Last week I found myself in the company of a motley crew of musicians clad in black leather, generously filling The Troubadour in West Hollywood with a formidable collection of genre-bending tunes, contagiously catchy lyrics, slick riffs, exceptional vocals and Johnny-Depp-esque swagger. The Sir-Elton-John endorsed alt-rock band, Charming Liars (of whom I am a huge fan), generously invited me to their show and we sat down for a quick chat to discuss music, touring and their plans for 2019.
Consisting of Kiliyan, Karnig and Mike, this LA-based band (by way of London, originally) has a unique sound. They've spent 2018 paving a refreshing new path in the saturated world of alt rock. While their sound has evolved significantly, they've found a home in the Alt rock genre, recognizing that this scene gives them flexibility, fluidity and freedom; “Our sound is kind of an artistic experience. We’re not glued to being one type of band; we want to play music that feels good to us.” Their sound, indeed, rings true of varied influences. Earlier songs ring a little more like an emo-punk version of Linkin Park, while their newer EPs give way to the obvious influences of U2, The Police and Depeche Mode. It's a delicious collection of sounds and with Kiliyan's lead on the vocals they prove their prowess on the live stage. I'm smitten.
Epitomizing their flexibility in genre, Charming Liars released a cover of Elton John’s I’m Still Standing in 2017, which led to critical acclaim and the abovementioned endorsement by music royalty himself. Kiliyan speaks admirably on the topic; “he’s (an artist) not afraid to go out and introduce his fanbase to new bands, which I would love to see more of from artists of his caliber. People respect his opinion for a reason. Some of these big artists have become ‘musically unaware’ of what new bands are doing and what else is coming out. Elton isn’t like that.” As an added bonus, they were able to team up with the Grammy foundation to donate the proceeds of their cover of I’m Still Standing to MusiCares. As if we needed another reason to fall for these charming musicians.
I ask who their dream tour would be. “This tour feels like a dream tour, honestly, but I’d love to play with a band like Depeche Mode or the Doors.” He goes on to cite a delicious variety of musical inspirations. Their current tour, with Welshly Arms and The Glorious Sons, comes shortly after wrapping a two and a half month stint on the road with fellow Angelenos, Dorothy. “Welshly and Glorious Sons are such fantastic bands. We all bring something different to the table.” Of performing, he says the best part of a show “is just the release - you spend so much time driving, rehearsing, setting up - and then you get a sliver of the day where the magic happens. To fit all those emotions and feelings in one set; it’s a cool experience and a cool feeling.”
We go on to discuss their tours in South America and Mexico; “There’s definitely a different energy down there; one of the first times we played down there they were so loud that my ears were ringing - with in-ear monitors in the whole time!” Kiliyan gets nostalgic talking about his experiences and past tours. "We did get to play Sao Paulo. That was an experience. I never thought in a million years, someone would try to sell me a bootleg version of my own shirt. That happened. I thought that was the coolest thing ever!” Did he buy it? He sure did.
We switch gears to discuss their songwriting process and how the challenges of being on the road affect them. “It’s weird to switch between being on the road versus being at home because it’s such a different mindset. The difference is re-energizing.” With a grueling tour schedule, they admit that not enough writing takes place on tour. “But we accumulate so many different experiences being in all of these different towns; you subconsciously absorb all of this stuff and then it comes out when you get home and start writing. When I get back it’s nonstop writing, there’s so much to write about.” Kiliyan admits that while their writing process is very organic, some of his biggest challenges are avoiding cliched ‘on the road’ songs; “It’s so easy to want to write like Jackson Brown; I glamorize the hell out of ‘being on the road’ but I feel like it’s a little un-relatable. I have to force myself not to write about it.” He also admits to sometimes being a little too detail oriented; “I’ll find myself fretting over if it should be “the or they” and the tiny little details.” A true perfectionist. But in a moment of sheer artistic brilliance, he states; “I’m not chasing perfection, just beauty.”
And beauty, they’ve found. This motley crew have created a sound so wholesomely filling; it’s music that catches your ear quickly. But it satiates your appetite for music with meaning, with depth and with substance. With the soul of the 80's classics, grit of modern rock and the essence of alternative power-hitters, expect to hear a whole lot more from Charming Liars in the very near future. They’re heading to tour Europe in November with current tour-mates Welshly Arms, they’re hitting featured playlists left and right, gaining notice of music royalty and have a new album out in January of 2019. We can't wait.
Catch their Tour Schedule HERE and their Spotify playlist HERE.
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