By Tyler Laing
In today’s software-saturated musical mainframe, it’s easy to get caught up in the glow of it all, the electronic ease by which bands share their brand and audiences find whatever they seek. It’s a time of access, of easy information. Success is measured in “Likes,” hits and views; recognition is found in the “Retweet.” To make it in the music industry, an adept self-promotion skill set holds nearly as much weight as actual talent.
For nearly two years now, Vancouver-based Young Liars have been building a quiet momentum, sampling social media and trying new technologies, synthesizing a sound soon to be unleashed on the mainstream market. But while these guys had to work to get their music heard, they had a little help along the way, too.
This five-piece, electropop indie outfit officially came together in April 2010 and released their first two singles, “Colours” and “Marathon,” that fall—as so many artists do these days—via Bandcamp. Lead singer Jordan Raine recalls the songs’ early reception. “When we first released those two tracks we were a little bit surprised because we got some fairly random blogs who happened to find them.”
Before long, BIRP, as well as others, featured the music on its monthly playlist. This action led to a campaign with Grooveshark, which gave Young Liars a chance to hear some positive feedback from listeners. “Anything positive is very cool because that’s totally why we’re doing the music,” says Raine. “I always wanted to make music because of all the other music from people that I’ve enjoyed so much. So if a few people actually enjoy it, that’s fantastic.”
Now, however, more than just a few people enjoy it. Young Liars released their seven-song EP Homesick Future back in February 2011. It wasn’t long before Nettwerk Music Group took notice and picked the band up. Nettwerk plans to officially release the EP this January—a big step up from Bandcamp, and a move that Raine knows will help the group’s music reach a far broader audience.
But while it might be tempting to sit back and watch the professionals slang their songs, Young Liars are already pounding out their second project—a full-length album expected to be out by fall. The guys have been demoing since November and hope to have the album done and named by the end of this month.
“With the EP we just wanted to create any music that we could enjoy playing and would enjoy hearing,” says Raine. “With this next album I think we’re being more intentional.” The singer says they’re focusing more on album arrangement and the greater ideas behind the songs. “The EP was written over a long period of time, so there’s a lot of different song ideas and a lot of different places where those song ideas came from. We’re trying to make the full length a little more cohesive.”
Again, technology aids this aspect of the process as well. The band members share an online Dropbox where they all access and alter songs. For example, Raine can create a chord progression and send it along. Wesley Nickel, the band’s synth player, will work his “remixing” magic. He’ll alter sounds or change the progression order; maybe he’ll add a bridge or second bar. These modifications will prompt the guys to hear songs in a different way.
“It makes it so it’s not just my tiny scope of influence and creative writing that goes into the music,” says Raine. “It’s a lot more than that.” Because each member has different interests and influences, they collaborate as much as possible. This ensures the songs come out right. Raine, Nickel and guitarist Angelo Ismirnioglou typically write chord progressions, while bassist Andrew Beck and drummer Tyler Badali help jam and flesh out the ideas.
The hope is that this combination will translate onto the stage. As creation and promotion of their music advances, it’s paramount that Young Liars polish the performance element, too. “We really want to make it a fun experience and we also want to make it, I don’t want to say theatrical, but I’m going to say theatrical,” says Raine, which means lights, fog and high energy. That, and masks.
“There was an experiment in masks, and I don’t think we got it totally right yet so we ended up stopping,” he says. “I’m not opposed to dressing up or wearing masks but we’ve got to figure out why we’re doing it and how we’re doing it. That’s part of the theatrical thing.”
Performance aside, the guys take the technical side of stage production just as seriously. They’ve worked with lighting technician George Gordon to help synchronize lights with their sounds and synth. “That whole thing is really important. We’re there to play music and we’re also there to bring people lighting technicians and other disciplines in as well,” says Raine. “The further we go, hopefully the greater resources we’ll have to do that.”
But for now, Young Lairs just want to play more gigs, hopefully hit up some festivals during the summer, and figure out their bloody social media plan. “It has been a good way for people to get in touch with us for sure, but it’s been a bit complicated,” says Raine. “I’m always trying to figure out when do I tweet on my account and when do I tweet on the band account.”
And with five guys in the group, they haven’t figured out who should do what or when. “It’s a great way to engage people, but you have to figure out how you want to engage those people,” he says. “The same goes for Facebook in a way. We’re still trying to figure out the best way to use it.”
The rock star lifestyle isn’t as simple as it used to be, it seems, but the dream is the same. “At the end of the day, what we all want is to quit our day jobs and be able to write music and be able to play shows,” says Raine. “That’s what we’re going to be shooting for next year—putting together an album that people can enjoy all over the world and that we can go play for them and support ourselves while doing it.”
Tyler Laing is the Editor of Renegade Radio.