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Interview: Aaron Hemphill (of Liars)

on May 31, 2012, 12:00pm
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liars 2012 e1338444595868 Interview: Aaron Hemphill (of Liars)

Next week, Brooklyn trio Liars releases its sixth album, WIXIW, and recently, Consequence of Sound sat down to chat with multi-instrumentalist Aaron Hemphill. Speaking to the album’s origins, Hemphill revealed that the self-produced album is a far more personal effort, rooted in how the band members deal with their world and creative space, and is also the product of Hemphill and bandmate/songwriter Angus Andrew writing in a far more collaborative manner. In addition to the latest material, we discussed a shared love of all things INXS and collaborating with Beck.

Congratulations on the new album. This is some amazing stuff. I’m really digging what direction you guys are going in. I wasn’t expecting what I heard – it’s all over the place. You have acoustic, you have electronic and dance mixes, and so much more. What were you guys listening to when you were making this? Because when you recorded  Sisterworld, you guys said that “we’re interested in the alternate spaces people create in order to maintain identity in a city like Los Angeles.” So what was going on this time?

To answer the first question: We’ve mentioned how we sort of…like with Sisterworld, we made that record devoid of any influence. To clarify that, it’s not that we’re not influenced by music, of course. It’s more that we sort of shut ourselves off. Whatever we listen to during the making of the record, which can vary, sometimes we don’t listen to anything, it generally has nothing to do with what we’re making on purpose, intentionally.

That’s not to say that it can’t, the finished record, the new record, can’t sound like anything once it’s finished, but it’s such a huge process that we dive into that we’re really not capable of incorporating what we’re listening to. Like, if we wanted it to be more like Katy Perry or something, and listened to it during the making of the record, we’re so immersed in the project and how we’re feeling just trying to make the best songs we can that it’s somewhat impossible for us to do that. Any sort of comparisons that can be drawn are really natural, and usually just a mistake.

We didn’t intend for it to sound like something. We just try to make something original based on what we’re going through and feeling. It’s kind of hard for us to really be influenced by a band directly, or an artist directly. When we finish the record we can sort of review… so it’s a bit easier to put the pieces together once we’ve finished.

What was the second question again?

Regarding Sisterworld…

Oh, yes, yes. Sisterworld was sort of us trying to analyze how people deal with the city, and more so their lives, and what’s necessary for people to feel inspired, and just creating a world that is individual to them, and making it work regardless of how shoddy or poor it may look to people on the outside, even how violent it can appear, or perverse.

I think it’s really important that people live their lives feeling fulfilled. Really, it was an analyzation of people on the fringe, where they do get kind of scrutinized socially because, for whatever reason, that doesn’t seem to sit well with mainstream society. Rather than feeling sorry for some people or judging them, it was more empathizing with them, and praising people who can create their own way of living that is their life.

So, this record differs, I think, because it was more internal. We were just in our own space, in our own heads, and it was about us. How do we cope with all of the things that we’re feeling and going through? And how do we sort of open up our world to other people without it being so specific? Leaving it open, hopefully, so that the listener can identify and have their own relationship, which has always been really tricky for us. Trying to reveal the conceptual sensibilities that we have in making the record, but not to a point where we dictate that it has to be received as this concept.

We just want it to be other people’s record once they listen to it, and not a concept where they should feel like they have to get it or understand it. It’s just more, hopefully, a record that people can enjoy or not, or associate to or not. But that’s really the main difference. It was just our world, less observational and more [introspective].

liars wixiw e1338445872890 Interview: Aaron Hemphill (of Liars)

Is that what led you to become producers yourself for this album? I read some early press that said this was the first time this was a full on collaboration between all of you.

Well, to clarify that, we’ve always produced our own records. I mean, we work with producers, and they’re credited, but I think that most people think of producers as people that have a lot of creative input and tell you, “Oh, I think it’d be great to throw some glare on it.” We really never work with producers in that sense. We create finished demos, or somewhat finished demos, and a producer is more like an engineer for us. So, we’ve always really self-produced our own records in the definition by how people use the word producer these days. So, there was nothing different in that.

And the collaborative effort between us all…Angus [Andrew] and I usually write songs and try to finish them as much as we can, so that we can impress each other, and really hopefully inspire each other. What generally happened with the previous records is we’ll do that and meet up when we have a large body of material so that we can work on it. This time, Angus and I shared it much earlier. Rather than trying to finish it and give it to Angus, or him give it to me, it was more like this is how I’m thinking, this is where I’m going.

We were together the entire time of writing this record…like in the same room. We went off to a cabin in Frazier Park, which is an hour north of Los Angeles, and that’s where the writing started. That’s what’s meant by it being more collaborative this time. He and I really just made an effort to share things sooner. It’s about, for me, having the courage to show Angus something that’s slightly unfinished, rather than it being so pronounced or finished and only being able to contribute little touches. He and I really worked on each other’s tracks earlier on, and much deeper. There was a lot of back and forth, and a lot of heavy involvement in each other’s material so that it would be more our thing.

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