feature

Punks, Feeling Lucky

Pin it

e were worried about sounding too smart,” says Angus Andrew, explaining why his band rejected potential names like Tumbling Walls Buried Me in the Debris. Ultimately christened Liars (note: a Google search for “The Liars” will bring you all manner of Christian websites), the Brooklyn-based foursome claim to have strictly non-elitist intentions. “We figured that calling yourself a liar is the most honest thing you can do,” says Andrew, who denies reports that he’s inordinately fond of dropping trou onstage.
    The band’s first album, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top (Mute) is an unusually complicated punk-dance pileup; creatively, it’s miles above every other New York-based pretender to the Strokes’ clothing allowance. “Mr. You’re on Fire Mr.” mixes shouty punk, guitar noise and electronic beats like the Cure going disco-hopping with the Clash; “Nuts on the Velandrome” includes approximately one intelligible phrase — “short attention span!” howled by Angus — but manages to be completely riveting; the record closes with an epic 30-minute track, a concept album in search of a song.
    So far, media fixations have been thus: Andrew’s unlikely sexbombitude (he’s dating the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O) and the band’s raucous live shows, where shoulders have been dislocated, faces gashed and various audience members’ heads have run afoul of flying guitars. Recently, Andrew concluded an encore by throwing himself face-first into a drum kit and impaling his neck on a metal rod. “We were trying to have a mellow show,” Andrew explains. “Somebody always ends up bleeding,” says drummer Ron Albertson. “But it’s all nervous energy,” says programmer Aaron Hemphill. “We walk a fine line between being a little bit clumsy and stupid and this really macho Henry Rollins-type congregation.”
    If anything, the music is for those who like their meaninglessness served challenging. “The point is not for us to offer any answers or anything like that. We want to inspire creativity,” says Andrew.
    “We’re like ‘Oh Donna’ by Richie Valens — that song made more sense to him than anyone, even though it’s a very obvious song,” says keyboardist/programmer Aaron Hemphill. “If we told you what our songs were about, you’d just go, ‘Oh.’ It’s like saying, ‘Well, Richie Valens had a girl named Donna, and they broke up.’ So what? The song means more if you don’t meet Donna.”

Five Questions for the Liars

Nerve: If your sound were a controlled substance, it would be. . .
Aaron: Really, really stepped-on acid. Like it’s good, but at the same time something cheap that people could easily get.
Angus: Something you could make at home.
Aaron: Yeah, home-manufactured acid.

What would you say to an alien?
Ron: How did you get here?
Aaron: How do you feel about the wax stickers people make of your face?
Pat: Where are you going to take me?
Ron: Do you want to be in our band?

How much is your music inspired by comic books, horror movies and porn?
Ron: Most of it.
Aaron: My brother was really into horror movies. He had a subscription to Fangoria. But Angus loves porn. He’s like, Pornzilla, this porn monster toppling these cardboard boxes and fake Japanese crowds.

What’s the last piece of porn you bought?
Angus: The R. Kelly tape. I don’t know if I should reveal the source. And Dirty Debutantes. It’s a series of young girls, their first time on video. Yeah, a lot of my porn has to do with young girls.

Do you watch porn together on tour?
Pat: No. You know, I did discover that it’s difficult to watch porn and eat at the same time.
Aaron: When we were on this three-month tour, we found a truck stop that had an all-you-can-eat spaghetti buffet and strip club. I was surveying the scene and . . . well, I didn’t smell good sauce.
Ron: [to Aaron] Was that the topless doughnut shop?
Pat: Yeah, that was the same thing.
Ron: They wanted a six dollar cover, and we were like, forget it.