Liars: Creating an Album in the Australian Bush with Iris

by Will Hunt, iZotope

November 1, 2017

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Angus Andrew of Liars (Photo by Zen Sekizawa, courtesy of Mute Records)

From their early days as post-punk spark plugs to their more recent electronic experimentations, Liars have managed to be stylistic chameleons without compromising their cutting-edge art rock aesthetic. Their new album TFCF finds frontman Angus Andrew diving into an eccentric collection of sounds, which were recorded and processed using iZotope Iris 2.

In this post, we caught up with Andrew about his creative process making TFCF.

“I went into a fancy studio in Los Angeles and recorded myself playing every instrument in the building, from xylophones to maracas. I then took all those digital files out to the bush in Australia where I put all the sounds into Iris. This allowed me to play the instruments I had recorded in LA, but deep in isolation in the bush. Essentially, the whole album was created with Iris.” —Angus Andrew

 

Did you create the new album on your own? Did that change your approach to constructing the songs?

Yes, I created this album on my own. It didn’t really alter my approach in constructing the songs, but it certainly changed the way my work was reviewed and which songs made their way onto the record.

No two Liars albums sound the same. Do your influences change or evolve with each album? Who were some artists that influenced your approach to TFCF?

I spend a good amount of time before writing anything just listening to music. I like to let my mind wander through things like Soundcloud and Spotify, heading down tangents and wormholes. With this record I became fascinated by all the types of music created by sampling. I listened to some of the earliest examples—like James Tenney Collage #1 all the way through to Vaporwave.

Some songs on the album—for example, “Crying Fountain” and “Emblems of Another Story”—feel almost cinematic in use of sound design to create mood.

I would say that influence comes directly from my environment. I made this album in a national forest in Australia. The sound of nature there is cacophonous! I spent the first month just recording the birds and the waves and the wind in the trees. It felt very cinematic and I wanted this atmosphere to translate to the album.

What goes into a decision whether you choose an unfamiliar sound vs. a more familiar sample or musical element?

All decision making is based on instinct. Sometimes you walk into the studio and find yourself becoming immersed in a drone or the sound of a slowed-down footstep on gravel rocks. Other times, I go straight for the piano or guitar. Allowing for this unharnessed decision-making is one of the keys to my musical process.

What were some challenges you faced in creating songs that mixed familiar musical elements with other non-conventional sounds, whether in arrangement, mixing, or otherwise?

I didn’t really find this to be particularly challenging, probably because I don’t often differentiate between conventional and non-conventional sounds. I will say that mixing this record was tough, and this may be because of the different fidelities I smashed together. Certainly my interest in pushing alternative tempos in and out of time made for some confusing discussions. But that was something I was really firm on; I didn’t want everything to fit together cleanly or [fit] into any kind of grid. It had to sound rough and organic.

What were some ways Iris 2 helped realize the sonic vision of the album? Can you tell us about any specific parts of the album that were built or designed with Iris 2?

My process was: I went into a fancy studio in Los Angeles and recorded myself playing every instrument in the building, from xylophones to maracas. I then took all those digital files out to the bush in Australia where I put all the sounds into Iris. This allowed me to play the instruments I had recorded in LA, but deep in isolation in the bush. Essentially, the whole album was created with Iris.

Can you take us through how you found/recorded these sounds, and how you used Iris 2 to incorporate them into your music?

Every sound was treated differently. I would import a recording of me playing an instrument into Iris, then find specific samples of that instrument that I wanted to transpose to the MIDI keyboard. I’d then mess with the sound, delay it, etc. until things got interesting by looping and or reversing them. I used this method with everything from drums to acoustic guitar.  

What parts of Iris 2 did you use/find the most useful?

They’re all really valuable to me, especially since my process is based so much on experimentation. I need to be able to drastically shift sounds on a whim, and Iris really allows that with the Spectral Editor and the modulation controls.

Were there any specific challenges that Iris 2 helped you overcome?

The core challenge for me was being in a geographical location that simply didn’t allow for real life instrumentation, but I wanted to play live instruments. By sampling myself playing real instruments and importing all those sounds into Iris, I was able to have a veritable orchestra at my fingertips.

Do you have any advice/tips for people who want to use Iris 2 to find a unique sound for their music?

With Iris, your only limitation is your imagination!

 

Learn more about Iris 2.