Singer/songwriter Pam Autuori and drummer neighbor Jacob Schreiber began their relationship with dueling sessions against the wall of their adjoined apartments until finally deciding to work together, forming Little Liars
in 2010. Recognizing quickly that New York had the better scene, they changed their identity to XNY and relocated to the city. Their debut album, Through the Walls
dropped in early June an the band provided me with a very entertaining history this past week.Please talk to us about your single and video, “Avalanche.”
Pam: So, basically, the song is about the battle between the good side and the bad side of you. The whole thing is “I started a war.” That’s the chorus – the base of the song. It’s just this war with yourself. In the video, we did a contrast between the dark side (which is us with this black mask over our eyes and then the light side, which is just us playing and we don’t have the mask, It’s just like this contrast between like the crazy side and then the calmer side, and that’s what we wanted to portray. We kind of wanted to make it really uncomfortable for the viewer.It is really uncomfortable for the viewer, but most of your videos are, so I don’t see why you should break with that trend.
Pam: (laughing) Yeah, it’s just really invasive.It kind of had a little bit of an Alice Cooperish vibe to it.
Jacob: We haven’t gotten that one yet, that’s a very big compliment.
Pam: I know!Yeah, because when he’s Alice, he always has the dark makeup around the eyes, and that’s to show you that he’s evil now. I’d been watching “Burnout” right before “Avalanche” and I was thinking “Whoa, this is just scary.” (Pam and Jacob chuckle.) So I guess scary is what you’re going for here?
That’s the beauty of the new video that we’re releasing; I mean it still has that kind of eerie tone to it, but it’s not scary. It’s very calm and beautiful to look at; it’s really different from the rest. We’re really excited.To catch everybody up, we are referring to singles one and two of the band’s upcoming release, “Through the Wall.” This is your first full-length.
Yeah, we worked really hard on it and we’re just really excited to get it out there and have people listen to it and hopefully really like it. I mean, we spent so much time and put all of our love into it.
We recorded it in early August and the online distribution date was on June 12, so in all it’s been ten months of just kind of sitting on this record and working on it – so we’re really excited to just throw it out and have everybody listen to it; let it leave the nest, you know what I mean? It’s a pigeon that we’re going to throw.It’s kind of like planning a wedding, right? You know, you have all this preparation and you’re like “Come on, let’s get to the party; I want this over with already!”
We’re certainly going to party hard on that day.Well, you’re throwing some parties in town, right? You’re going to play some stuff off the new album.
Pam: Yeah, the release party is actually going to be before it comes out online – it’s going to be this pre-party and it’s going to be really crazy.
Jacob: We’re on Stage Two.
Pam: That’s the big stage!
Pam: We have some surprises planned…
Jacob: We know John Stamos.Through the Walls was released in the spring, but was originally set to be a winter release – is that because you have a thing for the month of November? I’ve noticed that everything you do is in that month – forming the band, playing your first show…
Pam: (laughing) We love November. This album has a lot more upbeat songs on it, especially the first track. We thought it’s the sort of album that you could pop on the album and go for a drive, have a good time with yourself.Well, I don’t think you should have a good time with yourself while you’re driving…
(laughing) Okay maybe not driving. This is more the sort of album that you could have your friends over and have a few cocktails on a Saturday.Kind of a chill-out album.
Pam: Yeah, I think that the winter is more…
Jacob: Dark, depressing.
Deb: Which is really interesting, because one of the lyrics that leaped right out at me was “I want to shake you till I break your soul” (from “Trapped,”) but that’s uplifting!
Pam: (laughing) Yeah, I guess.
Jacob: You threw us a curveball there, um…
Pam: I think most of the lyrics are really dark, but it’s a feeling that you understand, you know, and that’s what I really like about our songs and the way that they come across, but the beat and the music are a lot more upbeat.
Jacob: The songs that are on this album are the more summery ones. The next one that we release will probably be in the winter.Are you going to do another full-length or an EP?
Jacob: We’re kind of in that stage where we’ve been putting together what we want beyond the next album and it’s definitely going to be a full-length.
Pam: We’re doing a couple of secret sessions which we’ll release randomly sometime between this album and the next. They’re going to be very instrumental – plus we’re recording them in my apartment and we’re making them minimalist. It’s just going to be little secret pieces that people can hear.And minimalist is something for people who have two Baby Grands and a trapeze in their house.
Jacob: (laughing) I forgot about that!Is that in case you get bored or don’t want to walk to the bathroom?
Jacob: Both of us had very interesting upbringings; my father rode and started with circus acts. We have to keep limber; keep our balance. Pam is a classically trained pianist, so she needs all her pianos.Now how does that work when you’re on the road, Pam? Do you just make do with a little Casio?
Pam: We usually just drive with the Grand Piano.You actually just put that on top of the car and take off down the road? You’re going to need a really strong car for that. So what’s going on with “The Super Secret Kitchen Sessions?” Are you just hungry a lot when you’re recording or…?
Jacob: Yeah, it’s funny you should say that, we’re actually eating right now.
Pam: We are huge foodies. Jacob is a great chef; he makes up recipes and I taste them.What’s your signature dish, Jacob?
Jacob: I like cooking whatever Pam likes, which is always a challenge, because Pam is picky. She has a very strange palette.
Deb: Yeah, I kinda got that off the setlists that were written on the backs of candy wrappers. How do you make that work, Pam, when you’re basically living off truck stop food?
Pam: You really can make anything out of anything. You can go into a gas station and find a gourmet meal.
Jacob: Yeah, we’ve had the chef put together a fancy meal out of stuff you find at the bodega. Pam and I love Ramen; you can dress it up.Cheez-It Souffle, I actually wanna try that. I’m thinking Warped Tour, it’s really hot – the Cheez-Its are going to melt anyway.
Jacob: That’s when you go with the canned cheez.But that’ll explode though – it’s like a pressure cooker. One false move and you’ve got a bomb. I guess that’d be good if you didn’t like the other band.
That’s evil!Oh, be honest, isn’t there anyone you’ve played with who you wanted to punch in the face?
Pam: There are people who have huge attitudes, which I don’t understand. If you’re doing something that you love, why are you so upset? I don’t know, you just have to find the good in everyone.That’s a good safe answer, but – without naming names, has anyone been a douchebag?
Pam: I can’t actually recall anyone being that bad. People can be really fake. You know that they know that they’re great and that they have a huge ego, but they’ll be really nice to your face, say hi to you and then never talk to you again, which is fine, I mean, whatever. If I like someone, then we become friends, if I don’t, then who cares anyway?Is it hard to make friends on the road?
No. I mean, you just kind of meet people and they come and go. I wouldn’t call it friendship.It’s like being in summer camp – that’s your best friend until the summer’s over and then you never see them again.
Pam: Exactly, except it’s more for like a day or two.What’s the longest tour you’ve been on so far?
Jacob: They’ve been pretty short.
Pam: Yeah, they’re really short. I just want to be on the road – I love everything about it.
Jacob: Our goal is to always be on the road.
Pam: We love playing, and Jacob and I are inseparable anyway.There has to be at least one day where you look at him and go “God, I hate you.”
Pam: Oh, yeah! I tell him though. “I want to punch you in the face so bad right now, I think I might punch myself” and he’ll just smile a big grin, which pisses me off even more.That’s a good strategy!
Jacob: This is starting to become a couples therapy session.
Pam: I might have to go lie down on the couch.Is it awkward, though, I mean, yeah men and women do live together, but in a van, you can’t get away, and there are certain things that are personal which they don’t necessarily want to share with the opposite sex. How do you deal with that? Bathroom padlocks?
Pam: Our relationship is so bizarrely honest. When we’re with each other, we feel like we’re just talking to ourselves. If anyone else was in the room, they’d be like “What are they talking about? They’re not even making any sense.”I think that’s how we all are with our best friends.
Yeah; it’s unique to us and everyone else in our lives kind of gets that. When you have a musical connection with someone like Pam and I do, nothing else matters. We both want to be heard through our music – that’s what’s most honest to us. That’s beautiful. Do you think you’re still going to feel that way in ten years?
Ten years is a long time.
Jacob: Really long. Pam and I have only been playing together for two, so I don’t know, but right now, we take care of each other. We’ve seen each other at the absolute lowest we both have been, so unless they’re someplace that’s lower than that (which I hope there isn’t!)
Pam: It’s like an unfinished novel, but we’re like brother and sister; it’s unconditional love.I do think it’s important that you like each other, which not all bands do - or maybe they thought they did until they spent all that time together. I also think bands squabble over artistic direction, so as long as everyone feels like their voice is being heard. Jacob, I know that you’ve said you express yourself through your drumming.
Jacob: Yeah, I do. Pam is a great songwriter; she writes all of the lyrics and melodies. I have written music before, but it’s not good, so it’s like “Yeah, I’m just going to leave this to somebody who’s better at it and it happens to be Pam.” I’m in music because I love playing drums.In the early days, when you guys were driving each other crazy playing opposing songs through the walls of your adjacent apartments, did you find yourselves tapering what you were working on to what the other was playing?
Pam: What’s interesting is that you only hear certain frequencies through the walls, so I would only hear his bass and snare, I wouldn’t hear any of the higher frequencies, and I was really confused “What is this dude doing?”You thought he was doing like a ritual? Like sacrificing someone?
Pam: (laughing) Yeah, I would just stop playing because I was so intrigued. When I finally did get to listen to him play, though, I just fell in love with his drumming.
Jacob: During the summer after my freshmen year in college I was working in a kitchen back home, because cooking is the other thing that I really like to do, but after working there, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to continue doing that – I wanted to play, so I started listening to Pam’s stuff, because I knew that she was a writer. I would go to her myspace and write drum parts to her songs without her knowing.(laughing) You lurked your own bandmember?
Jacob: It sounds like some weird stalker thing, but I just wanted to play! Did you know this, Pam?
Pam: You creepy, creepy man! I’d always wanted him to play drums with me – I’d probably mentioned that a couple of times in the hallway.
So who made the first move?
Jacob. I was like “Yes, finally!”It’s like trying to get a date with somebody “God, when’s he going to ask me out already?”
Pam: I know! Jacob finally asked me out!Did you call everybody you knew?
Pam: think I called my parents.That’s pretty serious. Have your parents been to your shows?
Pam: It’s hard, because my family doesn’t live in New York. My dad’s been to a few shows; my mom hasn’t seen us recently.
Jacob: They came to the first show. Pam’s dad’s great – he helps out with carrying gear and stuff. My family is in Las Vegas – they’re very far. My dad came up one weekend last year – it was the weekend that I told him that Pam and I were thinking about dropping out of school. He’d planned out this weekend and we went out to dinner…And you dropped this bombshell on his head.
Jacob: “Yeah, and uh, we kind of have this show tomorrow that you’re going to come to. So, this is what I want to do.”Did he freak?
Jacob: No, he didn’t freak out at all, which was really great. He understood that when I signed up to study music, it was because I wanted to be a musician; the same with Pam and her parents. It was very diplomatic, I guess, but at the same time, it was like “You’re going to do this smartly.”Your parents are really cool.
Yeah, we were really worried, because we both come from a kind of conservative background – very academic, structural, regimented. My dad has only seen us play that one time. I would love for him to see us now, because we’ve grown so much. I always say when I have enough money, I’ll fly him out here.You just need to hop onto a good enough festival. You played SXSW last year.
Jacob: He works, though. Both of our parents still support their families. We’re young, but we know that we’re going to pay them back for everything they’ve done one day – take care of them like they’ve taken care of us.Aw, that’s sweet. So what’s the next thing that you’re looking forward to after the record releases?
Pam: Definitely touring on the album and then recording again. Jacob and I are obsessed with going into the studio. We have so much new material that we can’t wait to get out there.
Jacob: We’ve had a creative overload, we need to release it.How many new songs do you think you have right now?
Pam: We have about two more albums’ worth of new material as well as another album’s worth of older songs that we just didn’t put onto this one.Wow. So you’ve actually been living with these songs for close to a yea, yet you’re touring on them for the first time now – aren’t you dying to get to the newer stuff already?
Pam and Jacob: Of course, yeah!
Pam: It’s interesting, because you have to go back to that moment when you wrote the first song on the cd and relive it onstage. I mean, all of the songs are a part of me and a part of Jacob. It’s about going back and finding what gave you chills when you wrote it. Even if you can’t go back, you can listen to the drums and to the melody and feel something that relates to where you are right now. It’s weird, because we haven’t played them in awhile, so we get to rearrange. I really think it’s a beautiful thing, just the growth of the songs in general, especially live.Yeah, that’s one of the cool things about songs – they always translate differently live and you’re never going to be in the same place twice, so each time you play the song, it’s like a brand new experience.
Pam: Exactly. Every show we play is different and we play a different set every show. You have to feed off of the energy of the audience and they have to feed off of the energy on the stage. Every show should be fun, it shouldn’t be a burden – you don’t want the crowd to feel that.Of course, you’re going to have off days – you’re under the weather, you’ve got something on your mind, but sometimes, and I’ve even felt this while in a crowd, the crowd is just off. Is it harder to work up the energy for the song when the crowd is like that?
Pam: Sometimes you can’t wait to play a song, and then some song that you thought was just going to be an interlude turns out to be the song that you’re actually listening to. As a performer, you sort of have to take yourself out of your body and be in the audience, because the audience is everything – that’s who’s hearing you and hopefully, it’s having some impact on them. Sometimes, it’s the song that you weren’t expecting to have that impact which has everyone going “Whoa.” Every show is unexpected.Yeah, you never know where the lulls and highs are going to be. I know it’s really early for this still, but bands eventually develop songs that they don’t want to play anymore. Do you have any in your repertoire that you think you might feel that way about?
Pam: There are songs that we don’t want to play when we’re not focused, something that you were younger when you wrote and you don’t want to think about that anymore, but Jacob and I always say to each other “These are our songs, this is us.” The songs are a part of you. They could be the songs that you have to play, because everyone wants to hear them, and that could suck, but if you play the song and people still love it, then you’re doing something right. As long as we’re not one-hit wonders, I think we’ll be okay.