As one of the architects for Williamsburg, Brooklyn's current funk-punk sound, Liars could have easily ridden the wave after the success of their first album, They Threw Us In A Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top.
But they wanted nothing to do with it.
Two years ago, singer Angus Andrews, with girlfriend Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), guitarist Aaron Hemphill and longtime friend Julian Gross, bolted for the New Jersey woods leaving Liars' former bassist Pat Nature and drummer Ron Albertson behind. What resulted is Liars' follow-up, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, 40 minutes of nightmare noise partially inspired by Walpurgis Night, the night before May 1 when witches supposedly gathered near Germany's Brocken mountain. It is now a festival that commemorates the driving out of the witches (and winter) by making a lot of noise.
Gross, now the drummer, recently spoke to the Indy about how those Liars became these Liars.
Indy: Have you ever been to Brocken mountain?
Julian Gross: No. We're actually really kind of disappointed, because we were hoping to last time [we were in Germany] and we really wanted to this time, to play on the mountain, but it looks like it's not gonna happen.
Indy: Do you think they'll invite you to play the festival, now that you've written a tribute?
JG: I guess it was sort of a tribute, but how it came about was purely accidental. Aaron had named one of the songs "Broken Witch," and Angus typed it in wrong. It came out as "Brocken Witch," which came up with Brocken mountain, and it was actually on May 1 when we did the search. It was all those coincidences that made it actually something. "Should we deny it or not deny it?" became the question.
Indy: Outside of that circumstance, what is it about the Puritan atmosphere and themes that appealed to you or inspired you?
JG: First, we're all dorks. We like The Wizard of Oz and we were all reading [the Chronicles of Narnia], which is like witches versus children and talking animals and fantastic lands. Then the Brocken mountain thing came in, and that led us into more research and folklore and even older, different types of stories. And then you have the Salem witch trials, where they're actually killing these women and giving them these tests, like if you drown, you die, then you're not a witch. Even bringing it into current times was interesting.
Indy: Who are the witches now?
JG: Osama bin Laden is still out, and Saddam Hussein, before he was captured. Basically, it was the hunt for Bin Laden and all the stuff that goes along with that: people believe it or not, believe it or think it's right or wrong with Hussein, and even how people just forgot about it.
Indy: Both Rolling Stone and Spin panned the album pretty badly. Does it get you down, do you take pride in it or do you just not care?
JG: That's almost split three ways. Honestly, I thought the Rolling Stone one was a good review. Besides giving it one star, I mean [she compared it to Lou Reed's] Metal Machine Music. That's a rad record! I was like "Wow, she related it to that!" Then she talked about the record being scary, so it was like, "All right, great review." But then it turns into Rolling Stone giving us a one. That's better than them giving us a five or a C. I wanna fail Rolling Stone. I don't want them to say it's great. They can like Ryan Adams or whatever.
-- John Hult
Liars with Young People and Goldfish
Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax, Denver
Tuesday, March 23, 8 p.m.
$10 advance, $12 at the door