A lot of questions come to mind when reflecting on Liars’ upcoming record, WIXIW: What’s a “WIXIW”? What are all those rad noises woven into the tracks? What exactly are you saying on [insert track name here], Angus Andrew? Well, Hive has all the answers below, but we’ll tackle the most pressing of queries first: What’s up with your hairstyles in those press snaps, dudes?
If you take a look at Liars’ cover image on Facebook at the moment, you’ll see that the boys are sporting some seriously fashion-forward looks. The most striking ’do, however, definitely lives atop the skull of lead singer Angus Andrew: a glorious mullet that flows down his back and disappears into the velvety black background of the photo.
“Basically I pulled up a picture of the girl who is in Die Antewoord,” Andrew says, explaining the origin of his coif. “I thought, ’Oh, it’s looks good on her, it’ll look good on me!’ But she’s actually a super attractive girl, so it didn’t exactly work out the same way. It’s kind of a little more scary on me. I might need to employ a hairpiece sometime soon, because it’s getting a little out of control — something to cover up the front.”
“We thought instead we’ll put our eyelashes in there or something, but it didn’t seem as interesting as the whole blood-in-the-wax thing.”
According to Andrew, we can look forward to a whole new set of snaps soon — this time featuring the band giving him the infamous clipping. Appropriately, this makeover heralds another transformation for the band: The release of their sixth studio album, WIXIW, which drops June 5 on Mute. The record is a departure in many ways from the band’s previous works — which isn’t surprising from an act who has produced both punk-y kickups (They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top) and experimental, story albums digging into both historical and modern foibles (They Were Wrong, So We Drowned). WIXIW — although distinctly a Liars album in its unexpected turns and cinematic quality — is a gauze-covered thing, a kind of cocoon that should contain a butterfly, but instead births something with teeth.
The title of the album — which is pronounced “wish you,” by the way — mirrors the duality of the album’s sound. “In part it was an interesting idea for us, the sort of universal nature of that sentiment, which people can relate to,” Andrew says. “But we spelled it in such an awkward way that it kind of reflects on the way you might feel about the idea of wishing for something — where it seems like automatically as soon as you’re putting yourself in a position where you’re wishing for something you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.”
That sense of disconnect comes through in many of the album’s songs, like single “No. 1 Against The Rush.” The song has a kind of flowing, darkly beautiful quality that builds from drum machine beats, to horns, to the Andrew’s rich, deep voice. It’s easy to get lost in the sound of it all, but if one listens to the lyrics, it starts off with some pretty dark imagery: “I bloodied myself awake today.” The chorus later goes, “I want you out.” Not that those words would be readily decipherable to the average listener. We had to ask Andrew to tell us exactly what he was murmuring.
That obfuscation is the band’s aim, however, according to Andrew. “It plays into partially the idea that we never actually print our lyrics in any capacity with the album sleeve or anything,” he says. “I found it always more interesting to hear what people were imagining I was saying as opposed to actually what I was saying.”
Listening this record is, in many ways, like trying to read a book in a dream — you know there’s a story, you feel the emotions and you can put together some kind of theme, but you can’t make out the words. All that you’re really left with is where it takes you, personally.
As for Liars, the making of the record itself took them on a very specific journey — one that was, again, reflected in the enigmatic title. Andrew points out that “WIXIW” is also a palindrome — a word that winds up right where it started. “It’s always interesting — the idea of starting somewhere and then going through something and ending up at the same place that you started,” he says. “Sometimes that’s seen in somewhat of a negative way — you spend all your time toiling away at something and then you’re sort of back at square one, but in the way I see it and in terms of our creative process, I really think that that’s a really positive outcome. It shows that you’ve gone through something that’s really interesting and come out with the same kind of values that you went into it with.”
With this album, Andrew and Co. decided to go into the creative process in a new way — going full-throttle into electronic music. The result is just as diverse and sound-driven as the band’s previous works, but there’s a distinct “newness” to the sound, one that Andrew wasn’t wholly comfortable with at first. In addition to being a bit overwhelmed with the sound buffet electronic music offers up, he felt somewhat disassociated from the music he was creating.
“Normally, when you make something with your hands or you hit a drum, you’ve got this physical thing that’s around that sound — you can remember hitting this drum and what you did to make it sound in particular way,” he says. “But with the computer it becomes this very sort of abstract thing — the sounds are actually already in there….I was always really worried that someone was going to recognize some sort of sound that I found in there. So it’s really awkward that way, especially because I haven’t really been in that world much, so you feel like everyone must know everything what you’re doing.”
The band found ways to circumvent this discomfort, however, collecting a variety of wild samples (you can check out videos of the sample harvest on their Tumblr) that are woven throughout the album. The beginning of the track “III Valley Prodigies,” for example, was created from a recording of a Fourth of July parade Andrew recorded on his phone. When listening to the track, that’s not entirely evident, however (this reviewer thought the sounds were sex noises, an assertion that earned a “You are naughty!” from Andrew), which further leaves the story up to the listener’s interpretation. “That’s what really becomes exciting about using a computer — you can have an idea and make anything fit to that idea,” he says.
The countdown to when that story can start unfolding for the masses has begun in earnest for the band, as they begin preparing special edition vinyl for their most devoted fans. Currently, their Los Angeles studio is filled with scores of black wax-covered record sleeves embossed with the album’s title, suspended and dripping from the ceiling. Apparently, the band will be selling a limited number (Andrew couldn’t tell us how many) of these discs when the album comes out.
According to Andrew, Liars initially intended to mix their own blood into the wax, but that idea was soon quashed when Wayne Coyne announced that his collaboration album, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, would be a blood-splattered picture disc.
“I am so pissed off about that, man,” he says. “We thought instead we’ll put our eyelashes in there or something, but it didn’t seem as interesting as the whole blood-in-the-wax thing.”
Perhaps you could mix some hair in instead, boys, you certainly have enough lying around after the Die Antwoord ’do-ing.