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So, we’re pretty jazzersized for the tonight’s show @ RNR Hotel. So much so that we’ve interviewed BOTH BANDS on the bill (Liars were handled by Alfonso Bravo and Fol Chen by the inimitable Miss Megan Burns), and you, you lucky BYT reader you, get them both in this nifty 2-for-1 package

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There’s not a lot left to be said about Liars on BYT, and that’s largely because I haven’t shut up about them for months . So we’re upping our game by giving away a ton of free Liars related ish and (AND) getting Liars’ Aaron Hemphill to answer a few questions about getting rained on with Radiohead, working in L.A., recording with Beck, and being an alternative to feel good music.

BYT: The last time I saw you guys play was opening up for Radiohead just outside of DC during a massive storm that left half the attendants unable to get to the venue, a good chunk soaked and stranded after the show, and damn near ruined my boots. You guys seemed unfazed on stage though. How did you guys hold up during that whole thing? Any notable memories of that evening?

Aaron: We held up fine. We were in a much more fortunate situation than the dedicated concert goers. It was an amazing experience opening up for Radiohead. I had never seen them live before the tour, so it was really interesting to see how they translate their material from album to a live set, who plays what, etc. I learned that Ed is an amazing singer, and Thom is an incredible guitar player.

BYT: Do you think that not being able to get to the venue due to flooding was a just punishment for those that didn’t get there early enough for your set? I certainly felt no pity.

Aaron: You may know me too well! Hopefully the flooding made the show more of an event for people and some real bonding occurred. Maybe little battles were fought…the people vs. the shuttle driver, etc. When I was young, disasters made for the most amazing experiences at shows.

BYT: You also just did SXSW. From what I’ve read, this was your first time down there, and this was also your first time playing the new material. How was the whole experience for you?

Aaron: Craziness. So much going on at once. I think we did the best we could.

Liars doing the best they can and people losing their shit over it.

BYT: Your albums have a great cohesion and seem to progress very naturally from song to song. Is it difficult splitting them up for a set? Is mixing your catalog a bit like trying to make pieces from different puzzles fit, or is it all part of a greater picture?

Aaron: It can be. To us, it seems like the live version can become something new, and therefore it can fit into a different place within a set. For example, sometimes mellow songs on record can become a bit more energetic, and therefore relate differently to older material.

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BYT: Moving on to the new record, did the move back to L.A. inspire the direction of it, or did you move back specifically to let L.A. seep into it?

Aaron: We moved back to L.A. to facilitate a longer time to revise the songs. We knew that this time would also allow inspiration to solidify, but we weren’t certain as to what that was just yet. The L.A. theme happened naturally, much like every theme we cover.

BYT: It certainly feels like each song on Sisterworld belongs to a greater concept, yet they manage to be quite different and the record manages to avoid coming across as a “concept album”. The multitude of moods evoked from song to song changes from jarring to soothing to frightening to even hopeful, which I suppose could be said works well with how separate and different people’s lives in their individual worlds in L.A. can be. Was there an overall feeling you wanted people to walk away with though? Did you want people to look at L.A. in a certain way, or maybe to look at their own city in a new way?

Aaron: That’s really great to hear. The main thing we wanted people to notice was a cohesion without a unifying concept that they had to be part of. Angus and I wrote material based on the same theme, but from different perspectives. I’ve grown up all over L.A. my whole live, where Angus is relatively new to the area. This, I think, explains the difference in perspective and mood, but they all fit under the broad theme. I think we wanted people to be reminded that there’s a different side to L.A., and to music. We felt there was a flood of feel good music, none of which resonated with us, so we wanted to offer an alternative.

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BYT: Each record, perhaps Sisterworld and Drum’s Not Dead most of all, seems to suggest not a defining statement as much as an ideology. Where do you start when deciding the direction of each record? Does the idea come before the songs, or do the songs provoke an idea that all the songs then gravitate towards?

Aaron: Generally we share material and see what it has in common. The mood is followed in producing new material from there. The more communication, the more the theme is solidified.

BYT: Before heading out on tour you guys have also been working as part of Beck’s Record Club with St. Vincent and Os Mutantes, reworking INXS’s Kick. As someone who claims INXS as a not-that-guilty pleasure I can’t tell you how great that’s been to watch. What can you tell us about that experience?

Aaron: One thing I think I learned is that the Liars aren’t musicians. These people can speak the international language of music, and fluently! It was amazing to see how quickly their ears could dissect the parts and notes of each INXS song. It was an entirely foreign approach to us, and it was exciting and an honor to work with such accomplished musicians. I hate to say it, but not of us can really “enjoy” the album Kick in the same way.

BYT: I’ve always thought of you as one of those bands that seem to subsist in a vacuum, devoid of outside influence and feeding off each other, with each record seeming to exist in its own musical space. How is it when the band collaborates with others in the creative process?

Aaron: This is extremely rare for us. We can’t “jam” with other bands too well since we don’t jam with each other very much. We make songs individually, and any comments on what is needed are just recorded separately. I don’t think of myself as a guitar player. My main focus in Liars is making complete songs and recording them. The Record Club people are highly advanced musicians, Beck included. Despite all of their musical prowess, they were all very easy and fun people to work with.

BYT: Last question: Your DC show next Wednesday will be your first show of the tour (not counting the hometown L.A. one). What are you hoping to do to us?

Aaron: Make you happy you left the house.

BYT: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, and looking forward to Wednesday!

Aaron: Thank you!

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“Beware of homemade Peeps.” These are the wise words of mystery man Samuel Bing, leader of Fol Chen. I’ll be up front with you, we spent a solid portion of this interview talking about the magic of Marshmallow Peeps. Hopefully you aren’t mad. But even if you are mad (slash you just put a dagger into the Easter Bunny’s heart with your negative thoughts) don’t worry because we talked about plenty of other stuff too.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept-driven sextet, Fol Chen has quite an interesting story. Samuel grew up on Long Island and was an avid listener of WLIR, a super amazing New Wave radio station. Years later during a visit home, he learned that the radio station was no more. Gone were the days of DJs Donna Donna, Larry the Duck, and Malibu Sue. Or so Samuel thought, until he dreamt that the radio station was merely forced underground by the evil John Shade, a character from Vladimir Nabokov’s 1962 novel Pale Fire, which Samuel had been reading at the time. This dream was the inspiration for Fol Chen, whose mission became to vanquish John Shade and bring back WLIR with their first album, Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made. Crazy complex, right? Well it continues to get crazier with their new record, Part II: The New December, which is out July 6th of this year. The band has vanquished John Shade, but their world is in total disarray. You can read an enigmatic letter addressed to DJ Donna Donna here. We don’t even know if she received it, since the postal system is all effed up post-John Shade vanquishment. Damn you, FedEx. I wonder if stamps are still necessary in Fol Chen world? Okay my brain is going to explode if I explain this any more. You can read up on this stuff here. For now, you will have to settle for this interview. And when I say settle, I mean enjoy immensely:

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BYT: So has your mission changed at all since the first record? Because you’ve got your new one coming out in July…

SB: Yeah, it seemed like the last time there was something too superhero-y going on. So this time we’ve taken care of John Shade, and even though we’ve won, everything is kind of a mess. And we’ve become bureaucrats kind of getting lost in subcommittees. It’s not very glamorous.

And so we’re still communicating with Donna Donna at this point?

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Yes, absolutely. But you know, intercity mail isn’t good right now, so I don’t know if the mail gets to her. That’s the problem.

I was wondering if you guys are still using silhouette cutouts and things like that in your photos to cover up your faces, because I know that you have tended to do that in the past.

Yes, we are still obscured.

So then when you do shows, it seems like you don’t really cover up your faces…is there any specific reason for that?

Well sometimes we have done shows in makeup. It kind of depends on the situation.

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And what were you doing before this project?

Oh boy…yeah, nothing very interesting. I can’t even answer that because it will just be a lot of nonsense. (laughs)

I also read an interview where you were asked your most and least favorite things about the holiday season, and I was overcome with joy to see that you like Marshmallow Peeps and Cadbury Eggs as your favorite.

Yeah!

I wish I could have invited you to my annual Easter Eggstravaganza…pretty much all day we just get drunk and explode Peeps in the microwave and Cadbury-egg houses and cars. And then we eat Chinese food. It’s pretty nice.

That’s the best holiday celebration I can imagine. That’s perfect. And I actually made my own Peeps…

Really?

I’ll send you pictures from my phone of some of those homemade Peeps.

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Fantastic! That’s amazing!

They came out like monsters. It was kind of like in a horror movie where they do an experiment…it’s like The Fly, you know, where something goes terribly wrong. They’re mutants. But I love them nonetheless.

They’re great. They are a great food.

Yeah.

So as far as your performance in DC coming up, will this be the band’s first time performing in DC?

Yeah, absolutely. And we’re totally excited. We didn’t really tour the US for the first record. We toured Europe, but not here. But yeah we’re obviously playing with Liars, so there ought to be a lot of people there! (laughs)

Yeah totally. And what is your relationship with Liars, because you guys have both remixed each other’s songs, etc…how’d you get to know them?

I kind of just know them from around. You know, I’ve known them for a while before Fol Chen even existed. So we’ve just kind of been friends that way.

Now as far as the new album goes, is it done or are you still working on it?

It is done! We sent out the first single, I think Stereogum premiered it yesterday. So that’s all wrapped up. Oh, and this is a part of the narrative that I forgot to mention…so for the first album we had to use kind of a secret code to communicate. That helped us to vanquish our foe. But something weird happens with the code, and it starts kind of mutating, and it eats into plain English. So things like books and even written documents start mutating. It’s like a verbal virus, and it kind of gets degenerative. It gets worse and worse, and then it starts affecting the way people talk. And then the last song on the new record is actually just gibberish. Like the lyrics are just mangled.

Oh wow.

Yeah.

So was it kind of the same process as the first record where you didn’t really make any demos?

Yeah, it was kind of the same thing, and then this time we wanted a more of a…kind of like a messed up or handmade robotic sound. We basically just kind of made our own samples and filtered them through old sampling technology, kind of like an old consumer grade sampling keyboard. So we would play the orchestral instruments ourselves or get someone to play them and then just kind of mess with them. So obviously it’s more organic, but I would say even more robotic.

Now can we still expect to hear some fabulous nineties cover songs at the show?

I feel like maybe, but probably not. Maybe? We’ll see. You know, we had planned at some point to do “Drops of Jupiter” I think it’s called, by Train? Just a terrible…I don’t know…it’s a BAD song.

Yeah, no it’s not a good one. (Author’s Note: There was a time when I did not think this was a bad song. In fact, quite the opposite…mildly horrifying…)

Yeah we were excited about doing that one, but I don’t know if we’re going to pull that together.

Alright well we’ll see. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. And don’t forget to send me pictures of the Peeps you made…

I will! Homemade Peeps…disgusting. They did not ever get eaten, I will say that.

Oh no! That’s a bummer.

They were just to look at I think. We were too terrified. Beware. Beware of homemade Peeps.

Want more? Duh! Check out Fol Chen w/ Liars at RNR tonight. Doors at 8, show at 8:30. Tickets still available for $15.

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