Interview: Liars' Angus Andrew
Mon Apr 12 2010
Liars swing through town this weekend for two dates (tickets are still available for Sunday night's show at Music Hall of Williamsburg; tickets here), shows TONY had the chance to preview in this week's issue. We spoke with Liars frontman Angus Andrew about the strains of metropolitan living, something that informs the aggressive, sometimes angry tone of Liars' tense soundscapes in their recent release, Sisterworld.
Click past the jump for more.
Time Out New York: Earlier we talked about the experience of living in L.A. against the experience of living in New York City and other places you've lived. Could you comment on that?
Angus Andrew: L.A. is a very interesting city, because the image of it is quite different to the reality of what it's like to live here. People's view of L.A. has to do with Hollywood and celebrity, where the majority of L.A. is not that. We were talking about New York and L.A....the identity of New York is relatively in line with the reality, with the experience of it. You know it's going to be fast-paced and crowded and intense. And that's generally how it's lived. In L.A., going back even to the way it was historically, saying that the Wild West, going out to the West would sort of fulfill your hopes and dreams. But the interesting part about Los Angeles is that even though people people are drawn towards this idea of, this image of L.A., what they get when they end up here is quite different. I like to think of how many rejected people there are here in terms of people who've come and tried to make it as a celebrity and haven't done that who sort of have to deal with creating their own sort of support system in and around L.A. I find that interesting, the way that the different types of people have to develop their own worlds in order to be able to exist in a place that isn't quite what they expected. I'm also obviously into L.A. because coming from Berlin, I was pretty much isolated from English-speaking media. Coming to L.A. for me was like mainlining the American culture, whether it's through TV or newspapers or the radio. Whether it's walking down the street and interacting with the environment, it was all kind of new to me, coming from Berlin.
How does this tension manifest itself in Sisterworld?
I spent my first six months here without a car living in an area that wasn't necessarily quite safe. I was able to witness, firsthand, the things that were going on in the "street level" that made me really frustrated in terms of the way that the city works in terms of its propensity to propel this false image of L.A. and it's willingness to ignore its underside and the reality of it. That for me was quite interesting.
I feel like a lot of weird art originates in L.A. For example, Tim Burton went to art school at CalArts just like you; he's probably the best example. Why do you think L.A. is a cauldron for stuff like that?
People are forced, in a way, to find other like-minded people, forced to try and connect with something that they're familiar with. In that sense, you get some sort of interesting subcultures and groups, they're sort of necessary in a city where you can literally fall through the cracks and be lost in the maelstrom. It's the same with the geography. It's a modern decentralized city. There is no real sense of what is right in terms of the central location. Most cities have that downtown area that you go towards to get an idea of the city, but L.A.'s downtown is just a homeless shelter. It's a backwards notion, but also a very modern one in comparison to the European idea of a city. For many reasons, it's a place you need to hold on to; otherwise it'll be lost in the confusion.
Yeah, because Skid Row is like, in the center of downtown.
It's interesting because it's so backwards. Usually the downtown is an area that's showed off. In L.A., they try and hide it. We had a rehearsal space down in Skid Row and sort of had to deal, put ourselves in a position where we had to face this reality every day, which I think is something that's extremely uncommon for people in L.A. because they spend all their time driving their cars on the freeway and ride past these kinds of areas. It gives you a real sense, at the core of the city, at the center point of the city, it's a wasteland. How that speaks for the rest of the city...I think it speaks volumes for how the rest of the city works. Even though it's a bit excessive, when you look at the disparity between the idea of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, this downtown scenario, it's interesting to think of what we were talking about earlier, trying to make it in a place where it's really just a fantasy, and what happens to those people when the fantasy implodes.
Do you like living in L.A.?
I do, a lot. I've been at this before. It's got to do with the way that I feel living anywhere, since there must be some sort of love/hate, there has to be a critical side to it. It's the way I feel about America in general. I'm drawn to it, in a sense, because of a morbid fascination. At the same time, repelled by a lot of things, and I think we all are. It's a question of... It's being able to engage in a place with what's around you, rather than just letting it fly by. It's something that's just maybe inherent with me, that I find it interesting to live in places that maybe I'm not, not necessarily paradise for me that offers stimulating surroundings.
Could you tell me about the new live members of Liars?
The other two guys are multi-instrumentalists from the band that we're playing with, called Fol Chen, and we're utilizing more members now so that we can have more opportunities to go into material. We'd otherwise be limited from it, from attacking as a three-piece. It's about expanding the possibilities of our sound onstage.
I'm seeing Thom Yorke tonight. I doubt I'll get to speak with him, but if I do, is there anything you'd like me to say to him?
[Laughs] Yeah. Tell him that we're still waiting for the remix of our new single. You can just say hi and thanks and tell him that you love the "Proud Evolution" remix. That'd be fine.