Start a band. We're no better than you. - Angus Andrew
Liars are a musical group that has existed a bit before their 'official' 2000 formation. The member Angus Andrew (everyone, for some reason, loves mentioning that he is an aussie) and a friend, Julian Gross went to Cal Arts in Los Angeles. Aaron Hemphill was working at a local record store. After meeting, Andrew and Hemphill did some four-track recordings before Andrew finished art school and the group moved to New York. Gross wasn't a part of the band at this point, but rather hanged around and helped with merch. Pat Noecker and Ron Albertson took up bass guitar and non-machine drums by answering an ad. Rumours say that the ad said "Musicians needed". The lovely drum machine was programmed by Hemphill, who also played guitar and percussion. Andrew provided his flat-frantic voice for vocals on their first record,
they threw us all in a trench and stuck a monument on top
The lineup Andrew, Hemphill, Noecker and Albertson is responsible for the first full-length of lies, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top. The cover of the record itself is already a sight, with the title written in lowercase and the name of the band written
L I A R
As for the art itself, it depicts (in black and white) a wireframe room with a bleeding body in the ceiling, with the blood (or ink - as said, it's black) dripping, drop by drop onto a bed. That doesn't really follow the laws of physics, but who cares? The sound is, generally, dance-punk(Pitchfork called it art-funk, I figure that's to the point too), but made original enough to differ from most bands of the genre. My opinion, anyway. It is not left at this, however, as they mangle together a bunch of genres, and maybe even the title is against grouping them into anything particular. Go check out the node on it already, it's described way better there than I define it here. Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. The album was recorded in two days, the 30th of June and 1st of July of 2001. Being released a month later on Gern Blandsten Records, the album was met with favourable reviews. The label didn't help a lot with the publicity, but the record itself got them enough hype to pull the attention to them. The album was later reissued on Mute Records, on which Liars have released their material since the second album, although one single was released on them in 2002 already.
This setup of Liars was only meant to release two more releases, another of which was no more than the We No Longer Knew Who We Were EP, three demo songs recorded earlier in 2000. The another one, Fins to Make Us More Fish-like single, was the last thing to be released by the fourpiece, released November 4, 2002. The song Everyday Is a Child With Teeth showcased a movement into a more noisy direction, equipped with it's loops and stuttering drums - harder to dance to than most of the strangely groovy songs of their debut. It also has a version of Grown Men Don't Fall in the River, Just Like That with no wave horns attached, by the way. Mmm, no wave.
Well, for us, really, the idea is to not cater to the needs of the audience, and to keep it sort of challenging. If everyone's like [uses adoring voice], "We just looove all the basslines, and drum beats on your last record," then we just challenge ourselves to write good songs without being beat-driven, or without strong basslines. It keeps us on our toes, rather than leaning on something that we know is working-- hopefully, that keeps us from being kept in a genre.
- Angus Andrew
they threw us in a cabin and scraped two members off top
No, not the name of the second album. You see, what Liars did, after getting out of the trench that was touring: they went witch hunting! Hold on, some things before that... Noecker and Albertson left the band due to the biggest band-breaker in the world, creative differences. They joined the shortlived No Things. Noecker plays in These Are Powers now, don't know about Albertson. The aforementioned Julian Gross joined to replace Albertson on drums, and the threepiece Liars that, as of now(see top), is still together. Andrew also plays guitar and Hemphill is in control of the bass. The first thing they did was a split with Oneida, one of their songs being an Oneida cover and one of Oneida's a Liars cover.
Back to witch hunting. The next album, titled They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, by Liars was to be a story album, as opposed to a concept album.
Well, it's not some kind of direct thing; it's not a narrative, and it's not a story, and it's not a finished sort of idea. Really, the idea is just planting a seed. It differs from song to song exactly what seed we're trying to plant, but really, the premise is to give you something to start with, and then let you go with it. People have asked in the past, you know, "Why didn't we print the lyrics to the album?", and it's for the same reason-- because, the whole idea is that people will really listen to [the songs], and rather than follow along in the book, just be like, "Okay. That's it." It's much more up in the air, and they'll always need to listen to it over and over again... I mean, I get emails from people writing, "I was wondering what the lyrics were-- Were they 'this?'" And their lyrics are so awesome! Like better than what we came up with, you know? That's great.
- Angus Andrew
Did that explain the difference well enough? But do not be mistaken - the sentence-long-titled songs and best described impressionistic lyrics of They Threw Us were already like this, now it was only being made to go around a theme. They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is the second album by the ensemble, recorded in a cabin in New Jersey(It was the house of Andrew and Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but Karen was on tour), May 2003. It was released on 24th of February, 2004. The story about witch hunts is told from different points of view(If Your a Wizard Then Why Do You Wear Glasses? [sic], They Don't Want Your Corn - They Want Your Children), and the sound has turned more towards the sound texture and away from song structure. Critically, the album failed - the Rolling Stone gave it one star. Spin called it unlistenable. The fanbase that liked the first album for the dance-punk most likely wasn't too fond of it, either, but it does have it's supporters. It could also be considered a step towards the sound of the third album.
they threw us in berlin and gave us drums
If you haven't noticed yet, those are the gimmick of this writeup! Liars didn't appear to mind the negative attention too much, but they did decide to move again - this time to Berlin. Gross, however, according to an interview, "never lived there". Ideas for the album had already spawned between the recording and release of Drowned. It was inspired by Chris Cutler's electrified drum kit, which had loads of effects and pedals. The album was going to be another story album, being named Drum's Not Dead. It features two characters: Drum and Mt. Heart Attack.
Along with the drums, Andrew's falsetto is notable on the album. Reportedly, an album's worth of material was cast aside as Liars experimented. It was recorded in 2004, in an East Berlin broadcast center, which gave them lots of different acoustic areas to work in. The general sound of the album is softer than the earlier Liars, due to the aforementioned electroacoustic drums and falsetto, but also the atmospheric guitar work of Hemphill. It would, however, take until February 2006, for the album to be released. The reason for this is quite easy to guess: the three video companions that come on a DVD with the CD(The LP too, for that matter). They include Drum's Not Bread by Julian Gross, The Helix Aspersa by Angus Andrew and By Your Side by Markus Wambsganns, a filmmaker.
they threw us in los angeles and made it pop
As foretold by an interview during the Drum's Not Dead tour, the next location Liars would record at would be Los Angeles. Recorded somewhere in 2007 and being released August 28th of the same year, the self-titled (or unnamed?) new album can be seen as a brother to the first album, because it appeals to the critics and more mainstream audience, again. Parts of it were also recorded in Berlin. Immediately after an "okay" is uttered at the start of the album, the less than basic drum beat and the guitar's (whiny? At least for a second) sound tell the listener that this new bunch of songs will be something else than the earlier albums.
It's our pop statement – we made songs that we hoped would connect with people. We utilised every pop idea we could think of. - Angus Andrew
Although it's easier to listen to then most of the other albums, that's not to say it wouldn't have some fairly strange parts. In a sense, it is exactly like a pop or a rock record: some of the songs you would hear on the radio, some not. Especially Houseclouds is thought of as a pastiche, attributed to different artists. But if I were to write about that, I would start a Liars no-- Wait, what?
they threw us records and called it a discography
EPs, singles and splits
- 2002 We No Longer Knew Who We Were (CD/vinyl, Hand Held Heart Records and Sound Virus)
- 2002 Fins to Make Us More Fish-like (CD/10", Blast First imprint of Mute Records)
- 2002 Atheists, Reconsider (CD, split with Oneida, Arena Rock)
- 2003 Split with Yeah Yeah Yeahs (7", MODULAR, released exclusively in Japan and Australia)
- 2004 There's Always Room on the Broom (CD/10", Mute Records)
- 2004 We Fenced Other Gardens with the Bones of Our Own (CD/7", Mute Records)
- 2005 It Fit When I Was a Kid (CD/7" picture disc, Mute Records)
- 2006 The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack (CD/7", Mute Records)
- 2007 Plaster Casts of Everything (CD/7"/Download/Download, Mute Records)
- 2007 Sessions (Demos for Liars: free download at liarsliarsliars.com if you sign up for the Liars mailing list)
- 2008 Split with No Age* (7", Hand Held Heart Records and Post Present Medium)
Some people talk about how you have to have talent-- you don't have to have talent at all. It's totally contrary to that. - Aaron Hemphill
Errors? Node sucks too much? I'm speaking lies? Do /msg. And damn, I really quoted Andrew a lot here. Sorry, he speaks a lot in the interviews.
Update on June 7, 2008: saw Liars live last Friday, and shook Angus's hand. He is tall. Great gig, recommended.
*: I bought this split with No Age (Leaving My Old Life Behind-cover by Liars and Scheduling Mishaps by No Age) at the above mentioned show, and it has been recorded in December 2007. Hand Held Heart says that
twenty-four city specific limited edition covers available on tour only. As I am not one in one of these cities, mine has a picture of a merch table (interestingly saying "MEEEELE" on the side) for a cover. An A4 at the show's merch table said that it was a limited edition of 500. Don't know what you would need this information for, but I felt I should add it for the collectors.