's pretty foreboding.
Julian: It's the 'not too bad' but not the 'pretty good' ending [laughs].
How many times have you guys been dead in your videos?
Aaron: I used to have it be a requisite. I remember during the second record, I said I don't care what happens as long as I die. If you look at [the album] They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, I get decapitated in the first video. I'm dead in all of them to be honest with you. Angus doesn't die.
Angus: Except maybe in that last one [laughs]. You never know. The whole world died.
It's the apocalyptic video.
Aaron: Yeah, and that's the ultimate fantasy... the ultimate fiction in film or theatre that you can express- death, really. You don't know what it's about. It's a complete imaginative expression to go into that realm and the fact that you're dead. It's one of the fundamental fantasies.
Angus: You've got the scoop [laughing]. That's our next record - Death.
Today's the first show for the new album. Anything special planned? Anyone you want to see as SXSW?
Angus: We've got some extra players with us, people who helped put it together but honestly, I don't know. It's our first show so it could all go wrong. It's been a year and a half. It's very new and very scary. We'll see how it goes. But who cares... that's what I say.
Julian: I would really like to see Die Antwoord, but I don't think they'll play. But even then, the chances of me seeing them- the thought of it stresses me out.
Angus: I've never been to Austin before, but it seems so crazy I'm a little scared of it. We were unsure when putting our set together, we didn't know how intimate it could be or how not intimate it would be. We don't really know. I'm a little frightened.
Your live shows are intense, shouldn't the audience be frightened?
Julian: We're just going to stand there for 45 minutes conduct interviews with the audience and hold a panel discussion. [laughs]
Angus: You want to hear a crazy story. We got in yesterday, starving, went and got our things, and went to this restaurant to eat. We had our meal, got the check... Then this guy sitting at another table, we hadn't spoken to him and he said 'I'll pay for that.' He didn't know who we were. He had his own company and he wanted to talk to us about it.
Julian: Yeah, he turned out to be the owner of a record label... a really interesting guy.
Angus: But I was just like...what?!
Tour dates under these pictures from Club DeVille....
LIARS TOUR DATES:
4/10/10 - El Rey Theatre - Los Angele
4/14/10 - Rock & Roll Hotel - Washington, DC
4/15/10 - Bowery Ballroom - NYC
4/16/10 - First Unitarian Church - Philadelphia
4/17/10 - Paradise - Boston
4/18/10 - Music Hall of Williamsburg - Brooklyn
4/27/10 - Slim's - San Francisco
4/29/10 - Hawthorne Theatre - Portland, OR
4/30/10 - Venue - Vancouver, BC
5/1/10 - Neumos - Seattle