Columbia City Paper shoots the breeze with Aaron Hemphill of Liars about the importance of palindromes, musical collaboration, Milwaukee, and of course- Lana Del Rey.
FR: Can you tell me a little about the story behind the album title, WIXIW - it's so difficult and symmetrical. I love it.
AH: There are so many meanings and qualities that led us to choose WIXIW as the album title. Not only did we find that quite simply, WIXIW is such a beautiful looking word to us, but it is also a palindrome. Palindromes derive their power from ending in the same way as which they begin. Often times during the writing of WIXIW, Angus and I would be overwhelmed with doubt and anxiety. It offered some comfort to us in accepting that to move forward, evolve, or finish a song- early techniques of ours could be applied without producing a song that felt like a regression. Much like reading a palindrome, your eye movement is forward and you find yourself further along than you were before you began- all the while potentially reading the same letters the word began with.
FR: As for the WIXIX itself, the album is obviously a more heavily electronic-based album. What inspired you to take this new route for the new record?
AH: Sisterworld was recorded in a traditional way, where we had an engineer that knew how to place microphones or what compression to use, et cetera. We wanted to circumvent this process and record the album ourselves, lessening the distance between us and the finished song or album- and quite literally, the mics from the sounds we are trying to capture.
FR: How did the recording process compare to your previous albums?
AH: We decided to open up our material earlier on to each other with earlier collaboration. Normally, Angus and I would wait until songs we were working on were almost finished before inviting the other to add or subtract to the song. It was much more difficult this way, but much more rewarding.
FR: At first, the new album can feel a little disorienting and alienating to the listener. WIXIW is a really committed work and you guys really drop us in the deep end right off the bat. Do you guys ever feel that your music forces the listener to earn its eventual rewards- because after 5+ spins, what was once disorienting now feels downright warm and comforting.
AH: I think we often feel that the music we are making is pretty straight forward. I think this recalls the answer to question one. Our music reads "wish you" to us, and for some listeners, it reads: "WIXIW". Regardless, I think it means a lot to us if listeners find or reveal new sounds and take their time with the music. We feel fortunate that anybody would take their time with us.
FR: How important to the band is it to continue to musically grow with each album? And how often does "musically grow" involve experimenting?
AH: I think it has more to do with following our guts with our hearts. The difference being that the goal isn't always to make something different than the last album for the sake of it. It's more natural. And I don't think we would mind if we made, say, another electronic album after WIXIW so long as that's what we are genuinely interested in, and that we feel positive about the possibilities of making new discoveries within the approach. So long as we don't feel we've exhausted the idea.
FR: How do you think the WIXIW experience translates to the live circuit?
AH: It's been really challenging. It's almost like embarking on another album to get the live setup fully operational and working. It's certainly exciting for us playing new songs and using new equipment that we're still trying to learn how to control. I can't answer the question regarding how it translates, but I can say that we try to create an environment where mistakes and errors are welcome. We like it when there is a difference between the live songs and the recordings. I think from my experience in seeing bands with a similar hope, a live version can get you excited to listen to the recorded version again. Certain instruments or sounds can come across more clearly or louder live, making some portions of the arrangements more clear to listeners.
FR: Does Liars have a favorite place to play?
AH: Anyway we're invited. We're super excited to play for people. It's always exciting to see a new city on our tour routes. We're lucky to get to travel around the world with music. It's so exciting when that new city pops up in the tour book, for example- Milwaukee! We'd never played Wisconsin before and it was so amazing to be in a city brand new to us, and to play a city we haven't played before.
FR: Music now is available in a variety of formats. You have digital downloads, CDs, vinyl of course, and even cassette tapes are making a modest comeback. What is your favorite listening format for music and on which do you think Liars sounds best?
AH: I like vinyl the best. But I haven't had the chance in a long while to listen to records. I really like the radio in the my car. The best thing about having to drive everywhere in L.A. is I get to sing as loud as I want to whatever cheesy music I want to sing along to. It makes the time pass in traffic, and it is so great to be able to respond to the music in any way I want and it's still somewhat of a private interaction with the music.
FR: So the music scene has really gone sideways in the past ten years from Napster to iTunes to Spotify. The way people listen to music has changed and we touched on that a bit already. But where do you see the music scene going in the next ten years?
AH: If I had to wager, I'd say YouTube will be taking over a lot of the computer music playing. I think there will be more video content to go along with the album. It's overwhelming to me. I like to keep my music listening a bit more simple... old-fashioned I guess. I still don't like making playlists too much and choose to listen to the artists by playing the full album.
FR: What are your thoughts on Lana Del Rey?
AH: I just brought her up to Angus. I like the single, is it called "Blue Jeans"? Beyond that, I don't know too much about her. I'm excited to hear what kind of album she'll do next. It seems like she just... ooooooooooh thanks a lot for your time!
- Fr. Jones