Portland’s Lithics first came to our attention in 2016 with their debut post-punk album Borrowed Floors. June 2020 will see the release of a new LP, Tower Of Age, both a continuation and evolution of their art-punk, with hints of no wave, sound we’ve come to love from them. Think a mix of Wire, Bush Tetras, Pylon, Erase Errata and Contortions.We spoke to Lithics’ Aubrey Hornor (guitar, vocals) and Bob Desaulniers (bass, guitar, tape loops) to find out more.
How did you first come to making music?
BOB: I’ve been playing guitar since I was twelve or thirteen and started my first band not long after. I had older friends that were in punk bands and played shows and I wanted to do that too.
AUBREY: I started playing drums when I was sixteen and my first band was in college.
Why is it important for you to create?
AUBREY: I enjoy the collaborative aspect and the creative process itself. Seeing an initial idea come to fruition through improvisation and group dynamics is gratifying. It’s a form of communication with music as the language.
BOB: When I was younger, music primarily appealed to me as an emotional outlet. While that’s still the case, in recent years I’ve become more interested in aesthetic or organizational considerations. My motivations are always evolving and I think that’s part of what keeps it an interesting activity for me.
In June you’re releasing your new LP Tower Of Age; how did the record start?
BOB: It takes us about two years to write a record. We’ve been playing some of the songs on Tower of Age live for a long time now. Recording the songs is only half of it though. Editing and sequencing is where you give the album its character.
Lithics uses a lot of cool wordplay in your lyrics; do lyrics come easy for you or do you have to work for them?
AUBREY: Sometimes it comes easy and sometimes not. It’s usually the last piece of the songwriting process. I work from notebooks of observations and poetry, and sometimes the words come from ideas I have for phrasing.
What are some things that were inspiring the writing for Tower Of Age?
AUBREY: I drew inspiration from everywhere-nature, literature, my personal life. It’s mostly hidden in abstraction in the final form.
What’s the significance of the album’s title?
AUBREY: It refers to the fortress you build up within yourself over time and the walls you erect to protect yourself. And personally, it’s about tearing those walls down and the process of letting go.
Lithics recorded with Evan Mersky (and Molly his dog) using tape; what kinds of things did you try during this recording that you haven’t tried before?
BOB: This was the first time we tried tracking instead of all playing live in a room. Wiley and I recorded the rhythm section parts first and really took our time getting takes we were happy with. It’s really difficult for everyone to get a good take at the same time and usually somebody is forced to compromise and leave in something they would rather not. This new way was less stressful.
We also took a cue from our 2017 tour tape Wendy Kraemer and decided to be a little more adventurous and include practice recordings, tape loops, and weird audio fragments. I regret not taking this approach for Mating Surfaces.
Were there any challenges making the album?
BOB: Songwriting felt like it took a long time. We wanted to challenge ourselves and let our sound evolve without resorting to older formulas or making any major aesthetic shifts. Physically recording the songs is always a challenge as well, with many emotional ups and downs.
What’s one of your fondest memories from recording?
BOB: It was really nice to have Evan’s dog Molly running around the studio lightening the mood.
You’ve released a film clip for the first single “Hands” where was it shot? The location looks pretty cool!
AUBREY: Desert Christ Park in Yucca Valley California and Joshua Tree national park. The indoor scenes were filmed in our friend Carole Anne’s studio here in Portland. I went on a trip to Joshua Tree with some friends and we happened to find the Desert Christ Park at sunset when we took a wrong turn. It was really beautiful.
What’s your favourite thing about your new record?
AUBREY: I like the two improvised tracks the most: “The Symptom” and “Half Dormancy”. They are unique performances we were never able to reproduce and I’m glad they made it onto the record.
BOB: The band very graciously gave me a lot of leeway with editing and as a result the whole record feels more personal. I’m glad it didn’t end up as just a collection of songs recorded in a studio.
Outside of making music what would we find you doing?
BOB: I am not very well rounded so it’s mostly music for me. I recently started studying classical guitar, which has been an exciting and humbling experience. I am not much of a visual artist but I enjoy working with collage as well.
AUBREY: I spend my time looking at birds when I can and I’ve been getting into gardening. I also occasionally work in ceramic sculpture.