Seventeen years ago we fell in love with Australian-American art rock band Liars and their audacious debut album They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top. Now Liars main man Angus Andrew is essentially going it solo (Aaron Amphill who had played with Andrews since the bands inception having now departed), with new Liars album TFCF. It’s probably one of the two best Liars albums if you ask us. We sat down with Andrew to talk about breaking the law, moving back to his native Australia and wedding dresses.
So now Liars is essentially a solo project now that Aaron is no longer part of the project.
Aaron and I had been working together for a really long time and the way that we work was more like a critiquing. I’d always write songs on my own and I would send them to Aaron because I really valued his opinion, but more and more it was just me writing the records and it became clear, slowly, that Aaron needed a different outlet. We’re such good friends we were able to understand that it would be better if he didn’t get involved in Liars any more, but he was super supportive of me continuing it on.
Liars is who I am, I definitely thought about whether I should just do a solo thing now. Apart from contractually I couldn’t really do that, it would just be me making a name up for the sake of it and I’d have felt that I’d lost who I am.
That’s great to not screw your friendship up.
It wasn’t easy. People say that dudes in bands have the worst ability to discuss openly their feelings and we were pretty much that way, really close but never wanting to upset the way things were moving. It’s easy to get into a position where you’re doing things you might not necessarily really want to be doing. In that way, doing it as I am now, there is some liberation in it, some freedom that is kind of nice. A lot of my decision now aren’t fed through anyone else, I just am going from the gut. That feels like a more important artistic expression for me, it feels good.
Do you think having Aaron around was a kind of safety blanket?
Absolutely, in all sorts of ways. Primarily because ever since I met Aaron I really value his taste in music and so I would see his taste above mine. So if I made 10 songs and he liked some of them then those would be the ones I would go with. Lyrically I’d got used to the idea of writing things with the pronoun ‘we’ as opposed to ‘I’, which is another safety blanket, saying these are feelings we feel, when you start saying these are feelings I’m feeling it becomes a lot more persona.
What’s with the wedding dress in the TFCF artwork?
I felt like I was married to Aaron, we were so close, we basically lived together forever so I really felt like it was me left alone at the wedding. Again, it’s confronting and it’s awkward and uncomfortable and those kind of things tick my boxes really.
You’ve made Liars records in lots of different places, but you made TFCF in the Australian outback which is really different.
Apart from anything else I’m always looking to move to new places cos it gives me a good creative boost, but I was worried because I’ve only ever made records outside of Australia which is where I grew up. I always had this advantage I felt, being an outsider in Berlin or New York or wherever and I had an angle to look at the place and an interesting perspective. I wondered if I moved to Australia would I no longer have that ability to see it from this other side, but it turned out good. I went into the bush and that environment in Australia is so strong, it’s a really powerful setting with nature and the loud sound of nature had a really big effect on the record.
Where you’re living is pretty remote right? I think I heard you had to go by boat to even get food?
Where I live is only accessible by boat, so there’s no cars or roads or anything and we catch all our own water and there’s septic tanks and stuff. It’s super isolated. I can spend a lot of time not seeing any body.
Does that make you a bit crazy?
For me it’s really important to be alone, that lets things out. Maybe it sends you a bit crazy but it’s a good crazy. You become obsessed in your own world and I need that when I make things. If there’s too much going on around me I can’t get into the right head space.
Do you consider yourself a ‘professional musician’?
No I still don’t really associate with that term. I went to art school and that’s where I started making sound, my approach has always been from the wrong end. That’s how I like. I approach the whole project of being a musical group more as a artistic entity because certainly when you’re putting a record together there are so many other elements that are a big part of it that i really enjoy visually, videos and art work. Music just seems to be the vein that’s kept the thing alive.
Fuck the rules.
Exactly, that was the first thing I needed to learn, musical skill doesn’t necessarily equal anything.
Liars has been a thing for 17 years now! What’s changed?
The world has changed a lot in that time and the way that music is consumed has obviously gone through a whole revolution. For me the approach is almost identical as it was making the first record, it terms of picking up some instruments and trying some ideas and trying to make something out of it even though I don’t really know. In that way every record is sort of a journey or an experiment with these tools and I like to switch those up each time so each time it feels very naive. I’m still learning, I feel naive in relation to music and I like that.
Have you ever sat down and said alright it’s time to just write something insanely commercial and pop?
Of course, my answer to that is that everything you hear is me trying to do that. It just doesn’t come out of my brain in exactly the way it probably should, but all the intention is there. I listen to Britney Spears just as much as anyone, I love pop music and there’s something really attractive to me about a good song. On the other hand I really can spend a lot of time with sounds, I love sound and experimenting with it.
What do you dream about?
I smoke a lot of pot and one of the side effects of that is that you don’t really remember your dreams, at least for me. Whenever I stop then after a while I have very vivid dreams. Most of the dreams that come out are to do with flying and my fear of flying and losing control.
Have you ever broken the law?
Yeh, one of the first times was driving without a driver’s license while I was drunk. It was when I was 16 and I was actually saving up all my money to go buy a plane ticket to fly to New York, which was my dream. I got arrested and slapped with a huge fine that meant I lost all the money I’d saved up for that trip. I learnt a big lesson with that.
What was high school like?
It was good, I had a lot of different types of friends. I had a whole group of friends that were musicians but I was so intimidated by the idea of musicians, they always were hanging out and saying come over and jam and I’ve never been able to do that, I find it really intimidating. I kind of missed out on this chance when I was kid at school, to be able to in a band, I didn’t get teh gumption up until much later.
What’s the biggest problem facing humans as a species?
I guess Donald Trump would be the obvious one. Let me try something that’s a little more esoteric – being disconnected, we fool ourselves into believe the world is more interconnected, that with the internet and social media that everyone has the chance to connect with each other. In the end it seems like it makes people more insular. So that and Trump.
What would you call your biography?
‘The Man With No Truth to Be Told’.