L.A. is latest recording stop for wandering rockers
Spring is blooming in Los Angeles, but along with blue skies and warm evenings comes a spell of violent guitars, raw percussion and sinister choruses.
Celebrating the release of its latest album Sisterworld, the now Los Angeles-based experimental rockers, Liars, are playing the El Rey Theatre this weekend, the first show on their North American tour.
âI enjoy touring because it allows us to catch up on current music and see new places,â guitarist Aaron Hemphill said, speaking from his home in Venice, Calif., just before band rehearsal. âWhen weâre recording and writing an album, weâre in our own little world.â
Recorded and mixed in Los Angeles â where Hemphill met bandmate Angus Andrew while attending the California Institute of the Arts â Sisterworld screeches with the echoes of unnerving, angry instruments, bringing to mind the compositions of Nick Cave and Tom Waits as well as the disparity and sprawl of the city itself.
But Sisterworld is not the first time a Liars record has echoed its place of conception.
The bandâs critically acclaimed 2006 album Drumâs Not Dead was produced in Germany, while its considerably more polarizing witch folklore record, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, was created in a remote cabin in woods of New Jersey.
While amusing in their diversity, Hemphill insisted that such locations are chosen, first and foremost, by how well they facilitate work.
âWe didnât just decide to make a witch record in the woods and look for a house,â Hemphill said of They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. âAngus wanted to move out of New York and our hope was not only that it would provide a change of scenery but also enable us to work a lot later. Once we fall upon the unifying theme for a record, very naturally our perception of our surroundings focuses on elements that support that.â
While the intensely layered sounds of Sisterworld suggest reliance on expensive effect rigs, Hemphill insisted that his approach to creating original textures was far more organic in nature.
âI really like to change the type of guitar Iâm playing or the gauge of the string,â he said. âHopefully that affects my approach to playing more than a pedal board. Itâs more about, âWhat can I try to replicate?â than, âCan I make my guitar sound like a violin?ââ
This ethos carries over to concerts and the unpredictable reception of Liars material during the bandâs intense live shows (the band is known for its elaborate vocal arrangements and improvisational playing style) is always a thrilling experience.
âWeâve had weird crowd reactions, but usually theyâve been creative gestures,â Hemphill said. âOne time in Baltimore, we had a frozen turkey thrown at us on stage. The fact that someone smuggled a frozen bird into the venue during the height of winter, thatâs pretty amazing.â
The band made a memorable daytime appearance at the 2009 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and drew a sizeable crowd to the outdoor theater stage despite blistering temperatures. Still, the bandâs return to more intimate venues like the El Rey is a spotlight of the upcoming tour.
âWe generally prefer indoor [concerts] just because it sounds a bit better and we have more control over the mood,â Hemphill said.
âWeâve been told that weâre not really a daytime band.â
For Hemphill and his bandmates, life on the road offers not only the opportunity to be pelted with poultry but also a chance to see just how far their challenging-yet-unique music has reached.
âI like playing the middle of America a lot,â Hemphill said. âWith the Internet these days, thereâs not really solid ârock townsâ and ânon-rock towns.â Lots of surprises.â
While the bandâs Internet presence has helped spread Liarsâ music, Hemphill â like many other independent musicians â is still unsure about the variable effects of fansâ file sharing.
âItâs definitely not a black and white issue,â Hemphill, who once worked in a record store, said.
âIf youâre going to download music for free, hopefully youâll have the conscience of mind to support the band in other ways. The whole thing might get more people to our shows.â