WIXIW (pronounced “wishyou”), the sixth full-length from renowned sonic experimentalists Liars, is a monster. Crafted with the benefit of a relatively elongated gestation, the record is a contradictory mix of the group’s most experimental impulses presented in the trio’s most accessible artefact yet. The predominantly electronic compositions aren’t what you’d expect from Liars, but then again, the unexpected is what you’d expect from Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross. As the band prepare to return to Australia for the upcoming Harvest Festival, expat Andrew rationalises the constant stylistic leaps and bounds.
With WIXIW having freshly entered the world, the band are busy transposing these electronic tracks into the live setting. “We’ve done a short European tour already, it was just a promo tour,” explains Andrew. “It’s a difficult record to try and figure out how to play it live. The record was mostly created within the computer, so there’s this disconnection that was already there when making it. You don’t have this physical recognition of how you made the songs, it’s more to do with mouse clicks and keyboard strokes. The question has really been how to inject that physicality back into it after it was made so artificially, as well as dealing with a bunch of new technology.”
Judging from the production diary clips posted ahead of the release of WIXIW, the process was an all-encompassing one – looking like something of a psychological experiment at times. The act of pushing things out of their comfort seems to be an inextricable ethic within Liars, one that no doubt results in such an unpredictable body of work. “To be honest, I kind of pine for the idea or admire the artist that can find this one way of working and then spend their time constantly refining it. It would be great to be like The Ramones or something and know what you do and just do it,” Andrew laughs in his undiminished Australian accent. “The fact of the matter is that it’s something that wouldn’t keep us excited or interested. The point and the reason we change and evolve so much is that we want to challenge ourselves to think about music in different ways. That’s what keeps us excited about it. That can pose some issues for anyone who wants to follow us in a sense where they want to know what they’re going to get with each record. Unfortunately it’s not the way we function, and it’s not something that I spend too much time taking into account when making it. We feel that if we make something we’re interested in and proud of then people will appreciate it for that. At the same time, I’m aware that there are people that like some of our records more than the others. I think that in the end people can just understand it and know that when you’re dealing with Liars you can’t be certain of what you’re going to get but you should always give it a go. We are investing a lot into our work and it’s not made by some sort of formula,” Andrew reasons.
“One of the first goals with the record was to give ourselves as much time as possible to experiment, so for the first six months we just spent creating lots of weird sounds and ended up with this catalogue,” he continues. “Then there was this point where we had to figure out how we were going to make any songs out of these sounds. It’s a very different way than how we would normally work, as in working out a melody or an idea for a song then add textures and interesting sounds. In this way of working it was backwards. It was a real challenge for us to make a song that justified these interesting sounds, to make a song that was worthy of all the great things we came up with while experimenting so much.”
WIXIW highlight No. 1 Against The Rush was given a remarkable video treatment, which makes sense considering Liars’ reverence for the form. Since the beginning, the group have extended beyond the aural form and explored many of the extracurricular aspects that stem from being in a band. “I don’t feel like it’s something that’s compulsory or something that we force ourselves to do. Since we began making music at art school, I felt that being in a band was one of the best multimedia platforms for an artist to utilise all this different media under the one umbrella. It’s not just about music – it’s about graphic design or photography or performance or lyrics. There are so many different ways of expressing yourself with one platform. It’s what attracted me to be in a band in the first place.”
As to what we can expect from Liars’ Harvest Festival set, don’t anticipate your standard festival fare. “We are more of a situationist band. The goal is not to come out and play the songs how you would hear them at home. I think that’s not the point of seeing a band live, we allow for the possibility for things to go wrong and to accommodate chaos and the risk for things to fall apart,” he wryly smiles.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
LIARS perform at this year’s Harvest Festival alongside Beck, Grizzly Bear, Fuck Buttons and many more, taking place at Werribee Mansion on Sunday November 11. WIXIW is out now through Mute/EMI.