What do you do when you find yourself trying to make an album without the aid of your longtime creative partner? Angus Andrew, who has worked under the moniker Liars with others since the early 2000s, found himself in this position after the recent amicable departure of longtime collaborator Aaron Hemphill. Talking to us, Andrew discussed moving to rural Australia, using visual aids to create music, and not letting computers dictate his songwriting process. Bolstered by a new lineup, Liars play the Sinclair on 9/18.
Allston Pudding: Congratulations on the new album! You were faced with some challenges going into this with the recent lineup changes. Did that affect how you created the album?
Angus Andrew: I mean, not really. I was always used to writing music alone, but certainly it was a big sadness to swallow. I was always so used to sending the material I’d made to Aaron [Hemphill] for his opinion, so it was difficult for me not having someone to send it to, you know? But at the same time, it was quite exhilarating to also just release the music of my design without any kind of discussion. It was kind of exciting.
AP: Do you feel this album comes from a more isolated place, compared to 2014’s Mess, which was a lot dancier?
Andrew: Yeah, that’s right. Mess was a lot dancier. This was a sadder record, much more personal. It comes from the gut, really. The difference, also, with Mess is we made it in Los Angeles, and somehow it’s very — I don’t know — rigid or city-like in my mind. This one I made out in the forest in Australia, and it feels a lot more organic.
AP: So TFCF stands for “Theme From Crying Fountain?”
Andrew: That’s right, yeah.
AP: Where does this image of the crying fountain come from, and how does it work for this album?
Andrew: Well, I saw myself as the crying fountain. The music was really cataloguing or describing the collapse of mine and Aaron’s creative relationship. We’re still very close as friends, but it was clear as I began to work on the record that our creative relationship had ran its course. So I was very sad about that. The music is kind of the theme for that collapse.
AP: In anticipation for the album, you released a series of YouTube videos that spelled out “Theme From Crying Fountain.” Where were those images from?
Andrew: I shot the videos from around where I was making the record, down there out in the bush. Generally, when I make music I really like to give it all sort of a visual language as soon as possible, because it helps me understand what I’ve made. So I would go out into the bush and shoot footage and put it to the music, and those ended up being the pieces for the album.
AP: In tying with these themes, the album has an interesting cover, featuring you alone in a wedding dress. Does this extend from the idea of separation from your former bandmates?
Andrew: Yeah, exactly. I had always felt that being in a band was like being married, so definitely on this record, it felt like I was left alone in my wedding dress, you know? It was one of those creative decisions which is really frightening. It’s not an easy thing to swallow. But generally, I feel like the creative decisions that keep me up at night are the right ones, and this one kept me up several nights, so I went with it.
AP: Recording the music for the album, was that you alone recording? You have some new live members; were they recording with you as well?
Andrew: No. Before I moved to Australia, I went into a studio in Los Angeles and I recorded myself playing a bunch of instruments, just kind of really randomly. And then I took all those files with me out into the bush and I sampled all those sounds and created the music that way. But then, now I’m playing with a live band, and they’re from New York. So I went there, and we began rehearsal, and that’s where we’re at now.
AP: Who are they? Have you known them for awhile or played with them before? Or is it a completely new experience?
Andrew: No, I hadn’t. I was put in touch with them through a friend and my management. They’re two twin brothers who play in another band called Bambara. I had never met them before, but they were very excited to play with me. So I flew to New York and I met them, and the first time we rehearsed, we played like, 20 live songs, some of which I’d never played before, from past records. Some songs which were too difficult technically to get out live, they were able to play. So, it was pretty exciting. And we started to tackle the new record. It was all quite amazing. We’ve done a European tour so far and now we’re just about to start the American leg.
AP: Do you feel this new energy performing live?
Andrew: That’s right, yeah. Like I said, some of the songs were tracks that I’d written for albums in the past that had never been performed before. So it was pretty amazing for me, getting to perform some of those. It was exactly like a whole breath of fresh air. It’s been really exciting. They’re amazingly talented musicians, so I’m really lucky.
AP: For the last few albums you’ve made, you’ve used a lot more electronic experimentation. With your sampling efforts, is that a trend you’re trying to continue? Who are some contemporary artists who are influencing that?
Andrew: Well, you’re right. The last few albums have been computer-based, and it’s a really sort of new and exciting way for me to make music. With this one, I wanted to still use the computer, but not have the computer dictate as much how things came together. Often, when you’re using a computer, you can put things in time and into a grid and all that sort of stuff. But […] I wanted things to sound more like the environment that I was working in […] There’s a bunch of artists that I’m interested in, who use a computer but don’t let it sound too formulaic. I think one who’s now good is Andy Stott from the UK. I like his music a lot.
I don’t know what is in the cards for the future. I’ve never been in a group where we jammed. I’ve never stood in a room with other musicians and played music that way. I’m kind of wondering if that would be an interesting thing for me to do, now that I’ve met these two twins, who are good at music, I wonder if I should try playing like that.
AP: So this is a time in your career where you’re open to trying a lot of new things and trying things differently?
Andrew: Yeah, I mean I generally feel that way every time I make a record. I want to start in a fresh way and utilize a way of working or a set of tools that I’ve never picked up before. It’s surprising, but I’m still learning and I still find that there’s a lot of new ways for me to tackle writing songs or making albums that I haven’t tried before. So basically I try to do that with each project, so it feels fresh and I sort of feel like a kid at a candy store.
AP: You’re playing the Sinclair [on Monday 9/18]?
Andrew: I’ll take your word for it.
AP: How have your past experiences in Boston been? Do you like playing the area?
Andrew: Good, good. We used to play in Boston quite a bit. There was a band called Tunnel of Love. They were one of my favorite bands back in the early 2000s. We used to play a place called… TT the Bear’s?
AP: Oh, yes, sadly TT’s has closed down.
Andrew: Oh, okay.
AP: Is there anywhere on the tour, is there anywhere in particular you’re really looking forward to playing or exploring if you have time?
Andrew: Well, I play tonight in Detroit. I’m a big fan of Detroit and I have a lot of friends there. It’s a city that’s gone through a lot of turmoil, but that kind of is the recipe for a good future, in my mind. So I’m excited to wander around the streets of Detroit.