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Pop MTL: An interview with Liars

Posted by Phil / September 28, 2010

20100930_liars_zensekizawa.jpgLiars, a three-piece act from New York, is known for "retaining a consistent interest in rhythm and sound texture". In preparation for their upcoming concert at Pop Montréal, Midnight Poutine spoke with Aarron Hemphill (percussion, guitar, synth) about their latest album Sisterworld, life on the road, social media, and, of course, poutine.

Midnight Poutine: This is your first show in Montreal since 2006. Is there a particular reason why we haven't seen you since then and, more importantly, when is the last time you had Poutine?

Aaron Hemphill: No reason, there isn't anywhere we would avoid intentionally. We've always had a great time in Montreal and we're happy to be coming back. I wouldn't dare eat poutine outside of Montreal. If I did I wouldn't call it poutine.

MP: Sisterworld explores the underground support systems created to deal with loss of self to society, one of those systems being social media. We all know that the world is going straight to hell; what advice do you have to save it or make it collapse faster? Do you think people spend too much time updating their Facebook pages? Would the world be a better place if we'd all leaved our computer behind for a bit and get involved?

AH: Good questions. Offering advice would seem to put me in some position of authority that I can't claim. In this same manner I can't say if people spend too much time on Facebook. I don't have an account on it, so I really don't know what it's about. It does illustrate the computer as becoming the preeminent vessel of entertainment. Like all vessels of entertainment, it can be misused as well as being dismissed too easily.

I'm not sure following an obligation to get involved is necessarily the answer. At the moment, I feel like knowledge of one's self is the key to finding out what a person is truly passionate about and leads to greater action. For me this path is lonelier, but so it goes. I don't pretend to have anything figured out though...least of all myself.

MP: How much have you toured so far to support Sisterworld? What is the strangest thing that has happened on the road?

AH: We've toured quite a bit actually since the record's release. The strangest thing that happened to me was pointing out a sailboat to our touring guitar player on the ferry from Ireland to France that wasn't there. I was not on any drugs, nor did I have any alcohol that night. He just couldn't see it.

MP: I imagine life on the road is not always easy and long hours in the bus can get boring pretty quickly. How do you spoil yourself on tour and how do you manage to keep your sanity?

AH: I can't say it's boring really...we all appreciate getting to play music everyday. I think it's more the loss of personal routine and individual choice on everyday things, like where and when to eat etc. These decisions all become group activities and sometimes it can lead to some tedious situations, but it's a small price to pay. We have a great bunch of people with us and we all love each other so it's not so bad. I consider myself spoiled as is, I get to do what I love most.

MP: Over 5 albums, Liars have created a pretty recognizable and unique sound where groove, harsh sound textures and unusual and dark arrangements seem to blend all together. How does your songwriting process usually work?

AH: Same as it was when Angus and I first met. He and I make completed demos and share them with each other. Sometimes they are expanded on by one another, sometimes they're considered finished as is.

MP: Are your songs easy to reproduce in a live setting? Should Montreal fans expect faithful deliveries of your tracks or do you leave room for improvisation?

AH: No. Since we usually make songs individually, this means we obsess over each sound that is layered. When you make songs alone, they're created in silence. Any sound we are unable to recreate makes the song sound almost incomplete to its creator. It takes a lot of letting go, and trust that the live version is an exciting, though different entity. Do people ever expect faithful deliveries from live shows? That would be depressing.

MP: Liars are often described as an art-rock band. Do you agree with this categorization? What do you think of the music journalist's need to always classify music into genres?

AH: That's your impression, and one we can't argue with really. I think it's part of a music journalist's job to classify music. What I find more interesting is people's desire to have other people classify music for them. I think the quote "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" is one of the dumbest quotes people throw around.

I love reading about music and discussing articles etc. With people I know and who's perspectives I respect. The reader ascribes as much or as little power to these journalists as they choose. These days it's so easy to find new music on your own. I don't see it as a situation worth complaining about when music journalism is so easy to bypass.

MP: From a musical standpoint, Liars take a lot of risks. Do you guys approach other areas of your life with a similar philosophy?

AH: We wouldn't consider it taking risks from a musical standpoint. We just do what we do, it's pretty simple. We have a great support system with Mute and I don't know why we'd do it any other way.

MP: From album to album, Liars fans never know what to expect. Have you already started to think about the direction you want to take with the next record?

AH: We're always thinking about music, so yes...we have been thinking about it. I'd rather just have you listen to it when it's finished than blab about something that isn't finished yet.

Black Feelings
September 30th 2010
Le National (1220, Saint-Catherine East)
$18.00 in advance and at the door

Photography by Zen Sekizawa

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