Today brings the release of Liars, the self-titled album from the currently LA-based art rockers. It’s more straight forward than their past work, but don’t worry, it’s still weird. All three members of Liars met at Cal Arts in Southern California and drummer Julian Gross designed the album art for all their releases. After the jump Gross offers the stories behind some of Liars’ visual discography.
As long as I can ever remember I’ve been drawing. I was always visual way before I was ever musical. One thing I love about being in Liars is I’ve always wanted to make record covers. When I was a kid I had Grateful Dead postcards and I had never listened to them, but I loved that Steal Your Face logo so much.
Cal Arts was a huge influence in my life. It gave me the confidence to do what I wasn’t sure if I thought I could do. I really like how they teach there. They aren’t teaching you about technique and how to mix colors and how to paint something or take a good picture. They are teaching you to come up with the idea of what that picture is about and how you are representing nighttime or whatever, it’s all ideas.
With They Were Wrong, So We Drowned we got together and started talking about the artwork. Beate Schlingelhoff did these tapestries and I thought they would work very well as a front and a back. We talked with her and she was like, “It should be Michael Jackson laying down with a tiger.” And I was like, “Michael Jackson? What are you talking about?” [Ed: They ended up going with something more abstract.]
With It Fit When I Was a Kid I wanted to do this fold out pop-up book thing and the label was like, “We’ll do it. We’ll do it. We’ll do it…We can’t do it.” So I just decided to make the cover be us fucking. The label said we couldn’t do it unless we covered it up, so the quote that is on there is from the label. It’s crazy—are Jeff Koons’ old photographs considered pornography or are they considered art? They are hardcore fucking…dicks in butts, cum everywhere. It’s like porn, but they are these huge gelatin prints. I’m still working on an edible version [of It Fit When I was a Kid]. You can buy edible ink and edible paper that they use on cakes. You will just be able to eat our sex.
With the new one, Liars, we had a preconceived idea. We knew where we were going with the music, so we wanted it simple. We all sat around and talked about it after we did the record. The three of us were all on the exact same page. We were all like, “We haven’t had a photo one.” And I’m like, “I’m thinking ‘Liars’ really clear and big on the cover.” And everyone was like, “Me too!” It’s a collective decision up until the execution, and then I go and churn out ideas.
We took some photos in the studio, but they just weren’t really hitting, they looked too composed. But our tour manager Paul Drake is an amazing photographer and had a lot of really great live shots of us. Our friend Brian Roettinger came on board and helped refine it. I would do a layout of all the text and then Brian would clean it up a little bit. I am kind of like the dirty brother and he is kind of like the clean brother. I’ve never used typography in the way we used it here. [We had to] fit it in a certain kind of grid, it was kind of like a puzzle. There is this designer, Herb Lubalin, who’s work I really like. If you look him up you’ll see how we kind of stole from him. I’d rather admit it. I’m okay with it.