A Few Truths from Liars’ Angus Andrew

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Published October 18, 2010

 

LIARS FRONTMAN ANGUS ANDREW (CENTER) AND BANDMATES. PHOTO COURTESY  OF MUTE.

When first writing “Proud Evolution” and the other tracks on Sisterworld in 2008-2009, Liars frontman Angus Andrew was living in a particularly seedy part of Los Angeles,  in another side of the same America that was at once celebrating the election of Barack Obama and struggling through an economic crisis and the legalities of gay marriage.

A follow-up to Liars’ 2010 album Sisterworld, the new EP Proud Evolution, is out tomorrow. The EP contains different takes on the title track (including a remix by Thom Yorke that first appeared on the remix album Sisterworld Reinterpretations, and a live version recorded at the Music Hall of Williamsburg), plus three new songs. We chatted with Andrew about the new EP, gay marriage, and social justice last week.

KIMBERLY CHOU: Can you talk a bit about the meaning of “Proud Evolution”? What were you thinking about when you were writing it and the rest of the songs on Sisterworld, versus now, revisiting it for the EP?

ANGUS ANDREW: The idea of a “proud evolution”—you’re being confident in all the decisions that your society has made and set up, and often it’s something that we boast about in the sense of developments, and in all sorts of areas, particularly technology. But obviously, you know those kinds of things don’t always involve everybody, and it’s the people who are left out of that [who are] interesting to me, the most evident example in Los Angeles being the homeless people. … The city is a very proud place and a very global city, but has this kind of armpit stain it doesn’t want to talk about.

I saw [“Proud Evolution”], while I was writing it, as an idea that I could connect to a lot of things. At the time we were writing the record was when Obama was getting elected—obviously, at the time for everyone a very exciting time, an advancement in social relations even, but at the same time there were protests going on in LA about the banning of gay marriage. It was a really strange dilemma because on one hand, it felt like you should be exuberant with the rest of the country with this giant leap forward electing Obama, but also feeling a lot of things [weren’t getting taken care of].

When writing the record, as well, the big issue was the economy. The idea that came out toward the end of the recession period [was] that the reason for this kind of problem was that people were kind of over extending themselves, credit-wise. Again, it’s this idea of feeling over confident of your position, more confident than you should necessarily be and I see it in those economic terms as well because that was a real trend, because you’re so confident in a way that you’re going to expend yourself in your financial means.

In essence, the song is just about lying about the possibilities of what happens when you’re overconfident.

CHOU: And what about now? Has the meaning of the song changed or adapted for you?

ANDREW: It’s applicable to scenarios that tend to pop up all the time now, examples where we as a people have overextended ourselves and are now paying the price. One of the biggest ones, obviously, is the oil spill. And any time I’m on stage and I’m performing the song, a lot of the lyrics are just saying “you should be careful” and that just translates to anything that’s going on. That’s like the finger-pointing thing. A while ago, we went down and played a festival in Mexico, and it was pretty scary in the sense that [some bands] didn’t make it because they were scared or because they got held up for any reason, even in that scenario, so that felt applicable. It’s like a warning song.

CHOU: How did the remixes come about? I know you’ve been friends with Thom Yorke for some time, touring with Radiohead in 2008 and so on. (The Yorke remix of “Proud Evolution” previously appeared on Sisterworld Reinterpretations, alongside contributions from Atlas Sound [who took on “Here Comes All the People”], Devendra Banhart & The Grogs [“The Overachievers”], and others.)

ANDREW: The idea came about when we were finishing up the record. When you start to finish the record, you get a better idea of what you were trying to achieve. Our goal had been to give these unnoticed voices a chance to speak about LA. We wanted to portray different sides of LA … and the next part of the project was to get a different perspective on our own perspective.

We really wanted to try to get people to work on the songs in a sort of way that was not a traditional remix kind of style, a four-on-the-floor, disco-beat kind of thing, you know? … We wanted to open up a part of the remix that wasn’t so focused on making it danceable. We looked for people we admired but [who were] not so necessarily known for their skills in remixing.

CHOU: And what about the new tracks on this EP, “Come Now,” “Total Frown” and “Strangers”?

ANDREW: When we write a record, we write a few records really, and it’s really a process of editing down the music to fit into the idea that we want to portray. There’s a lot of material that is good but doesn’t necessarily fit into the theme and some of the songs were left off the record. … Eventually there becomes a sort of backlog for every record.

PROUD EVOLUTION IS OUT TOMORROW ON MUTE. LIARS WILL TOUR EUROPE THROUGHOUT LATE OCTOBER AND EARLY NOVEMBER.