Interview: Angus Andrew of Liars

The LA-based art-punk collective kicked off their North American tour with a show at First Ave.

by Raghav Mehta

Few bands can mirror LiarsâÄô uncanny penchant for converging catchy melodies with experimental arrangements. Born in the wake of the early oughtâÄôs indie explosion and fronted by Filipino-born virtuoso Angus Andrew , Liars shocked shoe-gazing hipsters back to life with jerky stop-and-start art punk on their superfluous and aptly-titled debut album âÄúThey Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top .âÄù But four subsequent releases and a Thom Yorke stamp of approval later, itâÄôs clear the album barely even scratched the surface of LiarsâÄô noisy, far-reaching sonic array. The L.A. -based musical vagrants are arguably the most inventive group in the ever-expanding bubble of indie rock and in their latest work âÄúSisterworld, âÄú the trioâÄôs sound is more polished and murky than ever before. On Tuesday night, Liars kicked off their North American tour with a show at First Avenue . Prior to the performance, A&E got a chance to speak with front man Angus Andrew to talk about touring, âÄúSisterworldâÄù and the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. YouâÄôve been playing some material off of your first record for this tour. WhatâÄôs it like revisiting that work after all these years? ItâÄôs really interesting. I think one of the most interesting aspects about playing live now is the idea that throughout our career, weâÄôve sort of been known as drastically changing our modes of making records stylistically, and itâÄôs great to revisit some of those albums and acknowledge the fact that, actually, theyâÄôre not really that different from each other. The idea that weâÄôve completely done an about-face with each record doesnâÄôt seem quite as true when you hear songs back-to-back from each of them. I feel like the first record was a little more raucous than your self-titled and âÄúSisterworld,âÄù where some of the songs are more atmospheric. Is it hard to transition from that during performances? No, not really. I think part of a good performance requires space, and I donâÄôt want to do a show thatâÄôs all one gear. So itâÄôs good to be able to draw from our catalog in a way to create a set list that works very smoothly âÄî so there are changes in pace rather than everything being one way. Is that how you felt about your previous tours? No. ItâÄôs just with this record, âÄúSisterworld.âÄù It was really the first time we got a good objective look at the work weâÄôve done in the past. For some reason, making this record was in a way a combination of everything that weâÄôve learned. On past tours when we played songs from different albums, I didnâÄôt have much of a sense of an overall idea as I do now. After making this record, itâÄôs been a really eye-opening experience in terms of acknowledging certain aspects of our work that I maybe wasnâÄôt as aware of as before. So putting together a live show now, I see it in a different way How do you feel about âÄúSisterworldâÄù since youâÄôve had some time to sit with it? ItâÄôs kind of difficult for me to say. Each record for me is really just important in terms of development. For me, âÄúSisterworldâÄù was really a big step in terms of that. The way that we made it âĦ we turned a lot of corners in terms of how it was put together. One of the most glaring examples was that we made the record all together while living in the same city for the first time. Now as simple as it sounds, it was a really important thing to acknowledge and realize. So things like that, and the eventual sort of courage to translate melodies into strings and horns, all these things were quite a big step for us, and thatâÄôs what âÄúSisterworldâÄù really is for us. How did your experience in Los Angeles translate into the songwriting? IâÄôd been living in Berlin a few years before, so I was kind of blocking out culture in terms of media and TV. So for me, coming to L.A. was really like getting back into the main line of that sort of stuff. I guess being in L.A. has a big influence in that way. Especially in terms of realizing some of the ideas that we were thinking about, like what is it like to be isolated or dislocated in your immediate environment, and I think when we came to L.A., those ideas really jumped out. Things that I think we were dealing with on past records seem to jump out when they were laid over the landscape of L.A. What is it about the environment of L.A.? ItâÄôs got a lot to do with the way the city is. ItâÄôs so dislocated. ItâÄôs portrayed in this image of Hollywood and celebrity and everything, but the reality of it is a lot more chaotic and disjointed, and geographically as a city, that doesnâÄôt really have a central point anymore. The downtown is full of homeless people. These ideas are such a practical example of a lot of things we were thinking about theoretically in past records and before we made âÄúSisterworld.âÄù Judging by how youâÄôre characterizing it, it doesnâÄôt sound like you have a very positive perception of L.A.? Well it just kind of depends on what youâÄôre looking for. For me, itâÄôs a really positive experience. IâÄôm interested in the things that L.A. brings up. ItâÄôs such a âÄúmodern cityâÄù that seems to, in a way, pre-empt whatâÄôs going to happen in other cities. So I find it kind of endlessly fascinating. Even though there are parts that disgust me, I find I feel the same way about American culture in general. Sometimes I find it really inspiring and interesting, and sometimes I find it really crass and overwhelming, but thatâÄôs kind of what makes it an interesting relationship, and itâÄôs why IâÄôm here. What was it like getting Thom Yorke involved with the remix album? Were you a big Radiohead fan? Well IâÄôve definitely followed their records since basically we started the band. But then they took us on tour. It was a really interesting experience to sort of watch a band like that function. We developed a relationship over the years, so it wasnâÄôt really a big deal to ask Thom to do a remix. There were other people on there that were scarier for us to ask. So in the end no one said no, so it was a really shocking and exciting experience for us