While actually every interview or simple talk should be a dynamic one, our meeting with US-three-piece Liars, who returned from the cement juggernaut Los Angeles with the literally overwhelming album Sisterworld earlier this, is it in an even double way. So when right middle of a hot Berlin May day Julian Gross proves himself as distinctly serious and sometimes impatient, and Aaron Hemphill guitar tuningly takes the part of a questioning, intellectual sidekick, Angus Andrews’ oral fluency and tempo increases with every minute – probably thanks to the just smoked pipe. Maybe he needed to assimilate the small horrors of the journey, since – according to Gross – passing a burning car among other things on the agonizingly slow trip from Munich to the German capital. Traffic jams inclusive.
I guess you have a seventh sense for unlucky events to take place whenever and wherever you are around.
ANGUS ANDREW: Yeah, we’ve been around whenever and wherever the terrorist attacks occured. We were in London when these one happened (2005), Aaron was in New York City on 9/11 (2001).
JG: And in Bilbao. Either desaster follows us or we are terrorists. Is it a coincidence? Who knows? I don’t.
Another coincidence completing the puzzle was that your current album Sisterworld leaked on Christmas eve.
JG: I guess, this should tell us, that it’s a good Christian record.
AA: Anyway, it didn’t ruin the celebrations. I was in Australia with my family and it just did make me forget everything else even more.
2010 marks the 10th anniversary of Liars…
[a little discussion about when to start counting years and how evolves]
AA: … we are just happy to be doing what we are doing, anyway.
Pavement, who are currently touring again, did originally split up around that point time of their carreer. Have you ever thought about making the same move already?
AA: Not really. Pavement asked us to go on tour with them. That’s the only real connection I can think of.
AARON HEMPHILL: Unfortunately, there’s no musical inspiration we draw from Pavement. Maybe there is some listeners can make, but that’s their freedom.
JG: Also Pavement’s music didn’t really change much, did it? We are different. We don’t want to do the same thing all the time. We get ourselves a little bit more freedom.
So you think it’s foreclosed to happen to you as well for now?
JG: In like 60 years maybe.
AA: It’s hard to tell what ever happens in the future.
AH: Anything can happen.
Like Pavement – people over the time started to refer to you as an influential band.
AA: That is something, which is totally beyond us. We never get involved into such conversations.
AH: I think, the concept of an ‘influential band’ as a title rather than a entity is a another catch phrase generated by rock media – like a ‘scene’. So if a band is accepts this title, this journalistic term, it’s a kind of quitting. It’s some sort of sign for stagnation.
But isn’t this term also expressing, that other people have discovered a different, unknown approach towards music through your work?
AH: That’s possible. I just think, that our music is generous, because we put everything we have into our music, and I hope, that people think about it. And if that means for them to discover a new kind of music, it’s an amazing outcome. But we would never say, we are influential. I’ve heard bands taking credits for other people’s music and that’s sickening. As much as I like the Velvet Underground, if they wouldn’t have been the Velvet Underground, someone else would have done their music. So whenever you’re gardening the corpse of influence, it means, that there’s nothing left to give. It’s like being a corpse in the desert and shout: “Hey, I was dead first!”, when a vulture passes your for some fresh killing.
That again implies, that you take away the key element of art by stripping it from its context. It would become meaningless, since it wouldn’t need the Liars to produce an album like Sisterworld. Someone else would just do it at some other time.
AH: Sure. But it does make appreciate the moment and celebrate the reference even more.
AA: Good art isn’t about other artists influences on someone. It’s about a lot more influential things, than just looking on other people’s art. Our music is not influenced by other music, but by what we are thinking.
One of those bands, whose often linked to Liars are everyone’s Westcoast noise darlings HEALTH (photo aboce). And they seem to reverently contain themselves in tonight’s support slot. Despite spinning like dervishs through the stage smoke, one can feel the steady presence of the immense, ongoing tour stint. To some extent they appear to be a bit burned out for the first time. Thus, the fact that even an average HEALTH gig outshines a good show by almost every other band helps us to get over it easily.
But Liars aren’t just any other band. They are far more, taking over the scenery of their old parlour Berlin aggressively and trenchantly. Like a wave against the the surf, they are constantly throwing their sonic selves against the audience, just to fall back and rise soon again even heavier.
You have lived in Berlin around the time of recording Drum’s Not Dead. Returning to your old exile once again, how do you think the city has changed?
JG: Oh, we haven’t seen that much yet, since we directly drove to the venue. There’s still a lot of construction work. The rave scene is still bigger than everywhere else in Europe, which is a good thing. I have grown up with that one.
AA: Nothing has changed – how about this as an answer?
AH: Yeah, that’s getting pretty close to it, I guess.
I think, it has grown up a bit.
AH: But that’s like New York. People said about their area, “I have moved here before every other white person, when it was still dangerous”, and we are saying this to the people moving in as well. In that regard, nothing has changed. Change is the constant.
You did a very impressive video together with Andy Bruntel for “Scissor”, in which Angus is in a life boat and gets attacked by stones out of the nowhere. This somehow reminded me about all the angry kids throwing stones against stores and police men in European countries like Greece.
AA: We don’t know too much about this and the video wasn’t inspired by that. But we appreciate every politics that stands up for the right of the individual and it seems, that this protest is going on almost every day. This is definitely a good thing, always a good protest.
And what is a good protest ideally leading to for you?
AA: To a commons sense of the egalitarian right of the individual, it’s a really strong sense. There’s always this fear of a group mentality and the fight for the underdog.
Sounds like the modern Tea Party movement.
AA: Well, they aren’t the underdog. But that again is whole different form of politics and protesting. The people protesting there have a lot more people than the ones I was talking about.
Anything left to say?
JG: I like hot tea more, than I like cold tea.
What’s your favourite?
AH: I don’t trink tea, but do you know, that historians link the historical Boston Tea Party to why Americans drink less tea than other countries? I mean, I do not not drink tea, because I feel a sort of resonance to my American heritage – I just don’t like it. Although I’m half Chinese, which makes it a bit weird.
AA: I try to drink a lot of tea. I like Earl Grey, but on tour it’s often green tea.
AH: If I had to pick one sort, then it would be white tea – because of my Chinese heritage.
AA: My mum was born in Sri Lanka and so my parents visited a tea plantation there once and it’s interesting to think about, how tea made the world become, what it is today.
AH: Tea and coffee literally saved Great Britian. There was a time, when they only drank ale and beer, which is another they to destill their water. So everyone was drinking alcohol until coffee and tea came over and people started drinking pure water again.
Tonight Angus Andrew will spin some records at London’s Alibi (together with Charlie of Dummy and more) – find an entire mix he recently made over at the Quietus. Then, from Thursday on, the band will tour the United Kingdom – see all four dates after HRISTOPH PAULS’ photos of the Berlin gig below. Their fifth studio album Sisterworld and the current single Proud Evolution – including a Thom Yorke remix – got both released by Mute. A recommendation to buy shall hereby be pronounced. Amen.
Liars Proud Evolution EP
11.11. Heaven, London
12.11. Concorde 2, Brighton
13.11. Static Gallery, Liverpool
14.11. Leeds University, Leeds