Liars have just released their sixth album, WIXIW (pronounced “wish you”), another haunting excursion into a world inhabited by David Lynch and your neuroses. After traversing the globe in support of Sisterworld (2010), the band holed up for over a year, eventually taking over a building in Los Angeles as a place to incubate a new electronic sound that is a far cry from their early years in Brooklyn as noise-rockers unwillingly lumped into the dance-punk scene. Tonight they embark on a three week U.S. tour starting at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.
A dark, moody, yet ultimately melodic and groove-laden band, they have spent a career redefining themselves from album to album while always retaining a distinctly Liars aesthetic. “Generally we go down our path and get engrossed in it, at some point we realize we’ve exhausted our current selves and sort of move on,” opines lead singer and de facto frontman Angus Andrew from Los Angeles, where the band has been re-examining their new live approach after a two week jaunt through Europe debuting the WIXIW material. “Our natural progression seems to be somewhat reactionary to whatever we worked on before.”
Harkening back to their first digital experimentations, the grating and harsh, yet defiantly catchy aspects of They Were Wrong, So We Drowned (2004), WIXIW sees Andrew, along with cohorts Aaron Hemphill [guitar, synths, vocals, percussion] and Julian Gross [drums], ditching their amps almost entirely. This time they’ve fully enveloped themselves in analog synths and computer based sounds to create an environment of insidious dread that flirts with captivating beauty.
“This is the toughest record we’ve ever dealt with in terms of translating it to a live setting. It’s not an obvious physical relationship that can be had with the sound. The question really is how to inject that sort of physicality back into music. We’re dealing with a lot of equipment and technology that we’ve never dealt with before on tour. It’s exciting and demanding. The first run through Europe felt like a trial by fire. We haven’t taken the easy route. The interesting part is how some of the older songs, which were generated more traditionally, we’ve translated them through new equipment. There’s still an intensity to the show that somehow we’re always able to bring. A lot of the times things can go wrong but we sort of allow that to happen.”
To entice the uninitiated, it’s hard not to mention Radiohead. Liars were chosen to open part of their Summer 2008 tour, NPR recently proclaimed that WIXIW, and I quote, “may just be the best Radiohead album since Kid A,” and Thom Yorke contributed a stuttery remix of Sisterworld’s Proud Evolution. Of Radiohead’s family of musical limbs, Liars current incarnation most resembles Yorke’s The Eraser. Knowing what live beast that became with Atoms for Peace, as well as Liars violently rhythmic tendencies, WIXIW’s potential as a live canvas is vast.
In addition to a new sound and a new live approach, they have recently embraced the age of social media in typically Liars fashion. Amateur Gore, a blog created in the lead-up to WIXIW, brings out the visually obsessed, art-school punk in Liars. Starting in December the band began offering teasers of the recording process, little snippets of media, many of which gave the impression of the band culling found sounds from the most curious of inspirations; a houseplant, water dripping from towels and a beard trimmer.
“We wanted to interact with the audience and let them in a bit on what we were doing in terms of the recording process but at the same time pretty adamant about the idea of there being too much information around nowadays; the element of mystery has been lost with the internet age. Right from the start, the idea of messing with the assumption and general gullibility that people have about the information that they get from bands was very appealing to us. We thought it would be interesting to toy with that a bit. Some of the things we put up were completely false and some things were very real. When we put up this post of a microphone getting sounds from a pile of books, that was telling this wasn’t all just exactly real. [Amateur Gore] sort of blurred this line between reality and complete fabrication. If you do mic some books, well what is the sound going to be? It’s kind of fun to come up with that, we enjoyed that from a personal perspective.”
There’s nothing fabricated about Liars in concert. They have consistently remained one of the best live acts around, bringing an intensity rarely matched.
Thu July 5 – Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
Sat July 7 – Doug Fir Lounge, Portland
Sun July 8 – Neumos, Seattle
Mon July 9 – Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver
Wed July 11 – Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City
Fri July 13 – Bluebird Theater, Denver
Sat July 14 – The Granada, Lawrence, KS
Sun July 15 – The Waiting Room, Omaha, NE
Tue July 17 – Minneapolis, First Avenue
Wed July 18 – Mad Planet, Milwaukee
Thu July 19 – Metro, Chicago
Fri July 20 – Magic Stick, Detroit
Sat July 21 – Lee’s Palace, Toronto
Mon July 23 – La Sala Rossa, Montreal
Tue July 24 – Paradise Rock Club, Boston
Wed July 25 – U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC
Thu July 26 – Union Transfer, Philadelphia
Fri July 27 – Grog Shop, Cleveland Heights, OH
Sat July 28 – A&R Music Bar, Columbus, OH