The Button Factory
Bank Holiday Sunday October 26
Tickets €18 From Tickets.ie - Events Listing
Liars play their first headline gig in Ireland for four years this bank holiday Sunday, October 26 in the Button Factory as part of the Beatyard Festival. Their new live show is amazing.
Joining them are special guests WIFE, James Kelly's (formerly of Altar Of Plagues) latest project.
Liars have been feeding off fear for their entire career. Sometimes, they intentionally trap themselves within it, like on their last record, 2012's WIXIW, where internal anxieties were laboured over and rendered into a beautifully crafted synthetic inertia that coursed through an almost biological soundscape. But other times, the band uses fear to fuel their wild dance. Where WIXIW was the sound of a band in an ambiguous, fragile in-between state, Mess is Liars with their balls out – an angry, ecstatic, primal burst of ritualistic electronics that sacrifices self persecution for potent, purposeful abandon.
On the band's seventh record, the introspective, self-analytical tone of the last effort is swapped for one of wanton immediacy: a feeling of brattish certainty that hasn't been heard on a Liars record since the band's 2001 debut, They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top. “We are a reactionary, or maybe a better word is schizophrenic band,” says statuesque frontman Angus Andrew. “We go from one extreme to the other. Working on the last record was really doubtful and paranoid, and that's fine, but it just meant that when work started on this one, it was the exact opposite. It was way more instinctual, fun and confident. We recorded our first record in two days, and the idea of anyone listening to it wasn't an issue. It's nice to return to that idea of making music.”
Liars' career has seen the band rattle through pigeonholes in an attempt to avoid them all together: brittle yet taught punk funk; liminal no-wave; ecstatic noise-pop; 21st-century garage rock; post-millennial post-rock; delicate electronics; reaching here, where Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross now find themselves – maybe not quite at ease with the world, but staring it straight in the eye while showing their teeth.
The record is the band's third recorded in Los Angeles, but unlike 2010's Sisterworld, it does not explicitly reference LA: the influence of place instead acts as a reassuring presence. “It's not about re-evaluating where we're at or the environment,” says Andrew. “You're established in a place where you feel confident enough to attack the music.” This time there was no cabin in the woods or storefront in Downtown LA. The record was made in Liars' studio in Los Angeles, where the band all live. They had enough material from the sessions for WIXIW to put out another album of already existing songs from the same sessions - instead they wrote entirely new material. “I went into the studio to see what I thought of that material, but when I got the keyboards out and pulled the programs up I just started making stuff immediately, just for the fun of it,” says Andrew. “Normally you go into making a record really deliberately. You finish touring, take some time off and schedule some time to make the new album, and develop the concept. That's all good but what can happen is it gets very boxed in and not very off the cuff. You're almost punching a clock. What was really good about this it was there was no plan, like back in the days when we didn't have a record deal: working for the sake of working; making songs for the sake of making songs.”
Part of the subtext for WIXIW's fragile feel was the fact that it was the sound of a band attempting to get to grips with machines and computer programs for the first time, with Mute's Daniel Miller on hand to help guide them through the pitfalls of synth sounds. “It was a bit of a struggle having to read the manual before we made the song,” remembers Andrew. “We had a feeling of familiarity with electronics this time,” adds Aaron Hemphill of his and Andrew's songwriting process. The band used analogue synths and electric drum pads with programs such as Reaktor and Ableton that provided endless possibilities in terms of sound. “We don't really close off to anything,” says Hemphill. “If it's a cheesy synth but it sounds good in the song that's cool – it's not like we strive to find something esoteric to use. The challenge is to produce uncommon sounds with common tools, something we've always been interested in."
Mid-way through the process, during the summer of 2013, Liars took the new material out on the road, a period in which live-wire album tracks premiered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and on tour in Europe taking in the Sonar and Primavera festivals. “The last record where we were able to have unreleased material to tour with was [third album] Drum's Not Dead,” says Hemphill. “With this, we had a lot of new songs that we were wondering whether they should be on the record – half our set was new material. We got to really see what that does to a record. You learn things on the road that you can later apply to the studio. People's reaction to moments in the new songs would let us know which points were expressed clearly and other areas where we needed to develop the idea further."
The more direct approach to writing and recording the album meant that the band could concentrate more on the lyrical content of the songs than ever before – this will be the first time Liars' lyrics appear within the band's cover art. “I felt good about the lyrics,” says Andrew. “There is an immediacy in not getting involved in a particular theme or concept but instead working straight from the gut.”
Lyrics to songs such as thumping track ‘Pro Anti-Anti’ and the possessed dance-punk of ‘Mess On A Mission’ provide a direct and polemical attack. The former is a classic Liars stomp-and-chant that takes aim at the ever-escalating insanity of progress; the latter, blasts out the line “Facts are facts and fiction's fiction,” in an attempt to demystify the nagging doubts and anxieties of 21st century life to implicitly ask the question, 'Who creates it?' “That song acknowledges the problems you've got – maybe you have a messed-up head or something – and by acknowledging it and using it in a way that you can vocalise and get out of your system is much more cathartic,” says Andrew. “That's the difference with this record; it's putting a more positive spin on some of the issues which have always been problematic things for Aaron and I as people: modern day issues of uncertainty, of being overwhelmed with possibilities: too many choices. Things become unclear because you are overwhelmed by so many things, and a sense of paranoia that we all go through nowadays. Our music has always dealt with anxiety, which is part of the culture of our generation. We've never been a band who is going to make an everything's awesome, positivity-filled album but this is definitely a record that takes what we know as problematic issues and putting them to more beneficial use.”
There is a playfulness to the album throughout, evident from opening track ‘Mask Maker’ – that commands the listener, “Take my pants off. Use my socks” – through to the album artwork: masterminded by Julian Gross. The cover art is colourful, playful and immediate, unlike its more sombre recent predecessors. Traditionally Liars' drummer, Gross concentrated most of his efforts this time around on the album's visual concept due to the speed of music production between Andrew and Hemphill. He was inspired by conceptualists such as Urs Fischer and John Baldessari, who lightly question the commonplace through collage and photography. “I didn't want it to be a classic 'digital record cover' with patterns,” he says. “I wanted to manipulate something in a live setting, so it was always changing and not just static. Then this undulating string started looking like this animal – it looked cool and pretty, but also looked a bit fucked up and vibrant. A lot of those things are very similar to what we were trying to do with this record.”