As its name might imply, the Liars sound is tough to unravel down to a singular thread or truth, but a line from the trio's own 'Mess On A Mission' sums it up best "Facts are facts and fiction's fiction". This interview untangled all the dark and shady notions I had about them when it became an eye-opening joyride of devilishly lucid narratives that were bright and truthful. I was struck by their self-proclaimed openness to sound in all of its messy, gorgeous and chaotic formations, and it made me realize that this is what makes their music colourful. The new record spills out from every possible corner, and the songs, with kaleidoscopic reverb and enchanting rhythms, embody an all-encompassing feeling of untamed fun.

In the past they've relied on masking themselves under guises of different subject matter (e.g. Witches and Los Angeles) but after 2012's WIXIW (pronounced "wish you") exposed frightening vulnerability, the charismatic lead singer Angus Andrew says, "we allow that vulnerability to work to our advantage now, to have fun with it and open ourselves up in that naked way." With each spin of Mess brings out new details and textures that colour the listening experience.

With Aaron Hemphill, one third of Liars, being acutely aware of their musical appeal and his songwriting partnership with Andrew, he reveals; "We both, regardless of what we're fascinated by, seem to have the quality that the other is missing." Every Liars album reveals a new layer of sound - like a set of Russian Matryoshka Dolls - the best relationships reveal a series of partnerships within partnerships, between band members and agents, between agencies and even between artistic qualities.

Mess is the sound of Liars not only facing their fears but also having the balls to reveal a new layer of sonic-DNA by ripping it from their veins and letting it leak out in all its technicolor glory. I first chat with Hemphill about noise music and songwriting, and then call Andrew (below) to discuss self-doubt, life-changing events and how consistently inconsistent the band are. In that respect - I hope they never change.


This is your seventh album - what are you most proud of?

The last record WIXIW was pretty heavy man we spent a really long time doing it and were filled with anxiety, doubt and fear about working with electronic instruments and stuff. I'm just really proud of the immediacy and the fun we had making Mess - it was a - lets make this as fast as possible and not ruminate too much on the decisions - kinda album.

It definitely sounds stream of conscious like on the track 'Mask Maker' you say, "Take my pants off, use my socks, smell my socks, eat my face off..." genius! Tell me more about that song...

I think that song is a good example of everything we've just talked about and that's the reason why I wanted it to come first on the album - it exemplifies this idea of us going with the gut and not over intellectualising too much. The genesis was me being interested in manipulating my voice so I downloaded a free trial of a program but it only lasted for 6 hours, so I sat in my studio for about 3 hours literally talking to myself in this voice and recording it. You know, all this stupid stuff starts coming out because you going a bit insane and becoming this character that sounds creepy, almost prowler-like.

It was creepy but it's refreshing to hear you let go, being vulnerable is relatable - maybe vulnerable isn't the right word...

I agree I think vulnerable is a great word you know, in the past we've relied on masking ourselves under this guise of a different subject matter (witches, Los Angeles) to express our feelings. WIXIW was the first record where we didn't do that and put the mirror back on ourselves - I think that's the reason why it was so frightening. With Mess we allow that vulnerability to work at our advantage, to have fun with it and open ourselves up in that naked way. I think in the past we kinda figured out ways of not really doing that.

You once said that, "Music is the only enabler." Were there any new personal triggers that enabled this new sound?

[laughs] I got married! So I think it would be hard to discount that, it was a big thing that happened for me and I actually made the proposal a week before I started to work on the record and she thankfully said yes, so maybe that made me get into a confident frame of mind. We reached a level of ease and comfort in LA too, enough to feel okay about 'taking your pants off' and really messing with the whole thing. It gets to a point where you're like okay, 'I'm gonna kick in the walls a bit'.

It's clear, even on 'Can't Hear Well' your pronunciation is muffled out, like you've got one of those colourful balls lodged in your mouth.

It's interesting that you bring that up! That was the first song written for the record and it was one that came really quickly. It was another example of yeah, maybe my vocals could be annunciated a bit more but man I really love that song.

That track reminds me of the sentiment behind WIXIW too - I think people like to be shocked, but within reason - so it's a "we're still here but check out our new friggin' sound."

That's a really good point because I think that too. The idea of confounding peoples expectations is that on the one hand it's really fun and great for creativity but not always the best career move!

I was chatting with Aaron earlier and with every new reveal your sound is still solid and the three of you fit well together - like babushka dolls? Matryoshka dolls? Like those!

[laughing] That is the best image, oh god where you peel off another layer and then it's like [mimics a broadway choreographer] "JAZZ!" and then the next layer....

You can literally see my brain right now

..."World Music!"

Thank you, I've officially just snorted from laughing

That's a great image and so exciting because and I'm so in anticipation about what that final doll is going to look like. Imagine it was like a John Cage piece just one single note for a full album?

[We're laughing uncontrollably at this point]

The whole colour aspect - this visual component to the album really makes sense to me now - I think the colour is in the sound.

It's that vibrancy that was important to convey and the fun of it. I like the connection with the string and the concept of a mess - the interesting thing about art is this thin line of subjectivity about what you could consider to be a 'mess' or a refined piece of work. I can remember going into galleries when I was younger with my brother and he would be one of those guys who would say, 'oh I could do that'. I love people's reactions like that it shows how different people see things.

You know when Frank Zappa said how important it was to put art in a frame, otherwise "WHAT IS THIS SHIT ON THE WALL?" - without a frame/context you never know where the art stops and where the real world begins.

Yeah and then it talks to the varying perspectives of people and I like that - it's much more up for debate now.

Do you feel this new direction may pick up a new fan base?

Some have asked me if I think people will dance to this and I was like - shuttup I duno! People who hear this now for the first time might go back into our catalogue and be like what the FUCK I don't like any of this stuff! It's not about pleasing everyone - that's never gonna happen with the way we make our music.

Your inconsistency is probably the most consistent thing about you!

[Laughs] Right! Yes that is exactly right.

In the past I read things that said, "Well this band is post-punk funk" and all they listen to is "Gang Of Four" and I was like what the fuck! Then I was like fuck that, let's stop and try something completely different because I was so unhappy with the idea of someone telling me what we were. I understand it's a way that they communicate to their readers but it's certainly not fun as a creative person to be labeled.

Ironically it's worked to your favour - "you think I'm a punk you punk well fuck you I'm doing noise-disco"

That's why I think back to those moments when we did the first record it really set the tone for the way we would approach things. We're not going to live up to these ideas or definitions of what we are, we're going to do the exact opposite of what people think. It becomes clear to me that there is a very strong through-line of subject matter which is generally fear, paranoia and anxiety. In the past these things were a burden and now we're spinning it to be more advantageous.

Maybe the next Matryoshka doll will be "POP!"

We could move to Durban [South Africa] and go completely acoustic - that to me is really enticing right now after staring at a computer for the last five years!


Liars' new album, Mess, is released on March 24th via Mute. Head here to read our review of the album and head here to stream it.